Frequently Asked Questions


Compromise of Arrears | Custody/Visitation | Employer InformationEnforcing a Court OrderGenetic Testing | Going to Court | Information for Parents Making Payments | MilitaryPaternity | Payment InformationState Disbursement Unit | Tax Refund Intercept

Child Support Process

After a case is opened, how long does it take to receive child support payments?

Receiving child support payments depends on the circumstances of each individual case, such as: paternity establishment, location of the noncustodial parent, current employment information and the existence of a valid court order.

Why did the welfare office refer my case to DCSS?

When the custodial party receives cash aid or Medi-Cal, a referral is automatically made to DCSS to open a case against the noncustodial parent. Contact DCSS for more information.

How is the amount of child support determined?

Child support is determined using guidelines established by California law. Child support guidelines are based on each parent's monthly income and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent. For the purpose of deciding child support the court will consider income from all sources.

How can I obtain a copy of my court order?

Orders enforced by DCSS are available at the County of San Diego Superior Court Clerk's Office for a nominal copying charge. Please call their office at 619-450-5799 for further information. Some orders may be available at the location they were initiated.

Can DCSS establish an order if I don't know where the noncustodial parent is working?

DCSS will still pursue establishment of a court order. The noncustodial parent will still need to be served with appropriate legal action to obtain an order.

How can I get my child support amount changed?

Contact DCSS to request the order be reviewed for a modification. Either parent can request a modification review.

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Compromise of Arrears Program

What is the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP)?

COAP is a state of California program available for an obligor to pay less than the total child support debt owed to the state because the dependent(s) received public assistance during a time period the obligor did not pay the court-ordered child support. For more information on COAP, click here.

What if I am now re-unified with my dependent(s) – am I still eligible to compromise the arrears owed to the state?

Yes.  COA – Family Reunification Program is available for an obligor to pay less than the total child support debt owed to the state because the dependent(s) received public assistance while living with a guardian or relative caregiver and the dependent(s) has returned to the custody of the obligor.

How much of my arrears balance will I be able to compromise and who do I pay?

Obligors applying for a compromise may receive a substantial reduction and this amount must be paid to the state.

Am I able to compromise arrears that are owed directly to the custodial parent/obligee?

Only state debt is available for a compromise; any balances owed to the child support payee must be paid in full.

If I am able to compromise my state arrears, will I still owe child support because my dependent(s) has not yet reached the age of majority?

Yes.  If current child support is owed, the obligor must pay the terms of current support before and after an agreed compromise.

Will I be required to pay anything in exchange to compromise my arrears?

Yes.  Obligors applying for compromise must be prepared to pay a reduced sum in exchange for a compromise.

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Does DCSS provide legal help with child custody or visitation?

DCSS generally addresses issues of paternity, child support, and medical support only. However, San Diego DCSS has received a federal grant to help establish parenting time (custody and visitation) orders along with new child support orders. For those parents who are eligible for this project, a parenting time order can be reached by agreement between the two parents or, if they cannot agree, through a court process. For more information on establishing parenting time orders through this DCSS project, click here to watch a short video or here to see a brochure.

I am paying child support, but now I have the custody of my child. Can I close my case & stop paying?

Contact DCSS for information about case closure.

How can I contact my child? I pay child support but don't know how to contact my kid.

The DCSS is unable to release personal information or forward items from one parent to another. For information on family law and parental rights, contact the Family Law Facilitators or your own legal representative.

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Employer Information 

How much does the employee owe? When can I stop withholding?

The details of the noncustodial parent’s case are confidential. The noncustodial parent receives a monthly billing statement that reflects the balance due and should contact DCSS with any questions. DCSS will notify you when to stop withholding from the employee’s wages. The noncustodial parent has no authority to terminate the wage assignment.

Why did I just receive a non-compliance letter and I am currently sending wage assignment payments?

If a non-compliance letter is received and payments are being remitted, contact our office. This could be a case of misapplied payment or an error in our automated system.

Can you verify the receipt of the payments our company is sending to your office?

Yes, receipt of payments can be verified. Contact DCSS for more information.

What if the name and/or social security number on the Order/Notice do not match my employee?

Contact DCSS to check for an error in the case number or name. If your employee’s identification has been stolen and he/she is not the right person, we can compare your employee to a photograph of the person we are trying to find.

Why do I keep getting paperwork asking for the employee’s dependent(s) to be enrolled for medical benefits after I have sent in a response?

The response may not be recognized by the DCSS computer system. Also, the National Medical Support Notice is included every time the Order/Notice to Withholding is mailed to an employer, so you may receive more than one.

