Obtain a Court Order


If the noncustodial parent (NCP) is located and there is no court order, we will file a case with the court to obtain a court order for parentage (legal parent-child relationship), child support and medical support. This court order is called a Judgment.

We will serve the noncustodial parent (NCP) with child support papers that contain a Summons, Complaint and Proposed Judgment (S&C). The S&C will include a proposed child support amount based on guidelines required by law. The guidelines use a standard formula for determining the child support amount, although the judicial officer may change the amount under limited circumstances.

Summons & Complaint

If the child lives with one parent or legal caretaker most of the time, that person is known as the custodial party (CP). We will file a lawsuit for parentage and support against the other parent, who we refer to as the noncustodial parent (NCP). If the child does not live with either parent, or is in foster care, we may file cases for parentage and support against both parents.

When a case is filed with the court, the filed papers are called a Summons and Complaint (S&C) and Proposed Judgment. These papers are very important. The documents explain to the noncustodial parent (NCP) that a lawsuit has been filed and how much support we are asking the court to order.

Usually a Process Server will provide the noncustodial parent (NCP) with copies of the lawsuit papers. This action is called a Service of Process. The documents explain to the noncustodial parent (NCP) about the case against them and gives the noncustodial parent (NCP) an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. When the noncustodial parent (NCP) is served with the papers, the clock begins and legal deadlines are set.

File an Answer

The Summons & Complaint and Proposed Judgment (S&C) packet includes a blank Answer form. It is important to read the papers carefully. The noncustodial parent (NCP) has an opportunity to tell the court that they agree or disagree with the information being requesting in the S&C. This is done by completing the Answer and filing it with the court clerk.

A noncustodial parent (NCP) may request genetic testing if they believe they is not the father of the child listed in the S&C. If the case qualifies for genetic testing, we will schedule the testing. For more information, please see Genetic Testing.

Deadlines to file: A noncustodial parent (NCP) who receives the lawsuit papers in person (personal service) has 30 days to file an Answer with the court. If the process server missed the noncustodial parent (NCP) and left the papers with someone at the noncustodial parent's (NCP) home or work and mailed a copy, the noncustodial parent (NCP) has 45 days from the date the papers were mailed to file an Answer with the court clerk.

If you are the noncustodial parent (NCP), after you complete your Answer, make a copy for yourself and a copy for our office. Do NOT send us the original Answer form. FILE YOUR ORIGINAL ANSWER form at:

San Joaquin County Superior Court
Family Law Division
180 E. Weber Ave
Stockton, CA 95202

Have a copy of the filed Answer sent to us as stated on page 2 of the Answer form. If you are the noncustodial parent (NCP) and would like help understanding the papers or filling out the Answer form, you can hire an attorney or contact the Office of the Family Law Facilitator which is located at the address listed above.

Calculating Child Support

In California, a parent's first and primary obligation is to support their minor children. Each parent is expected to pay for the support of a child according to their ability.

California created a standard mathematical formula that our office and judicial officers are required to use to calculate child support. Information placed into this formula includes, but is not limited to: the earnings and income of each parent; the amount of time each parent takes care of the child ("timeshare"); certain expenses; and the number of other minor children that the parent is required by law to support.

California developed a Guideline Calculator, which can be used to estimate the amount of child support that might be ordered.

Judicial officers have the final authority to determine the amount of a child support order. The Guideline Calculator provides only an estimate and is not a guarantee of the amount of child support that will be ordered. Other factors may impact the amount of a child support order.

Obtaining an Order

A support order may be obtained in the following ways:

Stipulation - If the noncustodial parent (NCP) and our office reach an agreement regarding the requests made in the Summons & Complaint and Proposed Judgment (S&C), the noncustodial parent (NCP) may sign an agreement called a "stipulation." By signing the stipulation form, the noncustodial parent (NCP) agrees that:

  • The noncustodial parent (NCP) is the parent of the child
  • The noncustodial parent (NCP) will pay the amount of child support and provide health insurance as stated in the stipulation
  • The court may enter an order or judgment based on the stipulation

Default Judgment - If the noncustodial parent (NCP) does not file an Answer to the S&C within 30 days, and a stipulation has not been reached, the judicial officer may enter a Judgment by default. This means the judicial officer may enter a final Judgment based on the terms of the Proposed Judgment, without a court hearing and without any input from the noncustodial parent (NCP).

Court Hearing - If the noncustodial parent (NCP) files an Answer with the court clerk, the case will be scheduled for a court hearing. The noncustodial parent (NCP) may request Genetic Testing to determine if they are the biological father of the child and may ask the court to decide the amount of child support. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) does not attend the hearing, the court may make an order without their attendance for the hearing.

All orders for child support obtained by our office will contain an earnings assignment order, which orders the noncustodial parent's (NCP) employer to withhold the amount of the child support from the noncustodial parent's (NCP) wages and send it to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).