Frequently Asked Questions

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We understand that there are many things about child support that are complicated and confusing. We are here to help you understand and navigate this process.

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by category:

General Information
Legal and Family Law
Making Child Support Payments
Receiving Child Support Payments
How to Access Your Customer Connect Account
Customer Relations

General Information 

1. What is child support?

Child support is the ongoing contribution of money to help pay for the living and medical expenses of a child or children until they are adults. The amount that must be paid is called the child support order.

Under federal and state law, BOTH parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children.

The goal is to have children share in the standard of living of both parents, so the court may order either or both parents to pay child support.

2. What can Child Support Services do to help me?

The child support office in your county or region can provide the following services:

  • Establishing paternity (fatherhood)
  • 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
3. What CAN'T Child Support Services do for me?

Child support offices do not:

  • Handle custody or visitation matters
  • Handle divorces
  • Obtain or enforce restraining orders
  • Establish spousal support orders
4. How is the amount of child support payments decided?

Child support amounts are based on a review of both parent’s monthly income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent.

The Child Support Commissioner or Family Law Judge sets the amount of a child support order.

All income is taken into consideration and can be money, property or services, including:

  • Wages from a job
  • Tip Income
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Independent contractor income
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Disability and worker’s compensation payments
  • Department of Veteran Affairs disability payments
  • Interest Income
  • Dividend Income
  • Rental Income
  • Social Security or pensions
  • Any payments that become due such as lottery winnings and insurance payouts

Watch our Instructional video below to learn more:

5. Do parents have to provide health insurance for children?

Yes, health insurance must be included in any child support order for all cases. If health insurance is not immediately available, the court will order both parents to provide insurance when it does become available.

6. How long do I have to pay child support?

Under California law, you pay child support until the child turns 18, or 19 if the child is unmarried and still attending high school full time. Under special circumstances, the court may order child support to continue after the child is an adult.

If past-due support (called arrears) is still owed, the local child support agency may continue to enforce collection until the balance including interest is paid in full.

7. Is my child support case information open to the public?

Child support case information is confidential and not open to the public. However, all documents in court files or county recorder files are public records and can be viewed by the general public.

8. How do I open a child support case?

If you receive benefits through government cash assistance (welfare) programs, such as the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program (CalWORKS), a child support case will be opened for you.

If you are a single parent and need to open a child support case, or already have a child support order and need help with enforcement, you have three options:

  • Option 1: Apply online – If you apply online, you will be contacted by your local agency. 
  • Option 2: Download an application. If you download an application, you can mail it in to your local child support agency or drop it off at their office location. 
  • Option 3: Ask to have an application mailed to you. After you complete it you can mail it in or drop it off at your local office.

If you need help completing the application, your local agency or county Family Law Facilitator can help you.   

Watch our Instructional video below to learn more:

9. What does “private child support case” mean?

If you have a child support order that was set by a court but have not asked a local child support agency for help enforcing the order, that case is called “private.” Please note that private cases do not automatically go to Child Support Services once a court order is filed.

In private cases, the State still processes the payments made by withholding wages through the employer of the parent paying support.

If you have a private case and want help, either with enforcement or with keeping track of your payments to prove your compliance, you have the right to open a case with Child Support Services.

10. If I have a private case and need to set up payments, what should I do?

When you enter into a court order with payments for child and/or spousal support – you must complete a “Child Support Case Registry” form and an “Income Withholding for Support” form. Your attorney or a Family Law Facilitator can help you with this.

The Income Withholding Form must be given to your employer, and a copy needs to be mailed to the California State Disbursement Unit at:
                California State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
                P.O. Box 980218
                West Sacramento, CA 95798-0218

11. If I have a private case and need help, can I use Child Support Services?

Yes. It is a good idea to open a case, whether you are the parent paying or receiving child support. Your caseworker will keep records, direct you to other resources that might benefit you, and be able to assist you if your situation changes. Child support can be complicated, and your local agency is there to help you navigate the system.

If you do not receive public cash assistance, there is an annual fee of $25 to cover costs.

12. If I live in another country, how can I contact California Child Support?

For international participants in a child support case, the contact number is 1-408-273-0073.

13. What if one of the parents moves out of state, or lives in another country?

Child support orders can be enforced anywhere in the United States, and in many foreign countries. Contact your local child support agency if you or the other parent moves after a child support order is filed, or if you need to file an interstate case.

