DCSS and Child Support Enforcement
In California, the law requires both parents to support their children (married or not FC §6500)). When parents are not married, the non-custodial parent can be established by a parentage action under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA FC§7600 et seq.) California requires all parents, married, unmarried, or adoptive, to provide support for their children.
WHAT IS THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES (DCSS)?
Federal law requires states to establish a system to enforce child support obligations (42 USC 601). DCSS can locate parents, establish parentage, modify child support orders, and enforce existing orders. All actions filed by local DCSS offices for orders to create, modify, or implement child or spousal support are heard before a child support commissioner. (§4251)
DCSS is divided by local regions, or agencies in each jurisdiction called Local Child Support Agencies (LCSA's.) These agencies replaced the division of the District Attorney's Office that previously assisted in collecting child support.
WHY IS THE DCSS COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT IF MY SPOUSE HAS A PRIVATE ATTORNEY?
Each LCSA must take actions to enforce support obligations. The LCSA/DCSS collects in cases where public assistance is granted and in any family court matter where their help is requested (usually, but not always, by the custodial parent.)
DOES DCSS ALSO COLLECT SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
If the orders sought to be enforced contain both child and spousal support, DCSS will enforce both orders. They will not typically handle custody or visitation issues, but this is currently changing. Although spousal support is modifiable and even waivable, child support is statutorily regulated and not waivable.
CAN DCSS PURSUE ARREARAGES (PAST-DUE SUPPORT)?
Yes, the custodial parent must sign a declaration under penalty of perjury confirming the amount already owed, and there is a reasonable basis to believe it is accurate.
IF MY SPOUSE IS INCARCERATED, CAN I STILL GET SUPPORT ARREARS?
All child support orders are suspended when a payor is incarcerated longer than 90 consecutive days, absent an independent ability to pay (§4007.5)
CAN DCSS SUSPEND MY STATE LICENSE(S) IF I AM NOT CURRENT WITH MY SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS?
Yes. DCSS can submit lists of persons not in compliance with support orders to the State Bar of California, the Department of Real Estate, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Secretary of State, and the Dept of Fish and Wildlife (§17520).
WHAT CAN I DO IF DCSS SUSPENDS MY LICENSE?
An obligor may challenge this suspension by DCSS. They may show they comply, pay the outstanding arrears, or arrange for a payment program. An obligor that disagrees with DCSS's finding of non-compliance may also request judicial review (§17520)
Failure to request a timely review of the suspension within 7 days may constitute a waiver of the right to contest the suspension (§17520(k).)
CAN DCSS ATTACH UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?
Yes. If an obligor is not in compliance with support payments, DCSS may notify the Employment Development Department (EDD) and intercept benefits (§17518.) However, this EDD intercept is limited to 25% of the benefits.
CAN DCSS TAKE MY TAX REFUNDS?
Yes. If DCSS notifies the US Treasury the obligor is in arrears; any refund owed may be withheld and paid to DCSS. This also was recently applied to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). State taxes can also be intercepted for Child, spousal, or family support arrears (CCP §708.730)
CAN DCSS TAKE OR REVOKE MY PASSPORT?
Yes, the US State Department, which authorizes passports, may revoke, restrict or limit a previously issued passport of a delinquent obligor is in arrears more than $2500 (42 USC §652(k).)
CAN DCSS ATTACH MY PUBLIC RETIREMENT?
Yes. DCSS may report sums overdue by 60 days or more to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) (§17528(a).) PERS may then withhold the outstanding amounts, up to one have of the obligor's disposable earnings. An obligor may request a hearing to contest this withholding.
WHAT IS A CHILD SUPPORT SECURITY DEPOSIT?
Upon good cause shown, a court may order an obligor parent to provide a reasonable security deposit for future payments (§4012.) This is usually seen where a parent had previously failed to make payments when they had the ability to do so, or they recently came into a large sum of money, and it may not be properly applied to child support.
WHAT IS A STATE DISBURSEMENT UNIT?
Employers required to withhold and pay taxes on child support payments must transfer these funds electronically to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU.) Even if not ordered to do so, an employer may choose to make these transfers at their discretion.
If a welfare recipient receives child support, the court must order the support payments be made to the SDU (§4201.)
DO I NEED A LAWYER FOR DCSS PROCEEDINGS?
You are not required to have a lawyer, but whether you are the supported or supporting parent, private counsel helps protect your interests in a DCSS proceeding.