Enforce A Court Order

Overview

One of the primary functions of the Department of Child Support Services is to enforce (collect) child support, family support and spousal support. In most cases we enforce current child support, family support and spousal support only until the child reaches the age of majority (AOM) or emancipates by law. The AOM in California is eighteen (18). However, if a child becomes 18 years old and is still a full time high school student, the current child support order continues until the date the child graduates or becomes nineteen (19) years old, whichever occurs first. A child may emancipate before the age of 18 by marrying, joining the armed forces, or by court order.

We enforce child support and family support arrears (past-due support) until they are paid in full. However, we enforce spousal support arrears only if we are also enforcing child support or family support arrears.

There are many enforcement tools we can use to collect support. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) is issued in every case we enforce. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) has a job, the IWO is sent to his or her employer. The employer automatically deducts the monthly support payments from the noncustodial parent's (NCP) wages. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) is self-employed or works for cash, other enforcement tools are used to collect support. It is important to remember that every case is unique; what works for one case may not work for others. What follows are brief descriptions of some of the enforcement tools commonly used by Department of Child Support Services.

License Suspension ( back to top )

The State License Suspension and Revocation Program, also known as the State Licensing Match System (SLMS), is used to collect payments towards support orders. When a noncustodial parent (NCP) does not pay support as ordered, the California Department of Child Support Services is required to report the noncustodial parent (NCP) to California licensing boards. The State of California will deny permanent state-issued driver, business and professional licenses (for example: cosmetologist, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney) to NCPs who owe arrears and apply for a license or a renewal.

When there is a license match, the licensing boards immediately send the noncustodial parent (NCP) a Notice of Intent to Suspend License. The licensing boards issue a temporary license valid for 150 days (if all other licensing requirements are met). The noncustodial parent (NCP) has those 150 days to contact our office to make arrangements to pay the arrears. If no arrangements are made, the noncustodial parent's (NCP) application for issuance or renewal is denied.

Arrangements to pay the arrears can be made at our local office. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) is unable to reach an agreement with us, he or she can request a court hearing. The Family Law Facilitator can assist with that request.

Passport Denial ( back to top )

Child support agencies are required to report noncustodial parent's (NCP) who owe arrears, to the federal government. If an noncustodial parent (NCP) owes more than $2,500 in arrears he or she is entered into the Passport Denial Program (PDP). The U.S. State Department will not issue or renew a passport to a person who has been placed in the PDP. NCPs who have been placed in the PDP can only be removed from the program if:

  • The noncustodial parent (NCP) was submitted in error
  • Arrears are paid in full
  • A member of the noncustodial parent's (NCP) immediate family has a life threatening illness and lives outside the United States (subject to proof)
  • A member of the noncustodial parent's (NCP) immediate family died or is close to death outside the United States (subject to proof)
  • The noncustodial parent (NCP) filed a petition for bankruptcy protection (under limited circumstances)
  • A foreign government requests extradition

An noncustodial parent (NCP) should contact our office to make arrangements to pay arrears in full or if any of the above conditions apply.

Bank Levy ( back to top )

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is authorized to assist in the collection of arrears by taking money from accounts held in financial institutions. These accounts may include bank accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts, and financial securities.

DCSS may submit a noncustodial parent (NCP) for bank levy even if he or she is making payments on arrears. DCSS sends a withholding order to the financial institution asking for the full amount of the arrears. The institution must transmit all available funds, up to the full amount, to the State Disbursement Unit.

If the noncustodial parent (NCP) has been making support payments and is deemed to be "compliant," the first $3,500 in his or her bank account is exempt from the withholding order and will not be taken. A compliant noncustodial parent (NCP) can also file a claim, based solely on hardship, requesting that all or a portion of the amount over $3,500 be exempt.

noncustodial parents (NCP) who need assistance with a bank levy can contact our Customer Contact Center at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Property Lien ( back to top )

The Department of Child Support Services records support orders and judgments with the County Recorder's Office to create a lien against real property in any California county in which an noncustodial parent (NCP) has or acquires an interest. Once the lien is filed, the noncustodial parent (NCP) cannot sell or refinance that property unless arrears are paid in full, or other arrangements are made with Department of Child Support Services.