Two laws, called the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, prevent a state from changing another state’s court order.

Watch our Quick Tip video below to learn more: 


14. Why am I being charged an annual $25 fee?

Under federal law, California Department of Child Support Services is required to charge a yearly $25 service fee for certain, “Private” cases. If the fee applies to you, you will receive an annual service fee assessment notice in October for each case that the fee applies.

Watch the Quick Tip video below to learn more:

15. Who do I contact to remove a lien that has been placed on my house due to unpaid child support?

Learn who to contact by clicking here. (You will then be redirected to an external website)

1. What do I do if I get a Summons and Complaint?

Contact your local child support agency. You have only 30 days to respond, and your local agency can help you fill out the “Answer” form and file it with your county’s Superior Court. A Family Law Facilitator can also help you with this.

Watch our Instructional video below to learn more:

2. What happens if I forget about or ignore the Summons and Complaint?

The child support case will proceed, and the court will set the order at the amount proposed in the Summons and Complaint. After the order is set, you will have to ask the court for permission to change it. If you want your facts and financial situation taken into consideration before the amount is set, you must respond.

3. If I file the “Answer” will I get to talk to the Judge or Child Support Commissioner?

Yes. If you respond to the Summons and Complaint with an Answer and disagree that you are legally responsible for the child or children named, or disagree with the amount of child support requested, you will be given a court date.

4. Is there a way to avoid going to court?

Yes. If both parents agree on a child support amount, you can sign a legal agreement called a “Stipulation.” This document establishes legal responsibility for the children and becomes the official child support order.

Watch our Instructional video below to learn more:

5. What is in a Stipulation?

Stipulations vary with circumstances, but basically say that the parent being asked to pay support agrees that he or she is the child’s parent, is willing to pay child support (and health insurance when available) and is willing to let the court file the order without appearing in court.

6. What is “Allocation”?

If you have multiple child support cases, there are limits to the amount of money that can be taken from your paycheck. In these cases, the money that can be taken is “allocated” among your cases based on a priority system. This allocated amount may not be the entire amount due, and in that case the balance due becomes “arrears” and interest will be charged until the total is paid off.

7. If either parent loses a job, or starts making more money, will the child support payment automatically change?

No. A child support order can only be changed by a new order or a stipulation approved by the court. Either parent has the right to ask for a review of the child support case if there is a change in circumstances of either person.

Changes that can result in a new support order include a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s income, a change in custody, or a change in the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent.

Watch our Quick Tip video below to learn more:

8. What happens if the parent ordered to pay child support has the money but still won’t pay?

The State of California takes refusal to pay child support very seriously. Enforcement actions on those not paying support can include:

  • Suspension of driving license
  • Suspension of passport
  • Suspension of professional licenses
  • Intercepting tax refunds
  • Intercepting insurance payments

In extreme cases, the court may find the parent “in contempt of court” which can result in arrest and imprisonment, but this is used only when all other enforcement tools have failed.

9. If I receive CalWORKS or KinGAP (government cash assistance/welfare), does this affect how much child support I can receive?

Yes. By law, you can EITHER receive the court ordered child support OR the cash assistance, but not both. As long as you are receiving cash assistance, you will receive $50.00 of the ordered child support payment and the remainder will go to the state to repay the cash assistance you were given.

Making Child Support Payments 

1. What is the State Disbursement Unit (SDU)?

“SDU” stands for the California State Disbursement Unit. This agency collects and distributes money due to Californians for a wide range of reasons, and court-ordered child support payments are one of them.

The SDU is not Child Support Services, and they can’t answer any questions about your case. All they do is take money in and pay it out. If you have questions about WHY any financial transaction occurred you need to talk to your caseworker.

2. Why do payments have to go through the SDU?

Both state and federal law require all child support payments be sent to a single location within each state. Also, it is in your best interests to have third-party records of every payment in case of a disagreement with the other parent.

3. Do I have to register on the SDU website?

No, but you are encouraged to do so. There are many tools to help you pay on time and to track your payments for proof of cooperation.

As a registered participant you can:

  • Schedule future dated payments
  • Schedule recurring payments
  • Safely store bank account or credit and debit card information

You can still make payments on the SDU website without registering.

