- Obtaining an Order for Support
- Setting a Hearing - Filing a Request for Order
- Serving the Department of Child Support Services
- Responding to a Request for Order
- How to Prepare a Findings and Order After Hearing
- Enforcement of Child Support Orders
- Determining Your Child Support Arrears
- Reinstating your Driver License
- Transferring a Child Support Order from Another County
- Frequently Asked Questions
Obtaining an Order for Support
To obtain an order for child support, you need to have an active case with the court. If there is no existing case, you need to file one of the following:
- If you are married to the other parent, you have to file a petition for divorce, legal separation or nullity.
- If you are not married to the other parent, you have to file a petition to establish parental relationship. A parentage action can be filed by either the mother or father. If you file a parentage action yourself, you can request orders for custody and visitation as well as child support at that time.
- A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (this petition will not terminate your marriage or establish a parental relationship) is also an option where parentage has already been established.
You have several alternatives available to assist you in obtaining a support order:
- You can contact an attorney for legal advice or to represent you by looking in the telephone book or by calling the Lawyer Referral and Information Service - external link at 916-564-6707.
- You can contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). - external link DCSS can help you with child support only and not with any other family law issues such as custody, property, or a divorce. DCSS is located at 3701 Power Inn Road. You may contact DCSS in person or by telephone at 866-901-3212.
- You may represent yourself. If you decide to represent yourself, it may be helpful to visit the Self-Help Center located in Room 113 of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. The Self-Help Center is available to provide information regarding court procedures and instructions on completing, filing and serving the necessary documents. The Self-Help Center offers an Income and Expense Declaration Workshop on Thursday mornings at 8:30 a.m. You must bring proof of income and the previous year's tax return or W-2s if you wish to attend this workshop.
Determining the Amount of Child Support
If you want to know the amount of child support that would be payable under the California State Child Support Guideline, you can contact an attorney or go to the California Department of Child Support Services - external link.
Health and Daycare Costs
When you apply for child support, you can also request the other parent share in the health care insurance and unreimbursed or uncovered health care costs for your child or children. You may also request that child care costs be shared or paid by the other parent.
Setting a Hearing - Filing a Request for Order
A Request for Order can be filed at the same time you file your petition for divorce, legal separation, nullity or parental relationship or if you already have an active case with this court. This Request for Order will get you a court hearing date for your support issues and require the other party in your case to appear in court. You can use a Request for Order to:
- Ask for child support order(s) when filing a petition to establish a parental relationship, or for divorce, legal separation or nullity.
- Ask for modification of an existing order for support.
- Ask to cancel (set aside) a Default Judgment of Parentage in a child support case. There are special rules that apply here and you should seek legal assistance.
If you are the party filing the Request for Order to set a hearing, you will need to complete the Request for Order forms.
Serving the Department of Child Support Services
If the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is part of your case, a copy will also need to be served on DCSS. DCSS can be served in person at their office, which is located across the street from the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse, at 3701 Power Inn Road.
Enforcement of Child Support Orders
If the other parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, you have several options available. First, you must decide if you want to proceed on your own, hire an attorney, or engage the services of the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). DCSS is available to assist both self-represented and represented parties.
If you choose to enforce the court orders yourself, you should assess your current situation. You may only need a wage and earnings assignment served on the other parent's employer. The wage and earnings assignment orders the other parent's employer to withhold the child support amount and send it directly to you. The amount withheld each pay period cannot exceed 50% of the parent's net disposable income.
If the other parent has not paid support for a period of time, you may ask the court to make a determination as to the arrearages owed and set a monthly payment on arrears in addition to the ongoing support order. Other options are available, such as liens on real property owned by the other parent. Ultimately, you may ask the court to find the other parent in contempt of the court's order. It is suggested that you hire an attorney or open a case with DCSS if you wish to pursue contempt orders as they are very difficult to prove and very strict rules apply to this type of action. Generally, only trained legal professionals should pursue contempt orders.
If you would like help preparing the necessary forms and getting information on how to enforce your orders, you can visit the Self-Help Center at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse.