State and Federal Tax Intercept

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) reports all noncustodial parents (NCP) who owe arrears, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). These agencies intercept noncustodial parents' (NCP) federal and state income tax refunds to pay arrears. The IRS and the FTB send the intercepted refunds to the State Disbursement Unit. The IRS and FTB notify the noncustodial parent (NCP) by mail of any tax refund intercept.

DCSS sends the noncustodial parent (NCP) a Pre-Offset Notice prior to an intercept. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) disagrees with the intercept, he or she should contact our office immediately.

When an noncustodial parent (NCP) files a tax return jointly with a current spouse, the entire amount of the tax refund can be intercepted. However, the spouse many file an "Injured Spouse" claim form with the IRS or send a letter to the FTB requesting "innocent spouse" relief. In either case, the spouse must explain why he or she should receive his or her portion of the tax refund. The IRS and FTB will determine if an amount should be refunded to the spouse. IRS intercepts may be held from distribution to the custodial party for up to six (6) months during this process.

In some cases arrears are owed to the State for aid paid to the family. In those cases, money intercepted from a federal tax refund will be used to pay those arrears first.

If you are an noncustodial parent (NCP) who disputes that arrears are owed or you dispute the amount of the arrears you owe, please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Credit Reporting ( back to top )

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) submits account status information to Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) on a monthly basis. The Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) include:

The information provided includes arrears (past due support) owed and payment history. If you are an noncustodial parent (NCP) concerned about the information reflected on your credit report, please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits/Disability Insurance Benefits ( back to top )

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) submits information regarding noncustodial parents (NCP) who owe arrears, to the Employment Development Department (EDD) on an ongoing basis. The EDD can withhold up to 25% of an noncustodial parent's (NCP) Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) to collect unpaid child support obligations. The amount withheld can exceed the current child support order amount and may be applied toward arrears.

If you believe the amount being withheld is too high, you should contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212 to see if other arrangements can be made.

Workers' Compensation ( back to top )

When a noncustodial parent (NCP) has a Workers' Compensation claim, a portion of the benefits he or she receives can be collected for current support and arrears. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) can be used to collect up to 25% of ongoing (sometimes called recurring) temporary disability benefits. An IWO can also be used to collect 25% of any lump sum temporary disability benefits.

We can also file a lien against any compensation awarded to the noncustodial parent (NCP) by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). The lien is filed for all arrears that accumulated from the date the noncustodial parent (NCP) was injured forward. If you are an noncustodial parent (NCP) who disputes the amount of the lien, please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Lottery Intercepts ( back to top )

Lottery winnings owed by the State of California to a noncustodial parent (NCP) are automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit to pay arrears. If you are an noncustodial parent (NCP) who disputes that arrears are owed or the amount of the arrears, please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Income Withholding Order ( back to top )

The law requires that all court orders for child support include an Income Withholding Order (IWO). The local child support agency (LCSA) sends the IWO to the noncustodial parent's (NCP) employer. The employer must deduct the amount specified in the order and send it directly to the State Disbursement Unit. The employer may not take more than fifty percent (50%) of the noncustodial parent's (NCP) net earnings (after taxes).

Self-employed noncustodial parents (NCP) are obligated to deduct the child support amount from their wages as indicated in the IWO.

If you are an noncustodial parent (NCP) who disputes the amount on the IWO, please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.

Private Family Law Orders ( back to top )

The Department of Child Support Services can assist in enforcing or modifying private orders. A private order is an order for support that was not obtained by CSSD or another local child support agency (LCSA), e.g., a dissolution (divorce) or private paternity action.

All orders for support enforced by Department of Child Support must be payable through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). This allows us to maintain an accurate payment history. Department of Child Support sends a Declaration of Support Payment History to the custodial party to report any payments that were received before Department of Child Support Services began enforcing the order.

  • An Order from a Court in San Joaquin County
    If the order was already made payable to the SDU, Department of Child Support Services can immediately begin to enforce the order.

