Misconceptions (and facts) about Child Support Services

There are numerous misconceptions about child support services.  Many people, sometimes even those with child support cases, are not aware of the range of services available, the programs to assist both payers and recipients, and the reasons behind many of the actions taken in a child support case.

Below are some common misconceptions and the facts about child support in California:

Misconception: California Child Support Services only helps mothers.

Fact: California Child Support Services provides neutral assistance to both parents and helps all parties with the child support and court processes.  Either parent or a legal guardian can open a child support case, get a child support order and establish financial and medical support orders for children.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fathers received $2.8 billion in child support payments in 2015 and the number is growing.

Misconception: Once there is a court order, Child Support Services is automatically involved.

Fact: If you are a parent or legal guardian of a child and have a court order for child support, you must apply for services in order to open a child support case.  It can often be in the payer’s best interest to open a case, as records are kept from the start and disputes can be avoided or minimized.

Misconception: You are not eligible for child support if you weren’t ever married to the other parent.

Fact: If you are a parent of a child and have never been married to the other parent, you may still apply for services.  We will help you get an order for child support, in many cases avoiding court entirely, and you don’t pay anything except the $35 annual service fee.

Misconception: Child support payments stop automatically when the child turns 18.

Fact: California child support orders are enforceable until the dependent turns 18. However, if your child is still in high school, the order is enforceable until graduation from high school or their 19th birthday, whichever comes first.  Also, all unpaid amounts must be paid before the case can close, and there are forms that must be submitted to stop a paycheck withholding order.  Contact the child support agency handling your case to request a case closure and determine the status of your case.

Misconception: Child Support Services is a for-profit business the same as collection agencies.

Fact: All child support programs nationwide exist because of laws passed by either Congress or State legislatures.  As these laws have been added to the books, the system has gotten more complicated and difficult to navigate.  Child Support Services staff are county or state employees that are trained to help, and many programs have evolved, and are still evolving, to make the system simpler, more helpful and more fair to both parents.

Misconception: Most people pay the child support they owe.

Fact: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 43.5% of parents who were supposed to receive child support in 2015 received full payments.  The child support program makes a big difference, serving over 20% of all the children in the United States in 2018.

To get more facts about child support, visit the Frequently Asked Questions from California Child Support Services.