Child Support in California

Last Updated on December 6, 2023 by Meghan

Parents of children may split for various reasons. Often, this leaves just one parent with the responsibility of taking care of the child. This is often a difficult task, especially in states like California that have a considerably high cost of living. Child support laws exist to assist custodial parents of children. These laws mandate the non-custodial parent to take part in bringing up the child by making periodic financial contributions to support the expenses incurred by the custodial parent.


Child Support Process After Divorce

Establishing child support requires various steps. First, the legal guardian of the child must open a child support case. The legal guardian could be a custodial parent, relative, or foster parent. The case can be opened by filling out an application on https://childsupport.ca.gov/. When this is filled, the state then moves to find the non-custodial parent (or both parents in the case of a guardian having custody). Details such as full names, social security numbers, addresses, etc. can help make locating parents easier. Once located, the parent being sued for child support will be given legal notification of the case. This legal notification has a 30-day response period.

If there is any doubt as to the actual parentage of the child, the parent can request a DNA test to establish proof. This is carried out by the state at no cost. Afterward, both parents can agree to an out-of-court settlement where they decide on an amount that the non-custodial parent will pay. If they can agree on this, there will be no need for court proceedings. In the absence of an agreement, the case goes to court and a judge will review the financial situation of both parents.

The court then sets an amount to be paid by issuing a child support order and scheduling a commencement date. Non-custodial parents who are employed will have the child support bills deducted from their salary and remitted to the custodial parent.

For further information on the child support process, visit https://childsupport.ca.gov/about-us/about-california-child-support-services/.

How Do You Receive Child Support?

Custodial parents can have their child support paid directly into their bank account via direct deposits. This approach is much safer and less time-consuming than getting a check in the mail. Parents who wish to register their bank accounts to get direct deposit payments would need to first register on the website of the California State Disbursement Unit, https://childsupport.ca.gov/state-disbursement-unit/.

Payments can also be received through an Electronic Payment Card (EPC). This is a debit card that has the child support funds loaded onto it. The card can be used at ATMs and anywhere a MasterCard is accepted. Like regular debit cards, the EPC can also be used to withdraw cash. Registration for the EPC can be completed at the website of the California State Disbursement Unit, https://childsupport.ca.gov/state-disbursement-unit/.

Parents also have a final albeit less secure method of receiving child support payments. This is by mailed check. Checks are not encouraged however as they are slow to deliver and can be stolen by anyone who can get access to the parent’s mailbox.

Maximum Amount Receivable as Child Support

There is no limit on the amount of money that can be paid as child support by a parent in California. To determine how much should be paid, the state considers the income difference between the two parents and how much time the child spends with each parent. The state also has an online child support calculator which considers even more factors like the number of children, income, tax filing status (federal and state), insurance, etc. This calculator can be accessed at https://childsupport.ca.gov/calculate-child-support/. It is important to note that the child support obligation of the non-custodial parent may be reduced if the person has another child support case that needs to be paid as well.

Enforcement of Child Support

Parents who default or avoid payment of their child support obligations may have enforcement actions carried out against them. The state could move to intercept their tax refunds or lottery winnings. Professional licenses could also be revoked to enforce payment of child support. Liens may also be placed on the property and bank accounts of the parent, or their licenses and passports may be suspended. A 10% interest will also be charged on unpaid child support.

Resources for Single Mothers in California
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