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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Family Law Corner: Non-Payment of Child Support Results in Stiff Penalties


By Ariel Sosna and Sarah Van Voorhis, Van Voorhis & Sosna


You would not guess what rapper Flavor Flav (real name William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.) and former basketball star Dennis Rodman have in common lately. Both celebrities are facing extremely large child support arrears and penalties for unpaid child support.

Flavor Flav is currently facing a 180-day jail sentence for failing to pay over $110,000 in support payments to the mother of three of his children, Angie Parker. In addition, he did not appear at a hearing regarding this issue. The court declared his non-payment to be “willful violation” and recommended a 180-day jail sentence, and revoked his license and passport. This is not the first time that Parker has brought Flav to court over the non-payment of child support.

Dennis Rodman is also learning a very bitter lesson about child support. Rodman has been held in contempt for having over $800,000 in unpaid child support for his two children. He has been placed on probation and has been ordered to perform 104 hours of community service. According to Rodman, via TMZ, his ex-wife Michelle’s support calculation was “based on a $50,000-a-month child support order she obtained behind his back,” and he’s been fighting it since 2010.

Child support orders are governed by both state and federal law. A person is considered not in compliance with a support order if s/he is more than 30 days in arrears for payments. (Fam. Code §17520(a)(4)). Enforcing a judgment for child support can be done privately, through a private attorney or by the party him/herself, or through a local child support agency.

Non-payment of child support is addressed under state and federal law. The enforcement issues regarding child support are complex, in part because of this state and federal interaction. Courts have the power to add legal interest (CCP §695.221), add substantial monetary penalties (Family Code §§4720-4733), refuse renewal or issuance of any license (only for cases being enforced through a local child support agency) and order jail time (through federal law and state contempt statutes). For example, the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 provides for imprisonment and fines if a parent is willfully refusing to pay support for a child residing in another state. In contrast, a finding of contempt under state statutes does not require finding nonpayment was willful. (CCP§1209.5). Given the penalties they are currently facing, Flav and Rodman are best served by seeking a modification of their support orders if they do not have sufficient income for their current orders.


Sarah Van Voorhis, a Certified Family Law Specialist, and Ariel Sosna are founding partners of Van Voorhis & Sosna.

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