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  • What is child support?

    Child support is money paid toward a child's living expenses and health insurance.
  • Can I still open a child support case even if the other parent has been gone a long time?

    Yes. But the longer parents are gone, the harder it may be to find them.
  • Is my child support case open to the public?

    Child support case information is not open to the public, but court files may be public record.
  • What can I expect when I visit the county Department of Child Support Services?

    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.
  • Can I get child support if I'm not sure who the father of my child is?

    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.
  • What if the father leaves the state before it's proven that he is the father?

    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.
  • The man doesn't have any money or even a job to support my child. Why should I bother proving that he is the father?

    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.
  • Are there other benefits of establishing paternity?

    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.
  • Can I start my case while I'm pregnant, before my baby is born?

    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.
  • Can paternity be established for my child if the father lives in another state?

    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.
  • What should I do when I get a Summons and Complaint?

    If you are the person named as the respondent/defendant and you do not agree with the information contained in the Summons and Complaint or Proposed Judgment, 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. You may call the county Department of Child Support Services, a Family Law Facilitator, or a private attorney to discuss the case.
  • What if a non custodial parent ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?

    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.
  • If I file a Response with the court, will I have a chance to talk to the judge?

    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.
  • How will the court decide how much child support I have to pay?

    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.
  • How will my employer know how much money to take out of my paycheck to pay my child support?

    After the court decides the amount of child support, a wage assignment is mailed to your employer with instructions on how much to deduct and where to send the payment.
  • Is there any way to avoid having to go to court?

    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.
  • What else is in a stipulation?

    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.
  • The parent paying child support has group health insurance available at work. Must the children be covered by that insurance?

    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. This applies to all cases.
  • I am the parent paying child support. If I lose my job, do I still have to pay?

    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.
  • I am the parent paying child support, but my child lives with me now. Can I change the child support order?

    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.
  • My ex-spouse has remarried and has another family to support. How does this affect the support owed to our children?

    The amount of the child support order may be decreased if the other parent also must support children from another relationship.
  • What happens when the parent required to pay child support has money to do so but refuses to pay?

    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 is not doing so. For more information on methods of enforcement, please refer to Section 9 of the State of California Child Support Handbook.
  • What should I do if the parent required to pay child support moves away?

    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.
  • I have a California support order. The other parent lives in another state. I asked the other state to help me collect support. The judge lowered the child support amount. Is that legal?

    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.
  • May I look at the payment records?

    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.
  • The parent required to pay child support is in jail. Can I still get support?

    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.
  • If I am on CalWORKS, how is child support distributed?

    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.
  • If the county Department of Child Support Services cannot find the missing parent(s), can I still get CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits?

    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).