Applying for Child Support and Knowing Your Rights
Posted on January 13, 2023 by CHS
Child support payments are financial contributions designated to help pay for the living and medical expenses of a child until they are adults. Under state and federal law, both parent(s) or legal guardian(s) have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children.
Who can apply for child support?
Either parent(s) or legal guardian(s) can apply for child support. This can be done regardless of whether a child support court order exists. It is often a common misconception that a court order is needed before a case can be opened. A court order is not required to open a child support case with your local agency.
How can your local child support office assist you?
If a court order has already been obtained, opening a child support case with your local office offers neutral assistance with the process by keeping records and helping both parent(s) or legal guardian(s) stay on track.
If a case has not been opened, apply for child support with your local office. Your local office can help with services such as locating the other parent or legal guardian, establishing paternity or percentage of financial responsibility as required, and obtaining a court order and ensuring it is enforced in other states and countries.
Once a child support order has been set by a court, if you have not asked a local child support agency to help enforce the order, this is referred to as a “private child support case.” In a private case, the State processes the child support payments by withholding wages through the employer of the parent paying support. You may open a child support case whether you are the one paying for child support or receiving it.
Child Support Services Available at your Local Child Support Agency
- Establishing paternity/percentage of financial responsibility
- Locating parents
- Requesting child support orders from the court
- Requesting medical support orders from the court
- Enforcing child and spousal support orders
- Modifying child support orders
- Collecting and sending child support payments
You may open a child support case by completing an online or an in-person application. The online application can be accessed by clicking here. This application may take between 30-45 minutes to complete. Your application will be automatically routed to the child support agency in your area. The in-person application can be downloaded online or obtained on a walk-in basis at all county and regional child support offices. Once completed, the applications must be returned to the child support agency in your area to be processed. Find a local office by clicking here. Applying for child support is free of charge.
Do you have to go to court?
Another common misconception is that parents or legal guardians will have to attend court in order to obtain a court order. Your local child support office can help with preparing the recommended support amount. Once both parties agree to the support amount, a stipulation is drafted, then signed by program attorneys and a judge to produce the court order.
Child support payments are calculated by considering all income. This can include income such as wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, social security, and independent contractor income. To help you calculate child support payments, an online calculator can be found here.
How are Child Support Orders Enforced?
Child support orders can be enforced by your local child support agency. There are multiple methods used to help obtain the court ordered amount that can include license suspension, tax refund interception, income withholding orders, and passport denial. Your child support office will have more information on these methods.
Parents in Another State/Country
If the parent paying child support moves away, the support agency handling the case should be informed immediately. Child support can be enforced anywhere in the United States and in many other countries as well. If the parent receiving child support is moving, the case can be transferred to the new county, state, or country. It is also important to know that The Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act are laws in effect to ensure the child support order is still enforced.
If you are a service member, spouse, or a former spouse of a service member, there are also services to help support military families. More detailed information can be found here.
What is the 2022 Pass-Through Increase?
As of January 1, 2022, if you are receiving child support and cash assistance through CalWORKs, you may receive an increase in child support “passed through” to you. If you currently receive less than $100 for one child or less than $200 for two or more children, you will not receive the increased amount.
It is also important to note that the parent paying child support will not have to pay more, and the parent being paid will not receive any less cash assistance.
References and Resources
- Application for Child Support (Online) – online application for Child Support Services
- Application for Child Support Services Packet (English) – English Child Support Application packet
- Application for Child Support Services Packet (Spanish) – Spanish Child Support Application packet
- Apply for Child Support - webpage by California Child Support Services
- California Child Support Services - Frequently Asked Questions
- Child Support 101 Webinars – webinars to help understand the process to receiving and paying child support
- Find my Local Agency - webpage to help find a child support office near you
- How A Child Support Case Works – step-by-step on how a child support case works.
- Military Resource Center - webpage by California Child Support Services
- What should I do if the parent paying support moves away? – video by California Child Support Services