What is child support?
Child support is money paid toward a child’s living
expenses and health insurance.
Can I still open a child support
case even if the other parent has been gone a long time?
Yes. But the longer parents are gone, the harder it may
be to find them.
Is my child support case open to
Child support case information is not open to the public,
but court files may be public record.
What can I expect when I visit the
county Department of Child Support Services?
The county Department of Child Support Services needs
your help and cooperation to open a case. 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. When you open a child
support case, the process to obtain child support begins.
Can I get child support if I’m
not sure who the father of my child is?
No. Paternity (a legal determination of who the father
is) must be established before child support can be ordered.
Paternity gives your child many rights, including child
support, access to medical records, government benefits
What if the father leaves the state
before it’s proven that he is the father?
In some instances, the local court may use information
they have to decide paternity without him. If paternity
is established without the alleged father’s cooperation,
the court may order him to pay child support no matter where
he lives, even if he is out of California.
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 will
not 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
Are there other benefits of establishing
Yes. Establishing paternity grants the child rights to
certain social entitlements, such as social security, pension
and /or veterans benefits, inheritance protection, and access
to family medical records. It is also necessary before custody/visitation
can be established.
Can I start my case while I’m
pregnant, before my baby is born?
Yes. You may start the paperwork to establish paternity
when you are pregnant. If the man you believe is the father
denies it, a genetic test can be ordered after your baby
is born. Genetic tests can be scheduled through the county
Department of Child Support Services.
Can paternity be established for
my child if the father lives in another state?
Yes. The county Department of Child Support Services 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.
What should I do when I get a Summons
If you are the person named as the respondent/defendant
and you do not agree with the information contained in the
and Complaint or Proposed
Judgment, you have 30 days to respond (file an Answer).
A blank Answer is supplied with the Summons and Complaint.
Complete the Answer and file it with the Superior Court
clerk within 30 days. You may call the county Department
of Child Support Services, Family
Law Facilitator, or a private attorney to discuss the
What if a non custodial parent
ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?
Judgment comes with the Summons and Complaint. It will
be the order of the court if the parent in question does
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 paternity, you will
be given a court date.
How will the court decide how much
child support I have to pay?
The amount of child support is based on the income of
both parents and the amount of time each parent cares for
the child. The court uses child support guidelines provided
by the California
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, an
Income Witholding Order(IWO)
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
The parent required to pay child support and the county
Department of Child Support Services can agree (stipulate)
on the amount of child support if the other parent is receiving
welfare benefits. If neither parent is receiving welfare
benefits, then both parents may sign a legal agreement (stipulation)
that establishes paternity and a specific child support
What else is in a stipulation?
The stipulation contains the agreement that the court
will order the following:
1. The legal parentage of the child,
2. The specific dollar amount of the child support,
3. A provision for health insurance for the child if
it is available through the parent’s employer.
The parent paying child support
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
will order the parent paying child support to provide insurance
when it does become available.
I am the parent paying child support.
If I lose my job, do I still have to pay?
Yes, but call the county Department of Child Support Services
right away. 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. For more information about modifying
a child support order, click
I am the parent paying child support,
but my child lives with me now. Can I change the child support
Only the court that made the order may change it. When
there is a change in visitation or custody of the child,
you can go to court and ask for a change in the child support
order. You may also request modification assistance from
the Family Law Facilitator or the county Department of Child
Support Services. You may be able to reduce child support
or begin receiving child support from the other parent.
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
What happens when the parent required
to pay child support has money to do so but refuses to pay?
There are many enforcement tools available to the Department
of Child Support Services. One example is that the court
may find the parent required to pay support in contempt
of court if that parent has the ability to pay but is
not doing so. For more information on methods of enforcement,
please refer to the State
of California Child Support Handbook.
What should I do if the parent required
to pay child support moves away?
Tell the county Department of Child Support Services when
and where you or the other parent moves. Child support can
be enforced anywhere in the United States and many foreign
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 the child
support amount. 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
May I look at the payment records?
Yes. Both parents may access the records of all payments
made through the child support agency. If you think the
county Department of Child Support Services made a mistake,
you have the right to ask for a review.
The parent required to pay child
support is in jail. Can I still get support?
Unless the parent in jail has other assets, like a house
or a car, or other income, child support will be nearly
impossible to collect. A parent required to pay child support
who goes to jail should contact the county Department of
Child Support Services to modify the child support order.
Otherwise, past-due child support, frequently called "arrears",
will continue to grow and the parent will be responsible
for paying the arrears when released.
If I am on CalWORKS, how is child
Each month in which a child support payment is made, a
notice is mailed showing how much money the non-custodial
parent paid. Each month, the first $50 of current child
support is paid to you. The remainder goes to reimburse
the county for benefits you received. If there is any money
leftover, it is used to pay any past-due child support.
If the county Department of Child
Support Services cannot find the missing parent(s), can I
still get CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits?
Yes. If you are eligible and cooperate with the county
Department of Child Support Services, you can receive CalWORKS
or Medi-Cal benefits while the county Department of Child
Support Services tries to find the parent(s).