What is Child Support?
Child Support is the financial
contribution each parent makes toward the shared responsibility of
raising his or her child. Both parents are required by law to
financially support their child.
How do I apply for a
Child Support Order or Medical Support Order?
Obtain an application from the
Department of Child Support Services. Complete the form, date, and
sign and return the form to DCSS.
parent left us 10 years ago. My children and I need financial
assistance now. Will DCSS still try to find him/her?
YES. Every effort will be made to
locate the parent, however, the longer the parent has been gone, the
more difficult it may be to locate him/her.
What steps are
involved in the Child Support Process?
Step 1: Open a Child Support Case
Step 2: Locate the Noncustodial
Step 3: Establish Paternity (if
Step 4: Establish a Support Order
Step 5: Enforcement of the Support
I want DCSS to enforce
my court order. Is the information I provide open to the public?
Support case files are not open to the public. Information from DCSS
case files will not be released, except as authorized by law or by
court order. However, anything filed with the court becomes public
What if I think DCSS
made a mistake about the receipt or distribution of a child support
You have the
right to request that DCSS review the problem. When you contact
DCSS, you can informally discuss your concern or you can file a
formal complaint. Your concern can be about information on the
Quarterly Notice, or it can be about the receipt or distribution of
a child support payment.
What if I want to
discontinue child support services from DCSS?
You can notify
the office in writing that you no longer want DCSS assistance. At
that time, DCSS will only pursue assigned arrears (past-due support)
and will notify the noncustodial parent to pay current child support
directly to the custodial party if current support is still owed.
How is child support
distributed in TANF cases?
collected each month goes toward paying back the county, state, and
federal governments for TANF payments. However, the first $50 of
current support collected goes directly to the custodial party. Any
medical support recovered goes toward paying back Medi-Cal.
I am applying for TANF
and/or Medi-Cal. Do I have to personally ask the other parent for
No. DCSS will
contact the noncustodial parent.
What does it mean to
"cooperate" with DCSS?
To "cooperate" means you must
provide any information or documents needed by DCSS to establish
paternity and/or locate the other parent. If you are receiving TANF
and/or Medi-Cal and you do not cooperate with DCSS, you must have
"good cause" for not doing so. "Good cause" means you have a legally
acceptable reason for not cooperating with DCSS such as probability
of physical or emotional harm to you or your children.
What happens during an
interview with the Child Support Officer?
You will be
asked to provide information about yourself and the other parent.
What does it mean to
"assign" my support rights?
"assign" your support rights to the county, you are giving the
county the right to keep any child and spousal support and medical
support money that was owed to you at the time you received public
assistance, and any money it collects for you. Any support money
collected that is more than the TANF benefits you received will be
paid to you.
of whether you agree or not, support rights are assigned by
operation of law when you and/or your child(ren) receive TANF
and/or Medi-Cal. If you do not agree to "assign your support
rights," you will not get any TANF money or Medi-Cal benefits for
yourself. Your child(ren) will receive Medi-Cal and a smaller TANF
grant, but instead of sending the check to you, the county may have
another person manage the TANF payments to meet your child(ren)'s
If DCSS cannot find
the noncustodial parent, does that mean I cannot get TANF or Medi-Cal
No. As long as
you are cooperating with DCSS, TANF payments and Medi-Cal benefits
will be available to you.
What type of information
must I or the other parent provide to DCSS?
Some examples are:
- Address and
telephone number changes
- Change of
- Name change
of any divorce or legal proceedings
information regarding the noncustodial parent
receipt of any child and/or spousal support
receipt of payment from any other health coverage
My child's father is
in the military, but I don't know where he is stationed. Can DCSS
address information for military personnel may be obtained from the
federal government. Tell your caseworker if you know which branch of
the military the noncustodial parent is in.
What is "paternity"?
Paternity means fatherhood.
Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal
father of a child. When parents are married, in most cases,
paternity is established without legal action. If parents are
unmarried, paternity establishment may require genetic tests and a
What if he denies he
is the father, or says he is not sure?
be determined after genetic tests are performed on the mother, the
child and the alleged father. The tests exclude men who are not the
father and indicate the likelihood of paternity for a man who is not
excluded. Genetic tests are very reliable, which is why so few
paternity cases go to trial.
Is there an age limit
for genetic tests to be done on a child?
of any age may be tested.
Despite the genetic
tests, the alleged father still says he is not the father. Will the
case be closed?
No. If the
genetic tests show that it is likely he is the father, the matter
will be set for a hearing or trial to determine paternity.
What happens if the
father leaves the state before paternity is established?
If the alleged
father is found and served a formal complaint, the local court will
make a decision on the paternity question. At the same time, a court
order to pay child support may be issued. This order can be enforced
by any state. However, enforcement may take longer when the
noncustodial parent lives outside of California.
Why should paternity
be established if the father has no money to pay child support?
Establishing paternity as soon as
possible ensures that a child is entitled to certain legal rights
What happens after
paternity is established?
is established, DCSS will obtain a support order.
Can paperwork be filed
to establish paternity while the mother is pregnant, before the
child is born?
paperwork may be filed during pregnancy. If the alleged father
denies that he is the father, paternity can be determined by genetic
tests after the child is born.
I am sure the other
parent is willing to pay support. Can we make an agreement between
ourselves and present it to the court?
If you do not
receive aid, you and the other parent may work together with DCSS,
on your own or obtain a lawyer to work out an agreement. If the
child(ren) receives aid or foster-care payments, DCSS will
participate in and sign an agreement. However, DCSS will not agree
to a support order for less than the amount of support determined
under the statewide guidelines.
My spouse and I are
working out a joint custody agreement. How would the court decide
the amount of child support for each of us?
on the terms of your custody agreement. The court will consider each
parent's ability to pay, the needs of the child(ren), and the amount
of time both parents have custody of or visitation with the
My ex-spouse has
remarried and has another family to support. How will this affect
the support that my children are due?
the other parent has a second family, it does not mean that his or
her responsibility to support the first family goes away. The amount
of the support order can be affected due to the responsibility for
supporting another child(ren).
Can the other parent
be required to include our child(ren) under the group health
insurance available where he/she works?
insurance must now be included in any child support order if the
medical coverage is available at a reasonable or no cost. This
applies to both aided and non-aided cases.
The other parent is in
jail. Can I still get support?
Unless he/she has assets, like
property or income from an outside source or from a work-release
program, it is unlikely that support can be collected until he/she
gets out of jail and obtains employment.
As soon as the other
parent is notified about child support enforcement, he/she moves.
How will I ever be able to collect child support?
difficult to enforce child support payments when the other parent
continually moves to avoid paying. Whenever you learn that the
other parent has moved or has a new job, please provide this
information to DCSS.
parent now lives in another state. I know he/she has land and other
assets in California. Can the DCSS help me collect on the past due
Yes. The fact that the noncustodial
parent does not reside in California does not prevent DCSS from
reaching his/her assets in California.
Can Paternity be
established for my child if the father lives in another state?
Frequently, genetic tests are ordered to help the court in the other
state determine paternity.
What should I do if I
am planning to move to another state?
move across the street, to another state or to another country
always inform DCSS of your new address. DCSS will tell you what you need to do to make sure you still receive child
support services in your new location.