Programs and Services Overview CONSIDERING OPENING A CASE WITH CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES? Any parent or guardian who pays or receives child support, whether or not he/she receives public assistance, can benefit from the information on this web site. The section below outlines what Child Support Services can and cannot assist with, your legal relationship to your local child support agency, and your responsibilities as a participant. Services Provided by County and Regional Child Support Offices Services Not Provided by County and Regional Child Support Offices Your Legal Relationship with Your Local Office Legal Assistance Options Responsibilities of Parents Applying for or Receiving Support Services Provided by County and Regional Child Support Offices County and regional child support agencies provide a variety of child support services to help parents fulfill their responsibilities to their child(ren). These offices 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 Services Not Provided by County or Regional Child Support Offices These offices do not: Handle custody or visitation matters Handle divorces Obtain or enforce restraining orders Establish spousal support orders Your Legal Relationship with Your Local Child Support Agency Child Support Services agencies do not represent either the parent or the child(ren), and their attorneys are not your attorneys. Because you are not a legal client, the information you provide is not confidential under the client/attorney privilege. The information in your case may be discussed or disclosed to other public agencies that are authorized by law to receive such information, the other parent’s employer, and to the other parent or his/her attorney to the extent required by law. By law, child support agencies have the final decision on what child support enforcement actions will be taken. Parents have the right to seek legal advice from a private attorney or legal aid group at their own expense at any time. Legal Assistance Options In addition to local child support offices, Family Law Facilitators, private attorneys, and legal clinics can provide legal assistance in child support cases. Family Law Facilitators: California counties offer Family Law Facilitators to help parents and any other parties who have questions about family law issues including child support, spousal support, health insurance, and the availability of community resources to help families. A Family Law Facilitator can give you general information and help you prepare your own forms. Family Law Facilitator services are provided free of charge and are not connected with the Department of Child Support Services. The Family Law Facilitator is not your lawyer, cannot go to court with you, and is not responsible for the outcome of your case. The Family Law Facilitator is a neutral person who does not represent any party; therefore, he or she may also provide information and services to the other party in your case. Since there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Family Law Facilitator, communications are not confidential. You should consult with your own attorney if you want personalized advice or strategy, confidential conversation, or attorney representation in court. Private Attorneys: A private attorney can provide personalized services to parents. Private attorneys can give as much time to a case as is necessary to do an effective job. The biggest drawback is expense. A private attorney will charge for the time required for personal interviews, telephone calls, legal research, court appearances, and the preparation of pleadings. If the person applying for child support cannot afford an attorney, the parent being asked to pay child support may be ordered to pay reasonable attorney fees and court costs. However, it is up to the judge to decide how much, if any, of the legal fees that parent may be ordered to pay. If, at any time, you retain a private attorney to enforce or modify the child support obligation, you must notify your local child support agency immediately and serve them a copy of any action to modify, and within 15 calendar days of its issuance, a copy of the new order. Private attorneys will not duplicate efforts or enforcement actions on your behalf. You must notify them in writing of your intent to file an enforcement action 30 days prior to doing so, and they must either notify you in writing in 30 days after receiving your notice of our consent or objection to that action. Local agencies will not object unless they are engaging in an ongoing enforcement action or investigation. You must also notify your local agency within 10 days of any change in custody, whether permanent or temporary. Legal Clinics: Services offered by a legal clinic may cost less than those provided by a private attorney. Legal clinics may charge for services based on the actual time spent on a case or on a contingency fee basis. For more information about these services, look online or in the telephone book yellow pages under legal clinics or Legal Services, Attorneys (specializing in divorces, adoptions and family law) or under Attorney Referral Services. Responsibilities of Parents or Guardians Applying for or Receiving Support Due to the volume of cases, it is important that both parents cooperate with us as a partner in working your case. It is your responsibility to notify the local office handling your case, in writing, if the minor child becomes emancipated or marries, or if the other parent or another person has or obtains custody of the child. Address changes should be reported promptly. You will be asked to fill out certain documents. Many of these must be signed under penalty of perjury. You must answer the questions on the forms truthfully. The decision to take legal action is based on the information that you provide. You may be prosecuted for perjury if you fill out these documents falsely. California Child Support Services reserves the right to take any appropriate legal action against a party who does not pay child support. Such actions may include contempt orders or arrest. Whether or not the family is receiving public assistance, your local child support agency has the legal responsibility and discretion to determine what court or enforcement techniques are to be used. Your caseworker needs your cooperation providing complete, accurate, and up-to-date information in order to do the best job. If the applicant or support recipient fails to cooperate in these actions and to sign all necessary legal documents, the case may be closed. If the children in the case are receiving public assistance, a child support case is required and will remain open. ALREADY HAVE A CASE? California Child Support Services has many programs in place for parents and guardians, especially to help parents paying child support fulfill their obligations without negative actions, or to help minimize those actions. In every case, your local agency is there to talk to, explain things to you, and help the system work for you within the legal boundaries. Here are several services you may need during the life of your case: Getting Suspended Licenses Released Changing Child Support Orders (Modification) Help for Incarcerated Parents Reducing Child Support Debt Wage and Health Insurance Coverage Assignments Ombudsperson Program Changing Your Child Support Order (Modification) Either parent can request that the local child support agency review his or her case if they feel a change is necessary, known as a “modification.” If you are the parent paying support and are having trouble making your payments, contact us right away to avoid potential enforcement actions. The amount of the child support order may be modified by increasing or decreasing the order or by requiring that health insurance for the child or children be provided. Based on financial and other information that both parents must provide, your local office will determine if a modification for a higher or lower amount is justified. Both parents will be informed of the decision. If the person receiving support allows the child(ren) to visit or live with the parent paying support on a long-term or permanent basis, that parent may request that the order be modified. Learn more about requesting a modification here. Incarcerated Parents If the parent paying support is or will be incarcerated for 60 consecutive days or more, he or she may request to lower the current support order by submitting a completed Incarcerated Parent’s Request to Review Child Support with attachments to the local child support agency. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact your caseworker. The Incarcerated Parent’s Request to Review Child Support form is also available in your institution’s Law Library. Wage & Health Insurance Assignments All orders for child support must include a “wage and earnings assignment” requiring the payer’s employer to deduct support payments from his or her salary or wages. An order to deduct health insurance premiums for the child(ren) may also be ordered. Ombudsperson Program All local child support agencies provide an individual who is available to help you resolve issues with your child support case, explain your rights and responsibilities, and tell you the ways you can get child support services. The services are offered free of charge. This Ombudsperson can also help resolve customer inquiries or disputes related to child support services. The Ombudsperson responds to inquiries from parents, guardians, employers, other agencies and the public. The Ombudsperson’s responsibilities are to: Help you resolve child support inquiries/disputes or make recommendations to solve them prior to filing a complaint. Assist you in understanding the compliant process before, during, and after the complaint is filed. Assist you in preparing for a State Hearing. Check your local child support agency website for contact information for your Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson cannot be your representative and will not give you legal advice. For assistance with legal issues, please see the Family Law Facilitator section on our website. You can also refer to our Customer Service page for statewide complaint resolution information.