The employee has already voluntarily enrolled dependent(s) for medical insurance benefits. Why do I have to send in enrollment information?

Your employee is under court order to supply medical insurance coverage for the dependent(s). Enrolling the dependent(s) is only half of the obligation. In order for the employer and employee to be in compliance, it is necessary for this information to be noted by DCSS and forwarded to the custodial parent.

The employee says the custodial parent already insures the dependent(s). Why do I have to enroll?

The employee is under court order to provide medical insurance. Unless you receive notice from DCSS, you must enroll the dependent(s) in the employee’s medical insurance plan. However, you may exercise the option of “holding off” enrollment for 10 business days to allow the employee to contact our office and discuss this issue. If at the end of the 10 days you have not received a notice stopping your obligation to enroll, you must move forward with the enrollment process ASAP.

We cannot enroll the dependent(s) because we don’t have a valid address. Can you give us the dependent’s information?

The address of the custodial family is confidential. The court has designated DCSS as the enforcing agency for the child support order. There is a legal address furnished on the medical support order for the custodial family and it should be used for enrollment. If you think the dependent lives outside your coverage area, call our office to confirm.

We do not offer benefits to our employees. Do I still need to respond?

If the employer does not offer benefits or if the employee is not eligible for benefits as a condition of employment, return the employer response page of the National Medical Support Notice along with the medical insurance form. There is a “remarks” area on the back of the medical insurance form. Please use this area to explain why enrollment has not taken place.

The employee says that the cost for medical insurance is too expensive. How do I know what is “reasonable?”

An employer cannot take more than 50% of an employee’s net disposable income for both medical and child support. However, if you have any questions you should contact DCSS.

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Enforcing a Court Order 

What happens if a parent falls behind on his or her child support payments?

All available enforcement tools can be used to enforce the child support obligation.

Can a noncustodial parent be arrested for non-payment of child support?

When the noncustodial parent is not meeting the support need of his or her child, DCSS has the ability to refer the case for prosecution. Prior to getting to this point, DCSS enforces the court order through various enforcement tools, such as license suspensions, bank and/or wage levies, and income tax intercepts, etc.

Why was my license suspended?

State issued business, professional and driver's licenses are submitted for suspension when the child support case is past due. Contact our office about your options with regard to getting your license released.

Why is there a lien filed against me?

DCSS is mandated to record a legal document with the County Recorders Office that creates a lien against any real property the noncustodial parent may own now or in the future.

Why is DCSS charging interest on my child support order?

According to current California law, interest accrues at the rate of 10% per year on any unpaid child support obligation. DCSS is mandated to enforce child support obligations including the interest at the legal rate owed on any unpaid child support (arrears).

I pay my ongoing child support and my arrears payment every month. Why did DCSS intercept my state and federal tax refunds?

State and federal laws provide that under most conditions, your federal and state tax refund can be intercepted by DCSS as payment on the past due support, even if you are current in your monthly payments.

Why is my child support debt on my credit report?

DCSS is required to report your ongoing child support obligation, arrears (past due) balance and your payment history to the major credit reporting agencies.

Why did DCSS attach my wages?

The Family Support Act of 1988 requires that all court orders for child support include a wage and earnings assignment.

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Genetic Testing 

How can I get a genetic test?

Please contact DCSS to speak with a child support professional.

How much does genetic testing cost?

Currently the Department of Child Support Services is not charging for genetic testing, if you have a case with our office.

How long does it take to get the results?

Once all parties on the case have been tested, the results are received within four to six weeks.

Do I have to travel to San Diego to test if I live out-of-county or out-of-state?

We will schedule an appointment in the city in which you live or the closest alternate location.

What will I need to bring to my appointment?

You will need to bring a valid California ID or valid California Driver's License. Children must have one of the following forms of ID: Social Security card, Medi-Cal card, or birth certificate.

How is the genetic test conducted?

DCSS requires a saliva sample by buccal swab. This sample is sent to the lab in Long Beach for DNA testing.

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Going to Court 

What do I do if I cannot attend my hearing date?

Contact DCSS to speak to a child support professional.

Must the custodial party appear at the court hearing?

In some situations, attendance is mandatory. It is strongly recommended that the custodial party appear at the court hearing in order to provide information.

Will I have an attorney representing me in court?

DCSS does not represent either party. We are a public agency that enforces guideline child support issues. You are welcome to hire your own attorney if you choose to do so, although you are not required to hire an attorney.

How long will my hearing take?

Plan on your hearing taking the entire morning or afternoon (depending when your hearing is scheduled). Each case may take a few hours depending upon your specific case situation, negotiation issues, and the court’s total number of cases scheduled for that day. We also may need to wait for the other party in your case.

