Tools for Existing Customer
Frequently Asked Questions
How our Department Collects Child Support
Once a child support order has been taken, child support professionals will begin enforcing the order using both manual and automatic actions.
What are the manual enforcement tools?
Phone calls, emails, and faxes to non-custodial parents and employers to obtain payments.
What are the automatic enforcement tools?
- An IWO, also known as a wage assignment or a garnishment, is the court ordered child support amount that is requested from the Noncustodial Parents paycheck.
- Noncustodial Parents must make direct payments to the State Disbursement Unit until an IWO is in place.
- The IWO is required by law.
- The employer will deduct the child support amount from each paycheck and send the amount to the State Disbursement Unit for processing. Processing may take up to seven business days.
- Once an IWO is received, the employer must take out the child support until they receive a termination of withholding from DCSS, or the Noncustodial parent is separated from employment.
An employer may take up to 50% of the Noncustodial Parents take home (net) pay.
- Self-employed Noncustodial Parents are court ordered to make direct payments to the State Disbursement Unit.
- Independent contractors should confirm the IWO has been received and put in place with their employers. If the IWO is not in place, the Noncustodial Parent must send payments directly to the State Disbursement Unit.
- A NMSN is a court order for health insurance coverage to be provided for the child(ren).
- Employers or insurance carriers must enroll the child in the Noncustodial Parents’ health insurance plan once the notice is received.
The following agencies begin withholding after a support order has been entered and an electronic IWO is sent:
- Employment Development Department (EDD)
- State Disability Insurance (SDI)
- Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Division of Workers Compensation (DWC)
- DCSS will take money from bank accounts when past due support is owed.
- As long as you have a past due amount of $100.00 or greater, your accounts may be levied up to 4 times a year, per financial institution.
- Bank levy fees are fees charged by the bank, and are non-refundable.
- The law requires delinquent child support cases to be reported to all state licensing agencies. When child support is not paid, the licensing agencies will suspend, revoke, or withhold:
- Driver’s Licenses: Dealers, transporters, driving school
- Professional Licenses: Guard Card, Baton, Firearms, Barbers, Cosmetologists, LVN, RN, Pharmacist, Dentist, Tax Preparer, etc.
- Business Licenses: Real Estate, Contractors, Teaching Credentials, and State Bar (attorney) memberships
- Fishing and Game licenses
- Each month the full support is not paid, the Noncustodial parents license will be referred to the DMV for suspension. The DMV will send an 'intent to suspend' letter to the address of record.
- Contact DCSS immediately to make a payment for a license release.
- A lien shall be placed against the Noncustodial Parent in any county in which property may be owned.
- Intercepts will occur through both state and federal income tax refunds to pay past-due child support.
- Jointly filed returns may also be intercepted.
- California State Lottery winnings can be intercepted to pay past due child support.
- DCSS will report all payments to the credit reporting agencies as on time or delinquent.
- Past due child support is reported to the U.S. State Department and can result in the denial of a passport being issued or renewal.
- The arrears must be paid in full before a passport can be released.
- Failure to pay child support may result in a Contempt hearing. If the court determines that a parent has failed to make payments, they may result in additional fines and/or jail time.
- Although DCSS or the other parent closed the case, this does not mean you no longer owe child support. The court order will remain valid until changed by a court hearing. To learn more about changing your court ordered support, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did DCSS attach my wages?
The Family Support Act of 1988 requires that all court orders for child support include an income withholding order.
What happens if a parent falls behind on his or her child support payments?
If a parent falls behind, contact DCSS immediately to discuss the barrier to payment.
All available enforcement tools can be used to enforce the child support obligation.
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).
- Why was my license suspended?
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.
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.
I filed taxes with my spouse (married filing jointly). DCSS intercepted
my taxes. What do I do?
Contact the IRS. They will provide you a form called the "Injured Spouse Claim." Once submitted to the IRS, they will review the taxes and make a decision.
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.
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.
Close My Child Support Case
To request that DCSS stop enforcing your court order:
Non-Public assistance cases
Public assistance cases
If the child(ren) are receiving cash aid, the Department of Child Support Services is required by law to continue to enforce the support order, even if the custodial party does not want our services.
If the child(ren) stop receiving cash aid, we are required to collect the arrears that accumulated while the child(ren) were on aid.
Medical Enforcement only
If the cash aid is stopped, but the child(ren) continue to receive
Medi-Cal aid, we will keep the case open for health insurance
Changing a Child Support Order
A change to a court order is called a modification. Either parent can ask that the Department of Child Support Services review the child support order any time there is a change in circumstance.
A change in circumstance may include:
- Change in income of either party
- Change in the amount of time the child(ren) spend with each parent or change in custody
- Incarceration of the noncustodial parent
The department sends paperwork to both parties requesting information and verification of income, health insurance, and custody information. Once the completed packets are returned, your case manager will review the information to determine if your order qualifies for DCSS to file a motion requesting that the court-order be changed.
To qualify to have your motion for modification completed by DCSS, the current support amount must change by $50 or 20%.
To run a calculation, click here.
If the parties agree to the new amount, DCSS can complete an signed-agreement, or "stipulation", and file it with the court. Once filed, the stipulation will become the new court-order and the parents will not need to appear in court.
If either parent disagrees with the new amount, a court hearing will be set.
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.
Is there a minimum amount it needs to change?
The child support amount should change $50 or by 20% for a motion to be filed. Participants may file their own motions at any time.
How often can I request my order be changed?
Either party can request a change to the order whenever there is a change in circumstances. There is no limit to the amount of review requests that can be made.
Reduce Your Child Support Debt
What is the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP)?
It is a debt reduction program for eligible participants with past due child support (also called arrears) owed to the State.
Child support may be owed to the State government because the minor children received cash aid or were placed in foster care.
If you qualify for COAP, you may pay a reduced amount to satisfy your balance, rather than full amount due. Any reduction in your arrears will be based on your current income and assets.
What COAP doesn't do
- forgive the entire debt
- change ongoing monthly child support obligations
- reduce arrears owed to the custodial party
- reduce spousal support arrears
- don't stop paying on current child support because you are applying for COAP
- you must provide complete information and documents with your application
- be honest on your application
What is the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP)?
COAP is a debt reduction program provided by the state of California for eligible parents to pay less than the total child support debt.
To be eligible for the program, the child support debt must be owed to the state for periods when the dependent(s) received cash aid.
For more information on COAP, click here.
What if I have my child(ren) back? Can I still apply for COAP?
Yes. COA – Family Reunification Program is available for parents whose child(ren) received cash aid with a guardian or relative caregiver, but have now been returned to the custody of the parent.
How much of my arrears balance will I be able to compromise and who do I pay?
Parents 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/party?
No. Only state debt is available for a compromise; any balances owed to the custodial party must be paid in full prior to applying for the COAP.
If I am able to compromise my state arrears, will I still owe child
support because my dependent(s) are under 18?
Yes. If the child(ren) are minors, and current child support is owed, the parent 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?
No. There are no penalties or fees attached to the COAP agreement. If approved, the parent must be prepared to pay off the reduced balance of the case.