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Frequently Asked Questions

If your question is not found here, please e-mail us with your question. You may also visit the State DCSS website for additional frequently asked questions.

Key Definitions

  • Obligor – The person who owes court-ordered child support.
  • Obligee – The parent or guardian to whom child support is owed.

I am an obligor. If I lose my job, do I still have to pay child support?

Yes, but call the department right away and 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.

I am an obligor, but my child lives with me now. Can I change the child support order?

Yes. When there is a change in visitation or custody of the child, you can either go to the court to ask for a change in the child support order, or you may ask the department for a modification from the court.  

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 parent paying support must also support children from another relationship.

I am an obligor. What should I do when I get the Summons and Complaint?

A blank Answer form is supplied with the Summons and Complaint, fill it out and file it with the Superior Court clerk within 30 days. The department or family law facilitator in your county can help you fill out the necessary forms.

What if an obligor ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?

If the obligor does not respond, the estimated child support payment sent with the Summons and Complaint will be the amount of child support ordered by the court. When the court enters the order, the obligor will need to ask the court for permission to challenge it.

If I respond to the court, will I have a chance to talk to the judge?

Yes, if you respond to the Summons and Complaint and contest paternity or the amount of child support requested, you will be given a court date.

How will the court decide how much child support I have to pay as an obligor?

The amount of child support is based on various factors including the income of both parents and the amount of time each parent cares for the child. The court uses child support guidelines found at <a href="http://www.childsup.ca.gov/calculator/" target="_blank">www.childsup.ca.gov/calculator/</a>. Click on the California Guideline Child Support Payment Calculator User Guide for assistance or seek advice from an Attorney or Family Law Facilitator.

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 document called an Order/Notice to Withhold 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 obligor and the department can agree (stipulate) on the amount of child support if the obligee is receiving public assistance benefits. If neither parent is receiving public assistance benefits, then both parents may sign a legal agreement (stipulation) about the amount of child support.

What else is in a stipulation?

Stipulations vary with circumstances, but the usual stipulation contains the agreement that the obligor is:

  • The parent of the child
  • Willing to pay child support
  • Willing to provide health insurance for the child if available through the parent's Employer; and
  • Willing to allow the court to enter an order without appearing in court

The obligor 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 order will order both parents to provide insurance when it does become available. This applies to all cases.

Sometimes the other parent gives me money. If it goes through the child support office, they keep some of the money. I will get more if I just let the other parent pay me when they can.

Your child has every day needs that cannot be subject to the parent's willingness to pay when they feel like it. Children receive more support from parents who have an active child support order in place.

Can I still open a child support case even if the other parent has been gone for a long time?

Yes. But the longer parents are gone, the harder it may be to find them. See "Locating a parent" below.

Is my child support case open to the public?

Child support case information is confidential and not open the public, but documents in court files or county recorder files are public records.

What can I expect when I visit the department?

The process to obtain child support begins with opening a child support case, and your help and cooperation are required. 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.

What will happen to my case if I move?

Be sure to tell the Department when you move. The child support case follows the obligee to any new county or state of residence.

What can I do if I am a victim of family violence?

You can ask that information about your case not be shared with other agencies or to any other party. If you receive CalWORKS or Medi-Cal, you can ask that the department not act on your case.

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

No. Paternity 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.

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 won't 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, including possible government benefits.

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

Yes. The department 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 or another country.

What happens when the obligor has money to pay child support but still won't pay?

The department can use a variety of enforcement tools available to collect the payments. Also, the court may find an obligor in contempt of court, or in rare instances, guilty of a misdemeanor and/or felony.

What should I do if the obligor moves away?

Tell the department as soon as possible; child support can be enforced anywhere in the U.S. Also, if you have custody and move away, your child support case can be transferred to your new county or state.

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

Laws known as the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act may prevent a state from changing another state's court orders. If the child lives here and an order is issued in California, only a California court can change it in most cases.

May I look at the payment records?

Yes, you may see the records of all payments made by the obligor on your case. If you have custody and you think the department made a mistake, you have the right to ask for a review or audit.

The obligor is in jail. Can I still get support?

Unless the parent in jail has assets or other income, child support will be nearly impossible to collect. An obligor who goes to jail should contact the department to modify the child support order, otherwise, past-due child support will add up plus interest and the obligor will be responsible for paying it when released.

I am receiving CalWORKs. How is child support distributed?

In every month that a child support payment is made, a notice will be mailed to the obligee showing how much money the obligor paid. Each month, the first $50 of current child support (a disregard) is paid to the obligee. The remainder goes to repay the county for any CalWORKs payments received. (New federal law may change the disregard payment amount. Contact the department or county welfare office for more information.)

If the department cannot find the obligor, can I still get CalWORKs or Medi-Cal benefits?

Yes. If you are eligible and cooperate with the department, you can receive CalWORKs or Medi-Cal benefits while the department tries to find the obligor.

I received CalWORKs in the past, but not now. How is child support distributed?

Current support and arrears owed to you is paid to you. Anything collected above current support and the arrears owed to you are kept by the department to pay for past-due child support when you received CalWORKs payments in the past.

Do you offer workshops or assistance to fathers and mothers?

Yes, the department hosts monthly information seminars for the purpose of providing education and answers to the public about all aspects of the child support program.   Participants may remain anonymous and can simply listen in, or ask specific questions to gain the information they are seeking. No reservations are necessary and we encourage you to drop-in to one of the seminar's, which are typically held the 3rd Tuesday of each month from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Rocklin office, 1000 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 200. Please confirm the date for this month's seminar, which is listed on the home page of the Child Support website, or call our office to confirm.

Can you assist with child care, counseling or parenting classes?

We cannot directly assist you with these areas, but we can supply you with resources for these needs.

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