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How Do I Get Child Support in California?

It's a Child's Right to Be Supported

Under California law, children are entitled to the financial support of their parents (including the non-custodial parent) regardless of the status of the parents' relationship. The government wants to ensure that children have their needs met despite the fact that their parents are married, divorced, unmarried or separated. Figuring out how to get child support in California, or in any state, can be a burdensome process involving the court and its administrative procedures.

However, to be able to enforce the right to receive child support, it is important that the proper steps be taken in a timely manner. As it is, child support orders can be difficult to enforce and many children go on without the support they deserve. Obtaining an order using the correct procedures can give a parent the best chance at collecting the funds their child needs from his/her other parent.

Child Support Procedures: First Steps

In order to obtain an order for child support, the parent requesting the order must get it directly from the court or through a local child support agency. A good first step may be to locate the other parent and, if necessary, establish paternity. The next step is often to open a family law case with the court. This can be a proceeding for divorce, legal separation or annulment, a domestic violence restraining order, a petition for custody and support of minor children, a local child support agency case, or a case for parentage (paternity). Once a case is opened, the following steps typically are followed:

  1. Fill out any court forms that are required;
  2. Have the forms reviewed by a family law facilitator at the court or by an attorney;
  3. Make at least two copies of all the forms;
  4. File the forms with the court clerk;
  5. Get a court date from the clerk;
  6. Have another person serve the papers on the other parent at least 16 days prior to the court date;
  7. Have the person who serves the papers fill out a proof of service form and return it;
  8. File the proof of service with the court;
  9. Go to the court hearing on the court date.

At the hearing, a judge typically will evaluate and sign an order for child support as necessary depending on the circumstances and needs in a given case. It is important that the person requesting the child support (or his/her attorney) prepare the order and bring it for the judge to sign.

It should be noted that it is not always necessary to go to court to obtain an order for child support. If the parents can agree to a certain amount of support through a mediation process, they can write up the agreement, sign it and then take it to the judge who will sign it, turning it into an official court order.

Child Support Services can help some parents obtain a child support order, but it should be noted that sometimes going through Child Support Services can prolong the process to obtain the order itself. It is important to weigh the benefits of using this agency with the amount of time and need that a parent has.

Speak with a local attorney if you need help getting child support in California or have any additional questions.

California Child Support Law: Statute

California Family Code Sections 4050-4076

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