Understanding the Steps of a Child Support Case

California Child Support Services assists in establishing and enforcing financial and medical support orders for children. Services are offered to any parent, guardian, or caretaker of minor children, with or without a prior court order. Child Support Services assist both parents in understanding the steps involved and navigating the child support and court process.

Opening a Child Support Case

If there is an existing child support order, opening a case offers assistance with every part of the process, keeps records, and helps both parties stay on track. If there is no child support order, the child support agency in your county or region can locate the other parent, establish legal parentage if required, get a court order and see that it is enforced in every state and many foreign countries. To open a case, apply online at www.childsupport.ca.gov or in person at your local office

Once a case has been opened the process begins with the following steps:

Locating the Other Parent

Before a court order for child support can be made, both parents of the child need to be located. There is no guarantee they will be found, but the more identifying information provided the easier it will be, and California Child Support Services will use all available resources to locate the parents.

Summons and Complaint

A legal document is sent to the parent being asked to pay support with a requirement to formally respond within 30 days before the proposed court order automatically becomes a judgment. If receiving a summons and complaint, contact the local child support agency immediately – assistance is available to be sure both parties’ financial information is accurately presented to the court.

Establishing Legal Parentage

Any child support office can help establish legal parentage for unmarried parents without going to court if both parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage. If a child’s parentage is in question, California Child Support Services can arrange for genetic testing to verify the child’s biological parents. To learn more about establishing parentage, visit https://childsupport.ca.gov/establishing-legal-parentage/.

Obtaining a Child Support Order

California Child Support Services can help with all the paperwork required so that when the court sets a child support amount, it is fair to both parents. In many cases, court may be avoided completely if both parents can agree in advance on an amount for child support. The judge or commissioner will determine the amount to be paid by reviewing the income and expenses of each parent and the amount of time each spends with the child.

Paying a Child Support Order

Most court-ordered child support payments are made through income withholding, when an employer deducts court-ordered child support payments from an employee’s paycheck. For all self-payment options, visit: www.childsupport.ca.gov/payment-options.

If an order for child support is not paid on time and in full, driver’s license suspension, state and federal tax refund intercepts, and intercepts of other income or assets are possible. More on these actions to ensure payment can be found at link to: https://childsupport.ca.gov/drivers-license-passport-release/.

Changing or Modifying a Child Support Order

If changes have occurred in financial, medical, or other situations, a request can be made for a modification of the order. Contact the child support agency handling the case and request a “Review and Adjustment.”  Failure to complete and return any documents received during this process can result in denial of the request. Parent may also go to court on their own or hire a private attorney to represent them for a modification request.

Closing a Child Support Case

There are many reasons why a child support case can be closed. Typically, it’s when the youngest child reaches the age of 18, is no longer a full-time high school student, and no past-due balances are owed. All records are maintained for at least four years and four months in accordance with federal law.