4. How do I register with the State Disbursement Unit?

You need your Social Security number, your 13 or 15-digit Participant ID number, and contact information. If you do not have a Participant ID, call 1-866-901-3212 to get one. 

When you are ready with this information, register at and follow the below steps:

  • Select the “Non-Custodial Parent” button.
    • Please note: “Non-Custodial Parent” is an old term for the parent paying support and does not have anything to do with the percentage of custody you have. Many parents paying support have partial and sometimes full custody of their children.
  • Select “Register Now”
  • Enter the required information, including a valid email address.
    • A temporary password will be emailed to you.
  • Log in with your temporary password and follow the instructions to update your password to something of your own choosing.
    • You will only need to register once.
5. How do I make a payment on the State Disbursement Unit website?

See our Payments page for detailed instructions.

6. My employer takes my child support payment out of my paycheck. Do I need to do anything?

No, your employer should have information on when, how and where to send your payments. After your child support order is decided by the court, a document is mailed to your employer with instructions on how much to deduct and where to send payments.

7. My payments do not involve withholding from my paychecks. What are my payment options?

Please see our Payments page.

8. What do I do if my payment gets returned by the bank?

Contact a State child support representative at 1-888-851-6317 who will give you more information on how to replace the payment.

  • Business hours for the number above are 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time, Monday through Friday.
  • Have all your information handy, such as the check number, bank information and your Participant ID number.
9. How can I get my payment information?

All participants in a child support case can view their case information, including payment history, on Customer Connect, the self-service child support platform. Your Social Security number or Participant ID number and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) are required to access the system. If you do not have a PIN you can get one online from Customer Connect or call 1-866-901-3212 and speak with a representative to ask for a PIN.


Watch the Quick Tip video below to learn more:


10. Who do I contact if I have questions about using the SDU website or their automated phone system?

Call 1-866-901-3212 and select Option 1 for any questions about the SDU website or their phone system.

11. Who do I contact if I have a question about using PayPal for child support payments?

Call Value Payment Systems at 1-888-877-0450:

  • Select Option 1 for English or Option 2 for Spanish
  • Then, select Option 2 for Child Support
12. Can I make a debit or credit card payment if the card-issuing bank is outside of the United States?

Yes. You may want to check to see what kind of fees you might get charged.

13. I’m making payments but my child lives with me now. Can the child support order be changed?

Yes. When there is a change in custody or visitation, you can either go to court to ask for a change in the child support order, or contact your local child support agency

14. Who can I talk to about my bank levy?

Call 1-866-901-3212 to speak to your caseworker at your local child support agency.   You can also email your caseworker through Customer Connect.

15. Why is money being deducted from my unemployment check, or state disability payment?

If you have past-due child support over $150, the local child support agency can request that a percentage of your check be withheld to pay that debt.

16. My driver’s license has been suspended due to unpaid child support. How do I get it released?

You must contact the child support agency handling your case. They can assist you in getting a license hold released.

Watch our Quick Tip video below to learn more:

17. My passport has a hold on it. Why? And how can I get it released?

Federal law requires that a parent who owes past-due child support over $2,500 shall not be issued a passport. In California, you must bring your past-due balance to zero ($0.00) by paying it all off or having the case closed before your passport will be released.  Contact the child support agency handling your case for questions about passport holds.

18. If I go to jail, do I still have to pay child support?

If you go to jail, child support is still due, and interest will be charged on the amounts not paid. If you go to jail you should immediately contact your local child support agency to ask for a “modification,” or change, of the child support order. If you do not get a modification, when you get out all the unpaid child support from while you were in jail will still be due, plus interest.

19. What is the Child Support Warning Notice?

This is a notice sent annually to all parents ordered to pay child support that have a balance of overdue child support (called “Arrears”). In the notice, you will find information about how much you owe and some of the options available for paying this debt. Your local child support agency can help you with questions about this notice.

What do I do if I have to stop a payment with my bank?

If you need to place a stop payment request, please contact the State Disbursement Unit prior to contacting your bank, and follow the instructions below:

  • Complete the Employer Stop Payment Request Form
  • Submit the form using one of the two options:
    • Call the State Disbursement Unit at (866) 901-3212, Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
    • Submit the form electronically by selecting the “Submit” button on your completed form. 