    If the order was made payable to one of the parents, Department of Child Support Services has to file a Notice Regarding Payment of Support (NRPS) with the court and send a copy to the parents. This notifies the noncustodial parent (NCP) to send all future support payments to the SDU.

  • An Order from Another California County
    Orders from other counties have case numbers that are not recognized in San Joaquin County. To enforce those orders, Department of Child Support Services must notify the San Joaquin County courts that the case will now be heard in San Joaquin County and obtain a San Joaquin County court number. That process is called "Registration." If the original order is not already payable to the SDU, Department of Child Support Services must also file a NRPS .

  • An Order from Another State (aka: Foreign Order)
    Orders from other states also have case numbers that are not recognized in Los Angeles County. There are specific rules that govern the enforcement of a court order from other states. It is not always necessary to "register" an out-of-state order to enforce it. However, if the Department of Child Support Services determines that the order must be registered, we will file a Registration of Foreign Support Order (ROFO) and NRPS with the court and will send a copy to the parties.

Contempt ( back to top )

A civil contempt proceeding can be filed if a noncustodial parent (NCP) knows about his or her child support obligation and has the ability and means to pay the obligation, but refuses to do so. If the judicial officer decides that the noncustodial parent (NCP) is in contempt, the noncustodial parent (NCP) can be sentenced to jail time in addition to being required to pay the missed support payments.

A Contempt action can also be filed against an employer who fails to honor an Income Withholding Order (IWO) or National Medical Support Notice (NMSN).

Criminal Prosecution ( back to top )

Under authority granted by the San Joaquin County District Attorney, our office criminally prosecutes noncustodial parents (NCP) who fail or refuse to provide support even though they have the ability to pay. This happens when other civil remedies, such as wage assignment, license revocation, bank levies, and civil contempt, are unsuccessful. Although a defendant in a criminal case may face up to a year in jail, the primary goal of criminal prosecution is not incarceration. Instead, the purpose is to compel the defendant to make ongoing timely monthly child support payments. Criminal prosecution is particularly useful in cases where the defendant is self-employed or working for cash. A Public Defender can be appointed to represent an noncustodial parent (NCP) who cannot afford an attorney.

Writ ( back to top )

In some cases, the Department of Child Support Services can file a Writ of Execution with the court. The Writ directs a person or entity holding personal property, bank accounts or other assets owned in whole or in part by a noncustodial parent to turn those assets over to Department of Child Support Services. Writs are obtained for arrears owed, and not for future amounts.

Seek Work Order ( back to top )

Under California law, the judicial officer can order an unemployed parent who is not paying court-ordered child support to seek work. The judicial officer can make this order if, due to his or her unemployment, the noncustodial parent (NCP) has not paid for more than 90 days and the noncustodial parent (NCP) has proven ability to be employed and remains employable. Failure to comply with the seek work order can result in a citation for contempt and include jail time for each finding of contempt.

Out-of-State ( back to top )

Cases in which one of the parties lives outside the State of California are assigned to our Intergovernmental Division. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) provides rules for the jurisdiction and modification of child support orders when the parties live in different states. See Private Family Law Orders (create a link)

The United States has reciprocal agreements with many nations around the world. For those nations, there are procedures in place for establishing and enforcing a child support order.

Close a Case ( back to top )

A case opened or being enforced by the Department of Child Support Services can be closed for many reasons. When a case is closed it means that Department of Child Support Services will no longer provide services for that case. The fact that a case is closed has no impact on the underlying orders for support. If an noncustodial parent still has an order for support, he or she must continue to pay that support to the custodial party (CP). If arrears (past- due support) are owed those arrears must be paid to the custodial party (CP).

A custodial party (CP) who is not receiving aid ("CalWORKS") can close his or her case at any time. If there are arrears owed to the State, Department of Child Support Services will leave the case open and continue to enforce those arrears, but will stop enforcing current support and arrears owed to the custodial party (CP). A custodial party (CP) who is receiving aid cannot close the case because all the support he or she is entitled to while on aid is assigned to the State. A custodial party (CP) may be able to reopen the case. To request that a case be closed (or reopened), please contact us at 1 (866) 901-3212.