California non-custodial parents who owe back child support must pay their arrearages even if their children have reached the age of 18. This debt does not go away, and there are steps that custodial parents can take to collect past-due amounts even after their children have become emancipated.
Courts take child support orders seriously and will generally order child support payments to continue until the arrearages have been repaid in full. The state as well as the federal government may take a number of different enforcement actions in order to collect the child support debt. Parents may be sent to jail, have their income tax refunds seized, have their drivers' licenses suspended, not be allowed to have their passports renewed, have their wages garnished or have liens placed against their property.
Even after a child has turned 18, the state may seek to enforce the child support order that was previously issued if the parent is delinquent. Keeping current with court-ordered child support payments is important, and parents should not think that they will not have to pay amounts that they owe from before their children were 18 after they reach the age of majority.
A parent who is owed delinquent payments might be able to enforce the previous child support order with the help of a family law attorney who could file motions asking the courts to hold the delinquent parents in contempt of court. The attorney may argue for the court to impose any of the available enforcement actions. Courts may choose the type of enforcement action that is most likely to secure payment of what the delinquent parents owe.