Department
of
Child Support Services

Frequently Asked Questions


Child support is money paid toward a child's living expenses and health insurance.

Yes. But the longer parents are gone, the harder it may be to find them.

Child support case information is not open to the public, but court files may be public record.

The county Department of Child Support Services needs your help and cooperation to open a case. A caseworker will ask for information about you, your children, and the other parent. The more information the caseworker has, the faster a child support order can be obtained. When you open a child support case, the process to obtain child support begins.

No. Paternity (a legal determination of who the father is) must be established before child support can be ordered. Paternity gives your child many rights, including child support, access to medical records, government benefits and more.

In some instances, the local court may use information they have to decide paternity without him. If paternity is established without the alleged father's cooperation, the court may order him to pay child support no matter where he lives, even if he is out of California.

If you don't establish paternity, your child will not be able to get child support or health insurance even after the alleged father gets a job. Proving he is the father as soon as possible makes collecting child support easier later on.

Yes. Establishing paternity grants the child rights to certain social entitlements, such as social security, pension and /or veterans benefits, inheritance protection, and access to family medical records. It is also necessary before custody/visitation can be established.

Yes. You may start the paperwork to establish paternity when you are pregnant. If the man you believe is the father denies it, a genetic test can be ordered after your baby is born. Genetic tests can be scheduled through the county Department of Child Support Services.

Yes. The county Department of Child Support Services will ask for a genetic test from the court in the other state. Also, a man can sign a Declaration of Paternity voluntarily declaring he is a child's father even if he lives in another state.

If you are the person named as the respondent/defendant in the Summons and Complaint and you do not agree you have 30 days to respond (file an Answer). A blank Answer is supplied with the Summons and Complaint. Complete the Answer and file it with the Superior Court clerk within 30 days.

A Proposed Judgment comes with the Summons and Complaint. It will be the order of the court if the parent in question does not respond.

Yes. If you respond to the Summons and Complaint and disagree with the amount of child support or paternity, you will be given a court date.

The amount of child support is based on the income of both parents and the amount of time each parent cares for the child. The court uses child support guidelines provided by the California Family Code.

After the court decides the amount of child support, an Income Witholding Order(IWO) is mailed to your employer with instructions on how much to deduct and where to send the payment.

Yes. You can avoid going to court by signing a legal agreement ( stipulation). The parent required to pay child support and the county Department of Child Support Services can agree (stipulate) on the amount of child support if the other parent is receiving welfare benefits. If neither parent is receiving welfare benefits, then both parents may sign a legal agreement (stipulation) that establishes paternity and a specific child support order.

The stipulation contains the agreement that the court will order the following:

  • 1. The legal parentage of the child,
  • 2. The specific dollar amount of the child support,
  • 3. A provision for health insurance for the child if it is available through the parent's employer.

Yes. Health insurance must be included in any child support order. Even if it is not available immediately, the court will order the parent paying child support to provide insurance when it does become available.

Yes, but call the county Department of Child Support Services right away. Ask them to review your case. The court can modify the child support order if you lost your job through no fault of your own. For more information about modifying a child support order, click here.

Only the court that made the order may change it. When there is a change in visitation or custody of the child, you can go to court and ask for a change in the child support order. You may also request modification assistance from the Family Law Facilitator or the county Department of Child Support Services. You may be able to reduce child support or begin receiving child support from the other parent.

The amount of the child support order may be decreased if the other parent also must support children from another relationship.

There are many enforcement tools available to the Department of Child Support Services. One example is that the court may find the parent required to pay support in contempt of court if that parent has the ability to pay but is not doing so. For more information on methods of enforcement, please refer to the State of California Child Support Handbook.

Tell the county Department of Child Support Services when and where you or the other parent moves. Child support can be enforced anywhere in the United States and many foreign countries.

No. The laws known as the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act prevent states from changing another state's court orders. If the child lives here and an order is issued in California, in most cases only a California court can change it.

Yes. Both parents may access the records of all payments made through the child support agency. If you think the county Department of Child Support Services made a mistake, you have the right to ask for a review.

Unless the parent in jail has other assets, like a house or a car, or other income, child support will be nearly impossible to collect. A parent required to pay child support who goes to jail should contact the county Department of Child Support Services to modify the child support order. Otherwise, past-due child support, frequently called "arrears", will continue to grow and the parent will be responsible for paying the arrears when released.

Each month in which a child support payment is made, a notice is mailed showing how much money the non-custodial parent paid. Each month, the first $50 of current child support is paid to you. The remainder goes to reimburse the county for benefits you received. If there is any money leftover, it is used to pay any past-due child support.

Yes. If you are eligible and cooperate with the county Department of Child Support Services, you can receive CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits while the county Department of Child Support Services tries to find the parent(s).