What documents should I bring to the hearing?

Click on the following link for information about going to court.

Can I bring my present spouse/ friend?

You may bring your present spouse or friend for moral support. However, he or she is considered a third party to your case. DCSS will only discuss the case with you and the other party. Your present spouse or friend will not be allowed to participate in any case negotiations.

Can I bring my children?

DCSS does not provide childcare services. We strongly encourage parents to make other childcare arrangements prior to coming in for your court hearing. In addition, the courtrooms will not allow minors, anyone under 18 years old, to attend the hearing.

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Information for Parents Making Support Payments 

How will I make my payments?

You are instructed to make payments directly to the SDU. Payments to the DCSS made online, by telephone or in the office must be mailed to the SDU, causing a delay. You are not given credit for the payment until it is processed by the SDU. Remember, the SDU must receive your payment by the end of the month to avoid interest charges on your account.

Can I continue to make credit card payments?

Yes, DCSS will continue to accept your online credit card payments. All payments will be processed through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). To make credit card payments by phone, please call the SDU at 1-866-901-3212. You must have previously registered with the SDU and received a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to make credit card payments.

Can I go to my child support office and make a payment?

Yes. Your local office will still accept payments. However, payments must be forwarded to the SDU for processing. Your account will be credited on the day SDU receives your payment, not the local agency.

To ensure SDU receives your payment by the end of the month, make your payment by the 20th of the month so your local office can forward it to SDU in time.

As of Summer 2006, payments should be made directly to the SDU. (

My payment is taken out of my paycheck. How will I be affected?

Your employer will receive instructions for redirecting child support payments to the SDU. All payments will be credited on the day the payment is received at the SDU, not when it is deducted from your paycheck.

If your wage withholding is received at the SDU after the end of the month, you will have a balance due. During transition, the Department of Child Support Services and your local child support agency will be working to minimize any inconveniences caused by the system change.

Can I still call the local child support office if I have questions about my case?

Yes. Your local office will still answer your case related questions. SDU is only responsible for collecting and processing child support payments.

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Why should I meet with a representative from the Department of Child Support Services?

If you are the non-custodial parent, it is better to help negotiate the child support amount rather than having the court determine the support amount without you.

What happens if I don’t show up to a scheduled Service of Process appointment?

If you fail to show up for an appointment, the department can contact your legal services, magistrates, or civil processing office.

Am I admitting paternity by showing up to my Service of Process appointment?

No, you will simply be served with a Summons and Complaint package. You will have the opportunity to discuss paternity with the child support services representative during your appointment.

Can I take my paternity test through the military rather than the Department of Child Support Services?

No. In rare instances the lab utilized by the Department of Child Support Services may coordinate with the military for personnel stationed outside of San Diego County.

Will my command find out about the child support obligation?

There is usually no need to contact your command regarding your child support order. The child support payments will be automatically deducted from your paycheck.

Do I have to get a health insurance identification card for my dependents?

A notification letter is sent to the custodial parent including a copy of the order. Usually, involvement from the noncustodial parent isn’t necessary.

If I’m not a resident of California, can the department still establish an order?

Yes, according to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, UIFSA.

How does the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) affect me?

The SCRA offers specific protection to active duty military personnel. Read the, SCRA for more information.

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I’m not 18 years old, can the baby’s father and I still sign a Declaration of Paternity?

Yes. However, the declaration will not establish paternity until 60 days after both parents have reached the age of 18 or are emancipated in accordance with the California Family Code.

I am separated from my husband, but not divorced yet. Can my boyfriend, who is the baby’s biological father, sign the Declaration of Paternity?

No. The law presumes that as long as you are legally married, the husband is the father of the baby. Only the court can establish paternity with someone other than your legal husband.

Can the Declaration of Paternity be submitted when a parent does not have current home address or a valid Social Security number?

Yes, address and Social Security number are optional.

Can a father that is married to someone else sign a Declaration of Paternity?

Yes. The father, although married to someone else, can sign the Declaration of Paternity to have his name entered on the child’s birth certificate as the legal father.

My boyfriend won’t be there when I have the baby. Can he sign the Declaration of Paternity before the baby is born?

Only military fathers can sign the Declaration before the baby is born. Military fathers need an official letter with military orders from their commanding officer stating they will be deployed when the baby is born. For more information contact the San Diego POP coordinator at 619-578-6290.

Can parents complete a Declaration of Paternity when a child is born alive and then dies shortly after birth?

Yes. Parents may complete and sign a Declaration of Paternity when there is a live birth and the child dies shortly after birth.

Can a Declaration of Paternity be completed when the father has died prior to the birth of the child?