If you choose to have DCSS enforce your support orders, they can do all of the same things you can as well as issue administrative orders such as suspension of the other parent's driver license and/or any other license they may hold as well as intercept tax refunds or place liens on bank accounts. Additionally, in the case of willful failure to pay child support, DCSS may file contempt charges against the other parent.
Determining Your Child Support Arrears
If there is an issue regarding back support, and you need to know how much you owe or how much the other party owes, you can ask the court to determine the amount owing. To request a hearing to ask the court for an arrears determination, you must complete the following forms:
Reinstating your Driver License
If your driver license has been suspended or renewal denied due to your failure to pay child support, you may contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), located at 3701 Power Inn Road (across the street from the front entrance of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse.) You may also contact DCSS by telephone at (866) 901-3212.
If DCSS denies your request to have your license reinstated, you may then file a Notice of Motion for Judicial Review of License Denial (FL-670), and an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150).
Transferring a Child Support Case from Another County
There are two ways to have your case brought here from another county:
- Registration of California Support Order
- Change of Venue
Registration of California Support Order: If you are the parent receiving child support, you may register your child support order from a different California county here in Sacramento County. The paying parent may not. Keep in mind that if you register the support order, you are only allowed to modify or enforce child support orders. You are not allowed to change custody or visitation.
How to Register Your Order:
- Fill out the Statement of Registration of California Support Order (FL-440) and attach a filed copy of the support order or income withholding order. If the paying parent owes back support, you may attach a Declaration of Arrearage (FL-420). Make 2 copies of the documents.
- File the forms at the Family Law Filing Counter in Room 100 of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. Include an envelope addressed to the paying parent with enough postage to assure delivery.
Change of Venue: If you have a dissolution, legal separation, nullity or parentage case in another county and you and your child(ren) now reside in Sacramento County, you may ask the court in the other county for permission to transfer the entire case to this county. This is done by filing a Request for Order to Change Venue. If granted, the entire case moves to this county and all future orders including support and custody will be decided here in Sacramento County.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my spouse's income going to be counted for child support?
Generally, the court will only use the parents' income for calculation of child support. However, the court can inquire about your spouse's income for the purpose of setting taxes, and in unusual cases, for other purposes.
How do I stop the Wage and Earning Assignment Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support, if the child is over 18 years of age and out of high school?
If you do not owe child support arrears and you have no minor children with the same parent, you can file an Ex Parte Application for Wage and Earnings Assignment Order with proof of the child's age and education. If you owe arrears or there are other minor children, seek legal assistance.
Do I still have to pay child support if I have a 50/50 custody?
If you earn more than the other parent, you may still have to pay child support.
Will the court consider that I have other children to support?
The court can consider other court orders for child support and may give you credit for children in your home that you are supporting.
Generally, you cannot receive credit for step-children, foster children or grandchildren.
Will my support go down if I have the child(ren) more often?
The amount of time that the children are in your custody is a factor in calculating child support. Generally speaking, the more time you have the children, the lower your child support because you are supporting them directly when they are in your care.
How long do I have to pay child support?
Until the child is 18 years of age, if he or she has already graduated from high school. If your 18-year-old child is still a full time high school student residing with a parent, the child support is payable until your child graduates or reaches 19 years of age, or your child marries, dies, becomes self-supporting or emancipates.
Can I get rid of the interest accruing on the back child support I owe?
Generally speaking, the court cannot reduce or forgive interest on past due child support. Consult an attorney or the Department of Child Support Services - external link.
How do I stop them from taking half my paycheck?
By law, your employer can take up to 50% of your net income to satisfy a child support order. If this does not leave you with enough money to support yourself or the children in your care, you can file a Request for Order to ask the Court to reduce your child support amount and/or the payment on arrears.
What if the other party does not pay child support?
If a wage assignment was not already signed, you may apply directly to the court. You may also contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), located at 3701 Power Inn Road, who will help any parent, regardless of income and at no cost, to enforce child support orders. You do not have to be on public assistance to get help from DCSS.