If you’re the custodial parent and unable to cover the costs involved in your child’s upbringing, you can file a request for child support. After the court grants your request, you’ll receive monthly payments from your co-parent (the non-custodial parent) to cover your child’s needs.
Even if you’re the non-custodial parent or the child’s legal guardian, you can still open a child support case. However, note that having an order from a judge for child support payments doesn’t necessarily open a child support case. For this reason, you’ll need to visit your local child support agency and open the child support case.
Where Should You File for Child Support in California?
The exact location to file for child support in California depends on your current location and whether or not you have an open Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) case.
If you have already filed a DCSS and divorce case, you’ll need to file a Request for Orders (RFO) in the same courthouse where you filed for divorce.
On the other hand, if you don’t have an open DCSS case and don’t want to get a divorce or separation, you can file a request for child support through the Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children. In addition, you can download the child support forms directly from the California state courts website.
Follow the steps below to complete the process:
Fill Out the Court Forms
After downloading the child support forms, you can fill out the forms on your computer or print them out. If you choose the latter, fill out the forms completely and correctly in blue or black ink.
Have an Attorney or Family Law Facilitator Review the Forms
It’s best to have a qualified family law attorney review your forms before filing them with the court. This is because an attorney can detect errors and advise you on how best to address them.
If you can’t afford a family law attorney or you’ve decided not to hire one, you can have the court’s family law facilitator review your forms. Family law facilitators can’t offer you legal advice but can ensure your forms are filled out correctly. They can also answer your questions regarding child support calculations or the child support process.
Click here if you don’t know your court’s family law facilitator, then select your county’s name. If you don’t know which county you’re in, enter your city or zip code in the Find Your Court box, and you’ll be redirected to your county’s superior court.
Make Copies of All Court Forms
After your attorney or family law facilitator approves your forms, sign them, then make at least two copies of all the court forms you’ve completed. You’ll leave the original form with the court and the other two copies for you and your co-parent.
Suppose your attorney or family law facilitator suggested changes to your answers, download a new form, print it, and hand write your answers. This is much better and neater than striking out what you had written before.
Fill the Child Support Forms With the Court Clerk
After completing the forms correctly and making copies, take the forms to the court clerk’s office in your county. The court clerk will acknowledge receiving the forms by stamping them and keeping the originals.
You’ll need to pay a filing fee, or if you can’t afford the fee, you can ask the court clerk for a waiver.
Serve Your Co-Parent With the Summons and Complaint
Suppose you know where your co-parent lives; find someone neutral to serve court papers to your co-parent. Anyone above 18 years can deliver the court papers to your co-parent and then fill out a proof of service form and hand it to you. Proof of service form is evidence that you gave legal notice to your co-parent.
Schedule a Court Hearing
After serving your co-parent, you can ask the court to schedule a hearing to determine the child support case. Before the hearing date, you and your co-parent have the chance to agree on custody and child support as long as what you agree on doesn’t diverge from the state’s child support guidelines.
Next, you and your co-parent should write up the agreement, sign it and take it to a judge who’ll sign and make it an official court order. If you can’t agree on custody and child support with your co-parent, you’ll need to attend the hearing and let the judge determine the case.
Filing With the Local Child Support Agency
Alternatively, you can file a request for child support with the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) via an online application. If you’re unsure how to fill out your application online, you can go to the nearest LCSA office and apply in person. If you don’t know where your closest LCSA office is, click on this site, select the name of the county you live in, then click the plus button next to your county’s name, and you’ll see the street address of an LCSA office near you.
What if the Parent Required To Pay for Child Support Lives Out of State?
For a family court in California to order your co-parent to pay child support, the court should have jurisdiction over the person. For instance, if the couple had sexual relations in California that resulted in the pregnancy, family courts in California will have jurisdiction over the person who’s supposed to pay child support regardless of where they live.
Suppose the family court in California doesn’t have jurisdiction over the parent supposed to pay for child support. In that case, you can initiate a DCSS case and work with state agencies where the other parent lives to order them to pay child support.
However, the other parent needs to be located before a child support order can be implemented, even if you don’t know where they are. Having their name, date of birth, and social security number will make it easier for state agencies to find them.
If found, they’ll be served with a summons and complaint packet. This packet notifies them that they’ve been named in a child support case. The parent who’s supposed to pay child support will be given up to 30 days to respond to the summons and complaint. If they fail to respond, the court may order a default judgment against them without considering their financial situation.
Have Additional Questions About California Child Support Laws? Contact Castro Law Offices Today
If you have questions about your legal rights and obligations pertaining to child support, Castro Law Offices stands ready to provide guidance and insight during this difficult time.
Castro Law Offices is a premier California law firm specializing in child support issues, divorce, child custody, and all other issues concerning domestic relations. Castro Law Offices is based in Novato, California, but is ready and able to provide legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley and Corte Madera. Contact Castro Law Offices today to schedule a confidential consultation.