No. If the unmarried father has died prior to the child’s birth, the father’s name cannot be added to the birth certificate using a Declaration of Paternity. Paternity must be established through the court process. The mother should contact an attorney or a Family Law Facilitator to determine how to proceed with the process of establishing paternity for the child.

Can the biological parents sign the Declaration of Paternity form if the child is going to be adopted?

Yes. The biological parents are the only ones that can sign the Declaration of Paternity form.

Can same sex couples that conceive a child through artificial insemination sign a Declaration of Paternity?

No. The law states that only the biological mother of the child and the man identified as the biological father may sign the Declaration of Paternity.

What do I do if a default court order established paternity but I don’t think I am the child’s biological father?

AB 252 allows the court to order genetic testing (under certain circumstances) to determine whether the previously established father is the biological father. If the court determines the previously established father is not the biological father the court may set aside the judgment of paternity unless it is not in the best interest of the child(ren). This process has legal timeframes and noncustodial parents must act quickly. Contact an attorney or the Family Law Facilitator for legal assistance. For more information about AB 252 contact the Department of Child Support Services.

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Payment Information 

How can I check my account balance?

Payment information can be obtained by contacting our office. Please have your Personal Identification Number(PIN) or case number ready for faster service.

Can I specify how my child support payments are applied?

DCSS must follow State regulations when allocating child support. Parents will not have the authority to decide how child support is paid.

Is the noncustodial parent obligated to pay child support while in jail?

Yes. The courts will make the final determination if there is an opportunity for adjustments. Contact DCSS for more information.

How can I get a list of previously made payments?

You can call the automated phone system to check the status of your last 10 payments or click here to access this information on-line. For a written record of all payments contact the office and request a payment history.

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State Disbursement Unit 

For more information contact the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU)

Federal law requires states to have a single entity responsible for collecting and processing child support payments. California is meeting this federal requirement by implementing the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).

What can I do to make sure I get my check as fast as possible?

Sign up for direct deposit! If you don’t already have direct deposit, you can access the application on-line via the Web site at, download a Direct Deposit Form from the site or call 866-901-3212 to request a form be sent to you.

If I already have direct deposit, do I have to enroll again?

No. If your support payment is already going into your bank account, nothing will change. Your payment will continue to be deposited into your account.

I’m on CalWORKS – will my disregard payment change?

Yes. Your disregard payment will now come from the SDU - not the county. Your disregard check and envelope will have a new look. You will continue to receive your monthly disregard as long as the noncustodial parent continues to pay child support every month.

Can I still call the local child support office if I have questions about my case?

Yes. The local office will still answer your case related questions. SDU is only responsible for collecting and processing child support payments.

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Tax Refund Intercept

When will DCSS receive the intercept?

The approximate time frame is 90 days after the obligor receives notification from the IRS. The intercept is sent from the IRS to the State of California and then along with other intercepts it is credited to the appropriate case according to the distribution hierarchy.

NOTE:  An intercept from an IRS joint tax return may be held for a period not to exceed six month from offset notification or until the IRS receives an injured spouse claim, whichever occurs first. Effective June 2008, DCSS does not have the ability to release a joint IRS tax refund prior to the end of the six-month waiting period. The payment should automatically release after the six months.

My account will be paid in full when the intercept is applied, can you please stop the wage assignment deduction?

No, DCSS is unable to reduce/suspend/terminate a wage assignment (unless other criteria mitigates). Upon receipt of the intercept, if the account becomes current or overpaid, our office will either generate a wage reduction or refund the difference, when applicable.

The refund that was intercepted is a joint filing and is either all/partially based on my present spouse’s income.

The IRS can provide your spouse a form entitled, “Injured Spousal Claim.” Upon submission, the IRS will determine if the intercept should be reduced or revoked. Either way, the IRS, not DCSS, will make the appropriate determination.

What if the amount of my federal tax refund is greater than the amount I owe in back child support?

Certified arrears balances are submitted to the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board monthly and only the amount of the arrears should be sent to DCSS. The amount is based on the amount owing at the time of submission. Payments may have been received subsequent to the submission date. Therefore, if the refund amount is greater than the amount of back support (arrears) you owe, you will receive the difference, provided there are no other debts eligible for either the federal or state tax offset. If you pay the child support arrears off yourself to avoid having your refund intercepted, you should wait to file your tax return from the date you made the support payment to avoid having your refund taken by mistake.

As an obligee owed ARREARS ONLY, will I receive the intercept?

Once arrears owed to the County are paid in full, you will receive the intercept.

The obligor lives in another state - can you intercept a state refund?

Only if the other state has been petitioned and is currently enforcing the case.

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