Your Legal Relationship with the Department of Child Support Services
The goal of the Department of Child Support Services is to establish and enforce fair and equitable child support orders. The Department of Child Support Services does not represent either parent or the child(ren), and its attorneys are not your attorneys. Though much of the information you provide is confidential, the information in your case may be discussed or disclosed to other public agencies, the other parent's employer and to the other parent or his/her attorney to the extent required by law.
Parents have the right to seek legal advice from a private attorney or legal aid group at their own expense any time.
The Family Law Facilitator
The Family Law Facilitator (FLF) is an attorney who works for the Superior Court. Every county has a Family Law Facilitator, to provide child support information and assist parents. The Family Law Facilitator will not be your attorney. He or she may assist you in completing forms, and can help with child support, spousal support, health insurance and related matters in divorce, separation, nullity, paternity cases and domestic violence cases, whether you are the petitioner or respondent.
In Mendocino County, the Family Law Facilitator is located in the County Court House, at the following address:
State & Perkins St Rm 212
Ukiah, CA 95482
PH: (707) 463-5666
California Courts Self-Help Center, click here
As circumstances change, your support order might need to be modified (increased or decreased). Either parent may request, in writing, a review of their child support order. If a change in the amount of support is appropriate, the Department of Child Support Services will request that the court modify the child support order. There are many reasons a support order may be modified. Some of the most common reasons include:
- significant increase or decrease in either parent's earnings, or
- A change in custody, or the amount of time the child spends with each parent
- If either parent has another child to support
Immediately inform the Department of Child Support Services if you become disabled, lose your job, or go to jail. Unless the child support order is modified, unpaid child support ("arrears") will still be owed, with interest. Interest accrues on arrears, and the interest rate is currently 10% per annum.
For more information regarding the modification of a child support order, contact your local Department of Child Support Services.
Appearing in Court
Depending upon the circumstances of your child support case, you may be required to appear in court. This may seem intimidating, but is an important part of the child support process. The following information will help you prepare for your court appearance and should lessen any unnecessary anxiety you might feel regarding your hearing.
Before the Hearing:
- Contact your child support officer and make sure you have the correct date, time and location of the hearing.
- Write down what you want to tell the Commissioner at the hearing. Make it as brief as possible, staying focused on the issues in question.
- Bring with you to court all documents that might help you prove your side of the case, and make three copies of each.
- If possible, make arrangements for your children to stay with someone while you are in court.
At the Hearing
- Arrive a few minutes early, and remember to give yourself plenty of time to find the courthouse, locate parking, etc.
- Dress and act in a professional manner. When your case is first called, stand and let the Commissioner know you are in the courtroom.
- Be sure to turn off your cell phone, pager, etc. before entering the courtroom. If you need to answer your cell phone, step outside the courtroom to do so.
- Step outside of the courtroom to carry on any conversations with companions or your attorney.
When Your Case is Called for Hearing:
- Come forward to the tables in front of the Commissioner. Both you and the other party should sit at the table on the right. Sit on the far left side of the table if you are the person requesting child support or the far right side of the table if you are the other parent.
- Wait until the Commissioner addresses you before you speak.
- Never make remarks to the other party. Always address your comments to the Commissioner.
- Never argue with or interrupt the other party. Remember, you will be given a chance to respond.
- When presenting your side of the case, be as brief and to the point as possible. It is less confusing for everyone and helps the Commissioner focus on the issues you are presenting.
- Do not argue with or interrupt the Commissioner. It will not help you, and might hurt your case.
- Always address the Commissioner as Your Honor.
- When you present your case, tell the Commissioner about any document you want the court to consider, and hand it to the Department of Child Support Services Attorney. He or she will review it, and then hand it to the bailiff to give to the Commissioner. Do not attempt to approach the Commissioner yourself.
- If you have a question after the Commissioner has made a decision, you can address the court by saying something like, "Excuse me, Your Honor, I have a question", and you will be given the opportunity to speak.
- Try not to be nervous when you appear in court. Just remember to be polite, stick to the issues at hand, and avoid interrupting or making any remarks to the other party/parent.
Important Things to Remember:
- The amount of child support a person must pay is not random. There is a mathematical formula (a guideline) that is used to determine how much a person must pay. California law states that the Commissioner must follow the guideline formula except under very specific conditions that can be found in California Family Code section 4057. These specific conditions do not apply to most child support cases.
- The guideline formula is based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to:
- Custody and visitation time
- Wages and salaries of both parties
- Tax filing status of both parties and number of exemptions claimed
- Other types and amounts of income of the parties
- Child support paid for children of other relationships
- Number of children from other relationships in either home
- It is important for each party to remember that the state of California has said, by law, that:
- A parents first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parents circumstances and station in life
- Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children
- The guideline formula seeks to place the interests of children as the states highest priority