Child Support FAQs

Child support can be a complex matter involved in a parent’s divorce or legal separation. Whether you are the parent doing the paying or the receiving, you likely have questions about the process and what happens after. Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers that may help. Remember, speak to an attorney for answers about your specific situation.

How Do I Apply for Child Support?

In California, you can apply for child support online using the statewide online application (SOLA), or have the state mail you an application by calling 1-(866) 901-3212. You can mail the completed and signed application to your local child support agency (LCSA), or drop it off in person for processing. The system will assess your application and contact you.

How Do I Enforce Court-Ordered Child Support Payments?

If you have a spouse who refuses to pay your child support, you have a legal resource to help you collect. The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 can enforce penalties against people who fail to pay child support, such as wage garnishment, property seizure, occupational or business license suspension, driver’s license revocation, or withholding federal tax refunds to pay child support. The courts will use jail time as a last resort.

My Ex-Spouse Moved Out of State. Do I Still Get Payments?

Yes. Your ex-spouse moving out of the state does not affect your child support payments. As long as your state still has jurisdiction over your child’s parents, you can ask your court to impose child support enforcement on him or her. If your state does not have jurisdiction, ask your court to forward the child support order to the state that does.

How Do the Courts Determine the Child Support Payment Amount?

California law bases child support amounts on each parent’s monthly income, as well as the amount of time each parent cares for the child. The court considers income from all sources, including wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, unemployment benefits, rental income, and social security or pensions. Use the child support calculator tool for an idea of what your support payment might look like.

If One Parent Loses a Job, Does it Affect Child Support?

If either parent loses a job, you must request a review of your child support case by the court. The courts may change the support amount or make a stipulation if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a decrease in earnings from either parent. You may open a new case at any time, at no charge, through your LCSA. It is likely that the agency or a judge will alter your child support payment in the event of job loss.

Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I Don’t See My Children?

Yes. Child support and child visitation are entirely separate matters. If the court gives full custody to your ex-spouse, or your ex refuses to let you visit your children, you must still pay court-ordered child support payments. If, however, you are changing your arrangement from joint custody to sole custody or vice versa, there may be a difference in payment amount since it depends on the amount of care each parent gives to the child.

My Ex-Spouse Went to Jail. Will I Still Receive Child Support Payments?

If your ex-spouse is in jail, you may be able to collect child support payments through his or her assets, such as a home or vehicle. Otherwise, it may be impossible to collect your payments, as your ex-spouse will be out of a job. Contact your LCSA to modify your child support order if you are a parent paying support and you go to jail. Otherwise, past-due child support amounts may build up and you will be responsible for paying this amount plus interest when released.

For more exact information regarding your specific child support case in California, contact an attorney.