California Child Support Questions and Answers

From the Law Office of Arlene D. Kock:

In my many years of practicing Family law, I’ve encountered numerous common questions that are asked on a regular basis by clients concerning their child custody legal matters. The California Department of Child Support Services provided in its web page the best assortment of questions and their answers I felt would be worth repeating for quick and easy reference.

The Department of Child Support Services only deals with legal assistance concerning the calculation and collection of past due and ongoing child support. This agency cannot provide legal representation to parents on legal matters concerning child custody, child visitation or violation of parenting orders. The best option to protect your parenting legal rights is to have an experienced family law attorney represent you on your child custody matter.

With that being said, here are some basic questions and their answers:

Source of information: http://www.childsup.cahwnet.gov

Q: What is Child Support?
Child support is defined by law as the ongoing monetary expenditures and payments necessary to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. Both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children. The court may order either or both parents to make ongoing payments to cover a child’s living and medical expenses.

Q: What is an LCSA?
LCSA is the acronym for Local Child Support Agency. It is the organization through which the public can apply for help in obtaining child support. Child support services include obtaining child support and medical support orders, establishing paternity, and collecting support payments. Child support services do NOT include divorce, custody, or visitation. These services must be resolved in a court of law. There are 52 county and regional child support agencies throughout California.

Q: Who can get help from a Local Child Support Agency?
Parents, guardians, and caretakers of minor children can receive services from a local child support agency regardless of marital status, income, and whether or not they are receiving public assistance.

Individuals with children receiving California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) benefits are required to cooperate with the local child support agency in establishing paternity and collecting child support.

Q: If the local child support agency cannot find the non-custodial parent, can I still get CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits?
Yes. If you are eligible and cooperate with the local child support agency, you can receive CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits while the local child support agency tries to find the non-custodial parent.

Q: I have tried speaking to someone about my child support case. I am not getting my questions answered. What do I do?
The Department of Child Support Services continuously strives to ensure that individuals receive the highest level of service through the program’s 52 local child support agencies.

If you are not satisfied with the customer service you received from the local child support agency, you may wish to speak to the local child support agency Ombudsperson.

The Ombudsperson helps you resolve issues with the child support case, explains rights and responsibilities, and helps you get child support services.

Q: I would like to spend more time with my child. Can the local child support agency change the visitation schedule?
No. The local child support agency only handles matters related to child support. Custody and visitation issues must be addressed through the courts.

Every county has a Family Law Facilitator at the courthouse to provide child support information and assistance to parents. Family Law Facilitators help parents obtain and complete court forms and all services provided are free of charge.

Child support advocacy groups or legal aid services are available in many communities. The Ombudsperson at the local child support agency has a list of advocacy groups for custodial parents and non-custodial parents.

Q: Is my child support case open to the public?
No. Child support case information is not open to the public, but court files may be public record.

Q: I am a non-custodial parent. What should I do when I get a Summons and Complaint?
You have 30 days to respond (file an Answer) to the Summons and Complaint. The Answer document you file is included with the Summons and Complaint. Complete the Answer document and file it with the Superior Court clerk within 30 days. You may call the local child support agency or Family Law Facilitator.

Q: What if a non-custodial parent ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?
If the non-custodial parent does not respond to the Summons and Complaint, the court will set the amount of child support based on the information it has from the local child support agency and the custodial party.

Q: 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 question paternity, you will be given a court date.

Q: I am a non-custodial parent, 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 court and ask for a change in the child support order, or you may ask the local child support agency to modify the court order. You may be able to reduce child support payments or begin receiving child support from the other parent.

Q: 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.

Q: What happens when the non-custodial parent has money to pay child support but still won’t pay?
Individuals can assist local child support agencies by providing any information they have about the non-custodial parent’s (NCPs) whereabouts, income, and assets such as homes, cars, etc. The court may find a NCP in contempt of court if that parent has the ability to pay but is willfully not paying the child support. This enforcement tool is used only when all others have failed.

Q: What should I do if the non-custodial parent moves away?
Tell the local child support agency when you or the non-custodial parent moves — no matter where. They can transfer your child support case to the county or state where you move if you are a custodial party. Also tell the local child support agency where the noncustodial parent moves. Child support can be enforced anywhere in the United States.

Q: 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 child support. 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.

Q: May I look at the payment records?
Yes. Both the custodial party and non-custodial parent may view the records of all payments made. If you think the local child support agency made a mistake, you have the right to ask for a review.

Q: The non-custodial parent is in jail. Can I still get support?
Unless the parent in jail has other assets, such as a house or a car, or other income, child support will be nearly impossible to collect. A noncustodial parent who goes to jail should contact the local child support agency to modify the child support order. Otherwise, past-due child support will continue to grow and the non-custodial parent will be responsible for paying past-due support when released, plus interest.

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Arlene D. Kock, APLC

The Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock, APLC are located in San Ramon, California. Office hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday. The office has an after hours answering service for your convenience. For additional information about the firm, visit her website, call 925-743-8666 or email.
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