Please Note: If clicking on the submit button does not create an email, or if you do not receive confirmation that your request was received, then your completed form has not been sent. You will need to either call the State Disbursement Unit at (866) 901-3212, or attach and email the form to

Receiving Child Support Payments

1. Does my child support payment come as a check?

You have three options to receive child support, see our Payments page for more information.

2. I got my payment, but it wasn’t the full amount. Why not?

The three most common reasons that you did not receive the full amount are:

  • There may have been a change in the income of the parent paying support.
  • You may have been charged the Annual Service Fee of $25.
  • The parent paying support may now have more than one child support case and there was a change in distribution.
3. I have not received my child support payment. How do I find out what is going on?

You can check your payment status online on Customer Connect. If that does not help, please call the automated service line at 1-866-901-3212 with any questions you have regarding your child support payments.

Watch our Quick Tip video below to learn more:

4. How do I sign up for Direct Deposit?

Visit our Payments page and watch our Quick Tip video below: 


5. What is an Electronic Payment Card (EPC)?

EPC stands for Electronic Payment card. It works like a pre-paid debit card – your child support payment is loaded onto the card, and you can spend it anywhere that Mastercard is accepted.

6. Why would I want my payments on EPC?
  • It’s faster than waiting for a check – the payment shows up in your balance right away.
  • You can use it anywhere they take Mastercard, including online or at ATMs to get cash.
  • It’s safer than getting a check mailed.
  • If you don’t have a bank account it is cheaper since you don’t pay check cashing fees.
  • It has its own Customer Service Center (EPPIC at 1-877-777-1617) where you can get account information and help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
7. How do I sign up to get an Electronic Payment Card?

A. On the State Disbursement Unit website:

  • Select the “Custodial Party” button
  • Then select “Enroll Now”
  • You will need your Participant ID number, your Social Security number and your date of birth

B. By phone on our automated service line: 1-866-901-3212

  • Select Option 1
  • Then Option 3
  • Then Option 2

Or you can download an application and mail it in to the address on the form.

8. Do I have to get a different card for each child support case if I have more than one?

No. All California case payments will automatically be deposited in your EPPICard account.

9. Can I check the balance on my Electronic Payment Card?

Check it for free: 

  • At
  • Or call EPPICard Customer Service at 1-877-777-1617 any time, night or day.
    • Your first three calls a month are free, after that you will be charged 50 cents per call until the next month. 

Check it with a fee:

  • At any Wells Fargo ATM – you will be charged 60 cents.
  • At any other ATM – but you may be charged additional fees by that bank.
10. Can I get an alert when my Electronic Payment Card balance is low?

Yes, call EPPICard Customer Service at 1-877-777-1617 to have notifications sent by email, text message or phone. Standard text messaging fees will apply.

11. What if I have questions about my Electronic Payment Card?

You can go to and select the icon that looks like your card to enter California’s EPPICard page. 

Once on California’s page, click on the “Program Materials” menu option.

12. Who should I call if my EPC is lost or stolen?

Call 877-777-1617 or 210-331-2268

13. Where can I get a history of all of the payments made to me?

You can use Customer Connect or call the automated service line at 1-866-901-3212 to hear details of the payments in your case.

14. My ex has remarried and has more kids. Will this affect the child support paid to our children?

Only the court can make a change in any child support order.  You should be aware that it is possible that your child support may be decreased if the other parent is also responsible for other children.

15. If the parent paying support goes to jail, will I still get payments?

Probably not. It is almost impossible to collect child support from parents in jail.

How to Access Your Customer Connect Account 

1. What is Customer Connect?

Customer Connect is California Child Support’s online self-service portal, where participants in a child support case can see information about their case, set up notifications, make and manage appointments with their caseworker and check payment information.

2. How do I sign up for Customer Connect?

A. On the Customer Connect page of this website.

B. Or by phone through our automated service line at 1-866-901-3212.

  • You will need your Participant ID or Social Security number and a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
  • If you don’t have a PIN, when asked if you are parent or guardian say “Yes”.
  • Enter your Social Security number or Participant ID number.
  • When asked for your PIN say “I don’t know it”
  • When asked if you want to reset your PIN, say “Yes”.
  • The system will send your new PIN to your email or mailing address.
  • For assistance, say “Agent” at any time during the call.

Customer Relations 

1. I am not getting my questions answered when I try to ask about my case. What can I do

Visit our Customer Relations page for a full discussion of all of your options.