As you work toward finalizing your divorce in California, one of the agreements you may need to negotiate is child custody. With that, you may be required to pay child support payments to your ex in order to help sustain the needs of your children.

However, what happens if you cannot afford to make these payments? What if your circumstances change and due to reasons beyond your control, the former agreement does not work anymore? Understanding what to do in this situation is imperative to make sure you avoid unnecessary legal trouble.

Can child support be ignored?

The honest answer is yes, you could choose to not pay child support at all. However, not paying child support when it has been clearly ordered by the courts can land you in serious trouble. Consequences may include fines, restrictions to your driver’s license, interception of your tax refund and even jail time in serious cases. If you are unable to afford child support, you should immediately notify the courts and request that a modification is made as soon as possible.

How a modification is made

According to, experts strongly recommend having a court order that addresses the terms and conditions of the child support agreement you have made with your ex. Without a court order in place, if you do reach a point where a modification must be made, it will be your word against your ex’s and without proof of an agreement, you may be unable to secure a favorable outcome. A binding agreement will allow you to effectively request a modification in situations where you become unemployed or are facing significant medical expenses for example.