Judgments and Orders FAQ’s


If you are OWED MONEY from a California child support, spousal support or property division order, this page is for you.  In most cases, our firm can work on your case at no cost to you, and we only receive payment when we collect what is owed to you.

Guide to Collecting on Divorce and Separation Family Law Judgments and Orders

This guide is intended to provide an extensive list of answers to commonly asked questions (FAQs) relating to collection of money owed stemming from divorce, support, paternity and other family law orders and judgments.  Our San Diego family law attorneys have handled countless collection cases for clients all over California who are owed money from divorce settlement agreements, child support orders, spousal support orders, and division of asset orders and decrees.  Usually, we are able to handle the matter without any cost to the person owed money.  Most importantly, we can handle collection matters for any client with a case anywhere in California.

What do you mean, ‘Collection Cases Involving Family Law Judgments and Orders’?

Family law attorneys use the phrase “collection” whenever referring to securing payment on a past due amount owed under a family court order or judgment.  The most common orders or judgments in family law that often go unpaid for a period of time include:

How do I determine if I am owed child support arrears?

The first step in determining whether someone is owed child support arrears is to review the last order (also called a decree or judgment, they all mean the same thing in this context) to find out when the order was made effective and for what amount.  The order must be a valid court order, meaning that both parties had proper notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard.  If a child support order was revised at any point in time, it is important to obtain certified copies of all the orders.  Then, you should sit down and review what amounts were paid under the order, if any.  You will need to go month-by-month to determine whether a payment was received.  If every single penny of the child support order was not paid, then child support “arrears” likely exist.  It is important to calculate exactly how much is owed.

Do I need to obtain a certified copy of the current orders?

Yes.  A court-certified copy of the order or judgment will be necessary to pursue collection aggressively.

How do I determine if I am owed spousal support arrears?

The process to determine whether spousal support arrears are owed is exactly the same as determining whether child support arrears exist, as explained above.  You will need to obtain a copy of all the orders for spousal support and match the amounts owed with the payments actually made.

Does interest accrue on past-due child support amounts?

Yes.  Interest accrues at the “legal rate” of ten percent (10%) per year.  This is a “simple” interest rate, which means that it does not compound and interest does not accrue on top of interest.  However, interest does continue to accrue on the principal balance owed.

Does interest accrue on past-due spousal support amounts?

Generally, yes, unless there is some language in the family court judgment indicating otherwise.  It would be very rare that such language would be included in a court order or judgment, however.  The interest rate is also ten percent (10%) simple interest.

How are payments applied to outstanding amounts?

Payments toward outstanding amounts under a child support judgment are applied first to current child support, then past due child support, and then interest.

How likely is it that I will collect all the money I am owed under a divorce judgment?

There are a wide number of factors that will determine whether a party will collect on a past-due order for payment of child or spousal support, reimbursements, equalization payments or other family court judgment orders.  Some factors that will determine whether a debt is collectable includes the following examples:

  • Whether the person owing the money is employed
  • Whether the person owing the money has assets to collect on
  • Whether the person owing the money has any retirement accounts
  • Whether a contempt motion may be filed
  • Whether the person owing the money is remarried
  • Whether the person owing the money can easily be found
  • Whether the original or any subsequent court orders for payment of support or other money is valid

My former spouse or partner may receive an inheritance, can I seek payment from those funds?

Yes.  We have handled many cases involving a support order or divorce settlement judgment where one party owes a substantial sum of money and is set to receive a gift or inheritance.  In those instances, we have to act extremely quickly to file a motion to determine arrears, file additional injunction motions in the family court to stop any distributions/payments to the person owing the money by the estate executor or trustee, and sometimes file pleadings in the probate case where the inheritance is going to be paid to the person that owes money in the family law case.

My Ex-spouse is remarried, can I try and collect support arrears or other family law judgment money from the new spouse?

That answer depends on a variety of considerations including whether the new spouse and obligator have a premarital agreement that was recorded somewhere, whether the new spouse is employed, whether the new spouse has assets, whether the new spouse will be liable for the debt under the applicable law, and so forth.  If the person that owes you money remarries, you should contact an attorney right away.

Do I need to act quickly to hire an attorney to help me collect on money owed under a support or divorce judgment?

In most cases, it is very wise to act extremely quickly in hiring an attorney to pursue collection of an order for child or spousal support, equalization payment, order for division of assets, or other similar family court obligation.  There are many reasons to act quickly, which may include accessibility to the person owing money (i.e. that he or she can be found for service of process), identification of assets for attachment, and employment situation of the person that owes.

Do you offer a contingency fee arrangement for handling my case?

In many circumstances, our firm can take on a collections case under a contingency fee agreement, which means that we only get paid if we help you collect money.  These arrangements pose a substantial risk because many times these cases require a significant amount of work and cost to resolve.  The State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct in California set out certain guidelines that we must follow as attorneys, which we will go over with you.

Can you help me determine whether I might collect money for the child support or spousal support owed to me?

Yes.  We have a team of experts that can help determine the probability of collection on any given case.  The more information you are able to provide our office the better.  This may include information about the other party’s whereabouts, assets, income, relationships, connection with mutual children, and so forth.

Can you help me even if my case is not in Southern California?

Yes.  Although we maintain several staffed physical office locations including San Diego, Irvine in Orange County and Temecula in Riverside County, we have handled collection matters across the entire state of California.  We can handle matters including the following locations: Los Angeles, Fresno, Bakersfield and San Bernardino County, San Jose and Santa Clara, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Northern California, Ventura County, San Luis Obispo, and any other location within the state.

What is a “Receiver” or “Receivership” in Support and Property Collection Cases?

There is a seldom used method of collecting past-due child support, spousal support, and property division orders and judgments that involves the appointment of a “receiver”.  A receiver is a person appointed by the court to marshal and control assets (including real property, businesses, accounts, accounts receivable, and so forth) in order to pay a family law litigant money or property owed by the other party.  Our firm has successfully handled cases where a receivership was ordered by the court, assets were secured, and our client was paid.  The procedure is difficult and a very high percentage of family law attorneys practicing in California do not have experience with requesting the appointment of a receiver.  We do.

What if the support obligor lives out of state?

When a person owes money lives outside of California, there are many ways that our firm can still help.  There is a uniform set of laws called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or UIFSA, that governs enforcement of child support and spousal support orders issued in another state.  Therefore, no matter where the person lives that owes support, we will have mechanisms available to collect.

What is your success rate in collection cases involving past due child or spousal support?

We have an extremely high success rate in collecting on support arrears.  In fact, our clients often write reviews about our successes in various online reviews including Yelp and Google.  We take the necessary time to research the case and outline an action plan for collection, unless there is no such time to spare and we move extremely quickly.  We are very aggressive in these collection cases, which is usually always necessary.  Our proven track record speaks volumes about our methodology to family law collection matters.

If you have a order for child support or spousal support, equalization payment or other family law order, contact our office today.  We can be reached easily by phone at (877) 753-2407, or by email.  Our expert attorneys are standing by to help you and discuss your options in plain language.  Since we have successfully helped many clients with their family law collections matters without any cost to them, let us help you.