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Child Support Main Page


    Lori A. Cruz
    826 N. California St.
    Stockton, CA 95202
    (866) 901-3212 Phone
    (209) 468-2577 Fax


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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. 


The Noncustodial 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 Parent

Step 3: Establish Paternity (if necessary)

Step 4: Establish a Support Order (if necessary)

Step 5: Enforcement of the Support Order


I want DCSS to enforce my court order. Is the information I provide open to the public?

DCSS Child 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 record.  


What if I think DCSS made a mistake about the receipt or distribution of a child support payment?

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?

Child support 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 child support?

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?

When you "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.

Regardless 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 needs.



If DCSS cannot find the noncustodial parent, does that mean I cannot get TANF or Medi-Cal benefits?

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 employment
  • Name change
  • Initiation of any divorce or legal proceedings
  • New information regarding the noncustodial parent
  • Direct receipt of any child and/or spousal support
  • Direct 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 find him?

Yes. Current 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 court order.  



What if he denies he is the father, or says he is not sure?

Paternity may 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?

No. Children 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 and privileges. 



What happens after paternity is established?

Once paternity 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?

Yes. The 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?

That depends 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 child(ren). 


My ex-spouse has remarried and has another family to support. How will this affect the support that my children are due?

Even though 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?

Yes. Health 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?

It is 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.


The noncustodial 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 amount?

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?

Yes.  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?

Whether you 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.



© San Joaquin County 2003