California’s child support system was designed to ensure that both parents uphold their legal responsibility to financially support their child until they reach the age of 18 years old (19 if they are unmarried and enrolled in high school full time). The California Department of Child Services (DCSS) is responsible for distributing child support payments, enforcing child support orders, and filing legal claims against parents who fall behind in their child support obligations. This agency is meant to act in the public interest and does not represent either parent. However, it is notoriously aggressive in pursuing litigation against noncustodial parents it believes are not paying the appropriate amount of child support in a timely manner.
If you are in arrears with your child support payments or your child’s custodial parent has initiated a DCSS claim against you for delinquent payments, you are facing a variety of serious legal problems. You need legal representation from a Carlsbad child support DCSS attorney to protect your rights, explain your responsibilities, and guide you through the DCSS process. Attorney Paula D. Kleinman has over two decades of experience representing noncustodial parents in DCSS claims. The firm has in-depth knowledge regarding how DCSS operates and can help you reach the optimal outcome in your case. Learn more about DCSS cases below, then contact a child support lawyer to resolve your child support issue.
The California Department of Child Services agency consists of 47 support agencies across the state that establish and enforce child support orders for financial or medical support. Either parent or guardian of a child can open a child support case with the DCSS, regardless of whether a child support order already exists. The DCSS will automatically open a case if the child receives public assistance to order the noncustodial parent to repay the government for this aid. Many parents choose to open a DCSS case because it serves as a neutral third party for negotiations between parents, creates a record of all child support payments, and can often help parents navigate the child support system without court hearings.
County and regional child support enforcement agencies provide several case services to help parents fulfill their legal obligations to support their children. These services include:
These agencies are not responsible for:
Child support agencies are the final decision-makers when it comes to the establishment and enforcement of child support orders. However, because these agencies do not represent either parent or the child, any information you provide is not protected by attorney-client privilege. This information is not confidential and may be discussed with or disclosed to other parties authorized to receive such information, such as either parent’s attorney or employer. You are highly encouraged to seek legal advice from a Carlsbad child support DCSS lawyer.
In most cases, the custodial parent will open a child support case against the noncustodial parent with assistance from the DCSS to receive child support. To open a case, the custodial/recipient parent will fill out and submit an applicationto their local child support office, which will review the application and assist them in obtaining a child support order from the court. After the noncustodial/paying parent has been located, they will receive a Summons and Complaint packet to legally notify them that they have been named in a child support case. If you receive this packet, you have 30 days to submit a response. If you fail to respond,the judge may estimate your income based on information provided by the other parent and order a “default” child support order without your input.
If you were served with a Summons and Complaint and do not believe you are the child’s parent, you have the right to request proof of parentage; the DCSS must assist you for free. The agency can use a DNA test or gather proof that you were married to the other parent at the time the child was born. If you neglect to request proof at this time, the judge can still assign you legal parentage without your consent and force you to pay child support. You can also respond with an Answer to the Summons and Complaint if you disagree with the amount of child support requested. You will be given a court date to present evidence to the judge.
If you wish to avoid appearing in court, the DCSS may provide “family meetings” that give you a chance to meet with a child support caseworker, either on your own or with the other parent. By agreeing on a child support payment amount and creating a signed document attesting to this agreement, the document becomes a Stipulated Agreement filed with the court. Without such an agreement, the judge will set a court date to review the financial information offered by both parties and determine the appropriate amount of child support you are expected to pay. If you can provide the child with medical insurance, the judge will take this into consideration when deciding the child support amount.
A child support order is a legally binding and enforceable court order. After the judge issues a child support order, you are responsible for beginning payments right away. If you are employed, your employer is legally required to withhold funds from your paycheck (wage assignment) and distribute these to the DCSS. If you refuse to pay the ordered amount or delay in making payments, state law requires that unpaid child support orders be charged a 10% annual interest rate. The DCSS also reserves the right to take legal action against you. You may face several support enforcement actions, such as:
If the above actions fail and the court believes you willfully neglected to make the court-ordered child support payments even though you were able to do so, the other parent can file a Motion for Contempt for Non-Payment of Support. This motion must be filed within three years after the payment was due. The DCSS will mail you either a Notice of Motion or an Order to Show Cause to notify you that the agency is involved in your case and is requesting a court hearing. To respond, you must fill out a Response to Governmental Notice of Motion or Order to Show Cause as well as an Income and Expense Declaration or Financial Statement. A Carlsbad child support DCSS attorney can help you fill out these documents.
You must have someone at least 18 years of age serve a copy of the Response and any other forms to the other parent and the DCSS. Service must take place at least nine days before your court hearing if served in person or fourteen days before the hearing if mailed. The server must then fill out a Proof of Service for the other parent and the DCSS and file them with the court clerk. Keep all original forms for your records. Finally, go to the hearing on the date listed on the Notice of Motion or Order to Show Cause, even if you did not fill out the Response and supporting documents.
If the judge finds you guilty of contempt of court, you can face any of the following penalties:
If you are sent to jail, whether for unpaid child support or another criminal conviction, your child support payments are still due and will continue to collect interest unless you request a modification of the existing child support order. Additionally, even after your child reaches 18 years old and you are no longer expected to pay ongoing child support payments, you are still obligated to pay the delinquent amount in full.
While the DCSS is a valuable agency for upholding child support orders, it is not interested in upholding your rights or protecting your interests. If the DCSS orders you to appear at a court hearing, you will be required to participate in a settlement conference with the attorney representing the DCSS and the other parent. A child support attorney can ensure you understand the laws regarding child support, guide you through the case process, and help you negotiate a settlement to avoid going to court. If you cannot settle your case, you will be required to appear before a judge who will hear your case and make a child support determination. Your attorney can represent you in court and speak on your behalf.
If you attempt to resolve a DCSS case without legal representation, you risk making serious mistakes that can undermine your rights and can cost you thousands of dollars. When you and the other parent are on poor terms or a considerable sum of money is involved, an attorney becomes even more vital. Before you file any papers, respond to any papers filed by the DCSS, or make an appearance at a court hearing, you should contact an attorney.
Whether the DCSS is attempting to enforce delinquent child support payments or has filed a claim to recover payment, retaining the services of an attorney is crucial for protecting your interests. The DCSS is often motivated to side with the custodial parent during child support issues and can take multiple strict measures to enforce the court order. The potential consequences of falling behind on your child support payments can impact every aspect of your life. However, you do not need to face this challenging time alone.
A Carlsbad child support DCSS attorney can provide the legal representation and expert counsel you need to get back on track and avoid penalties. For more than 20 years, family law attorney Paula D. Kleinman has helped noncustodial parents navigate their child support orders and achieve favorable results in their DCSS cases. She can assist you in several important ways, such as ensuring your child support order accurately reflects your financial circumstances and advocating on your behalf in court.
Hiring an experienced attorney is the only way to ensure the best chance at winning your DCSS case and avoiding the penalties described above. If the other parent or the DCSS is pursuing a claim against you, do not wait to seek representation. Contact Paula D. Kleinman today to discuss your case.
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