To obtain an order for child support, you need to have an active case with the court. If there is no existing case, you need to file one of the following:
If you are married to the other parent, you have to file a petition for divorce, legal separation or nullity.
If you are not married to the other parent, you have to file a petition to establish parental relationship. A parentage action can be filed by either the mother or father. If you file a parentage action yourself, you can request orders for custody and visitation as well as child support at that time.
A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (this petition will not terminate your marriage or establish a parental relationship) is also an option where parentage has already been established.
If both parents agree on a support amount, they can file a Stipulation and Order without going to court.
Termination of Child Support
Under California law, child support payments usually continue until:
The child Marries
The child Dies
The child is emancipated
The child turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student or turns 19 years old
Child support may continue longer if the parents agree or if the child is disabled.
Modification of Child Support
Child support may be modified with a change of circumstances such as:
Changes in the amount of time the child spends with a parent
Changes in the party's income
Enforcement of Child Support Orders
If the other parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, you have several options available. First, you must decide if you want to proceed on your own, hire an attorney, or engage the services of the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). DCSS is available to assist both self-represented and represented parties.
If you choose to enforce the court orders yourself, you should assess your current situation. You may only need a wage and earnings assignment served on the other parent's employer. The wage and earnings assignment orders the other parent's employer to withhold the child support amount and send it directly to you. The amount withheld each pay period cannot exceed 50% of the parent's net disposable income.
If the other parent has not paid support for a period of time, you may ask the court to make a determination as to the arrearages owed and set a monthly payment on arrears in addition to the ongoing support order. Other options are available, such as liens on real property owned by the other parent. Ultimately, you may ask the court to find the other parent in contempt of the court's order. It is suggested that you hire an attorney or open a case with DCSS if you wish to pursue contempt orders as they are very difficult to prove and very strict rules apply to this type of action. Generally, only trained legal professionals should pursue contempt orders.
If you would like help preparing the necessary forms and getting information on how to enforce your orders, you can visit the Self-Help Center at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse.
If you choose to have DCSS enforce your support orders, they can do all of the same things you can as well as issue administrative orders such as suspension of the other parent's driver license and/or any other license they may hold as well as intercept tax refunds or place liens on bank accounts. Additionally, in the case of willful failure to pay child support, DCSS may file contempt charges against the other parent.