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Can California put a lien against my house for child support?

In California, a parent who does not have primary physical custody of a child is considered the child's noncustodial parent. Under California law, both parents are required to provide for a child's care and welfare. In most cases, that means that the noncustodial parent will be required to provide money to the custodial parent in order to offset his or her costs of providing housing, food, medical insurance and other services for the child.

The California legislature has enacted laws that enable the Department of Child Support Services to take enforcement action against a noncustodial parent who fails to honor a court awarded child support order. Some of these measures can be rather extreme in their operation. For example, the DCSS is allowed to suspend licenses, intercept tax returns, report negative information about the nonpaying parent to credit reporting agencies and even deny the issuance of passports.

Additionally, according to section 697.320 of the California Code of Civil Procedures, a lien on real property can be authorized against a nonpaying parent as part of the mandated enforcement action. This order is carried out by the state filing a document called An Abstract of Support Judgment with the county recorder's office.

Once a lien is established against a nonpaying parents' home or other real property, it can take some time to get it removed. Typically, a period of at least 15 calendar days may be required to process the verification of child support arrearages between the escrow company, the DCSS and the County recorder's office.

If you are a California parent who is experiencing difficulty making child support payments, there are a few things you should know. Your family law attorney can prove useful in helping you to remove a lien from your real property.

You should also know that child support payment orders established by the court are not necessarily set in stone. Substantial and ongoing changes in your life that affect your ability to generate income can be considered in a request to modify a standing child support order. For example, the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or the loss of your primary means of earning income might persuade the court to reduce the amount of your child support payments.

Source: County of San Mateo- Child Support Services, "Title Company FAQs" Oct. 30, 2014

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