WHAT THE ALAMEDA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES DOES
93% of the children in our active caseload who were born out of wedlock have had paternity established.
Obtain Child Support Orders
As of September 2011 we have 35,677 active cases.
88.5% of our active cases have court orders.
Enforce Child Support Orders
Our office distributes an average of $6.3 million in child support monthly.
84% of our active cases with current support due are paying.
63% of the current support dollars due are being collected.
Anyone who has a child support and/or health insurance coverage order or who wishes to establish such an order can obtain child support enforcement services by completing an application form. Recipients of CalWORKs or Medi-Cal benefits will have a case automatically opened. The law requires the Social Services Agency refer cases to the local Department of Child Support Services to establish paternity, child support and medical coverage for any child(ren) receiving medical or cash benefits, including Foster Care. The Alameda County Department of Child Support Services will take the following steps to collect support from a non-custodial parent. (Each step is explained in more detail elsewhere on this Web site. Click on the underlined step for more details.)
- Opening a Case
- Locating the Parent
- Establishing a Child Support Order
- Enforcing a Child Support Order
Cases in which one of the parties lives outside the state of California are worked by our Enforcement Unit. The Uniform Interstate Child Support Services Act (aka UIFSA), enacted by Congress in 1992, set parameters for jurisdiction and modification of child support orders when the parties live in different states. In many cases, income withholding (aka wage assignments) can be served across state lines. Additionally, the United States has reciprocal agreements with many nations around the world and procedures are in place for establishing and enforcing a child support order for parties who live outside the United States.
Opening a Case
To open a child support case you must complete a Child Support Application Packet which is available on this web site. You may also request an application by telephone, by calling us toll-free, at 1-866-901-3212. Please follow the instructions provided by the Interactive Voice Response system. You will be connected to a voice mailbox where you can leave a message with your name and address and an application will be mailed to you. Additionally, you can fax your request with your name and address to (925) 468-9297 or you may email your request with your name and mailing address to Child Support. You may also request an application in person at our office. If your child(ren) is currently receiving CalWORKs benefits you do not need to complete an application form, as we will automatically open a case for you. If your child(ren) is currently receiving Medi-cal benefits only, we will automatically open a case for you to pursue medical support and, if you choose, child support.
Once we receive a completed, signed application or referral from the Social Services Agency we will mail both parties a letter notifying them the case is open and providing the Child Support Services case number.
The following information is requested to open your case:
- Three of your most recent pay stubs
- A copy of your last year's tax return (State and Federal)
In addition, if you have an existing child support order, you must provide:
- A copy of the original order and all subsequent modifications (if applicable)
- A completed Support Payment Record together with any documentation you may have substantiating your outstanding balance
The following is also very important information used to locate the non-custodial parent and his or her assets and to maintain a correct case record:
- name, address and phone number of both parties
- date of birth of both parties
- current physical description of non-custodial parent
- Social Security number of non-custodial parent (This is key information.)
- name and address of current or most recent employer of non-custodial parent
- names of professional or labor organizations to which the non-custodial parent might belong
- information pertaining to the non-custodial parent's income and other assets (i.e., pay slips, tax returns, bank accounts, cars, boats, RVs, investments or property holdings).
Remember that the more complete, reliable and accurate the information is that you provide, the easier and faster it will be to obtain and enforce the child support order.
To obtain or enforce an order, we must know where the non-custodial parent lives and/or works. By providing the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services with as much information as possible, the custodial party can help locate the non-custodial parent and speed up the child support process. See "Opening a Child Support Case for a list of information to provide.
Using key information such as name, Social Security number and date of birth, we utilize the following sources to locate the non-custodial parent: Department of Motor Vehicles, Employment Development Department, Franchise Tax Board, California and Federal Parent Locator Services, welfare records, credit reporting agencies, and law enforcement agencies.
Once we have verified the non-custodial parent's address, we will prepare the case for the next appropriate legal or enforcement action. If an order already exists, it will be reviewed to verify Alameda County has jurisdiction to enforce the order; if so, the case will be sent to the accounting department to open the account and then reviewed for appropriate enforcement actions.
We must legally establish paternity for a child in order to obtain a court order for child support and health insurance coverage. Paternity means legally establishing who is the biological father of the child. If the child was conceived after the legal marriage of the parents, there is a legal presumption of paternity. If the parents are unmarried or the child was conceived prior to the marriage, a court order or the completion of the Paternity Opportunity Program form right after the birth of the child is required to legally establish paternity. If the man denies he is the father, he can file an Answer with the Alameda County Clerk and request blood testing (genetic testing) to determine if he is the biological father of the child(ren).
Benefits of Establishing Paternity:
Establishing legal paternity gives a child born to unmarried parents the legal rights and privileges of a child born within a marriage. Those rights and privileges may include:
- monetary support from both parents according to their abilities.
- legal documentation of who his or her parents are
- access to family medical records
- medical insurance coverage from either parent, if available
- inheritance rights
- Social Security and veterans' benefits, if available
- the emotional benefits of knowing who both parents are
Additionally, the father is more likely to care for the child as the child grows.
How Paternity is Established
Paternity is established in court and can be done with or without the father's assistance. If the alleged father fails to answer a legal complaint that he is the father, the court can name him the father by default. Or, if the alleged father disagrees with or contests the claim that he is the father, paternity can be determined after a court-ordered genetic test has been administered. Paternity may also be established through the completion and filing of a Paternity Opportunity Program form following the birth of the child. For more information about the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP), please visit the Paternity Resources page and the POPs Resource page at the California Department of Child Support Services website.
Every child support case is unique. The best method of enforcement in a particular case involves a review of all the information known for that case. This includes, but is not limited to, the non-custodial parent's payment history, other child support obligations of the non-custodial parent, where the non-custodial parent lives and works, the non-custodial parent's income, and what kind of assets he/she has. Many of our enforcement tools, such as tax refund interception, are put in place automatically when an account for child support is opened. Others, such as Contempt, are utilized when appropriate to a specific case. Please note that failure to pay child support is a felony under both federal and state law. Please also note that federal and state law limit the use of many enforcement tools to collection of child support, with specific restrictions on their use in the enforcement of spousal support orders. Listed below is a brief description of some of the enforcement tools used by Child Support Services.
Monthly Billing Statements
Monthly billing statements are generated automatically for all open accounts. The billing statement contains a tear-off' form and pre-addressed envelope for voluntary payment of child support obligations.
Mandatory Wage Withholding
Federal and state laws require that all child support orders include mandatory wage withholding orders. The non-custodial parent's earnings will be withheld unless she/he can: 1) show good cause why it should not be done, or 2) has an alternative arrangement with Child Support Services and the custodial parent.
The employer of the non-custodial parent is sent a Wage Withholding Order or a Notice of Assignment of Wages (aka wage assignment') with instructions to withhold a specified amount for payment of current support and arrears. The employer must send payments to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) within ten (10) working days of deduction from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. Payments are posted to the account and distributed to the custodial party within two business days of receipt by Child Support Services. Once a wage assignment is served, the employer must honor it as long as the non-custodial parent remains employed. The employer must notify Child Support Services if the non-custodial parent leaves. A wage assignment can also be served against temporary Workers' Compensation Insurance benefits and against Social Security Administration benefits. (Note: wage assignments cannot be served against Veteran's Benefits nor against Supplemental Security Income benefits.)
An employer may not take more than 50% of the non-custodial parent's disposable earnings (25% of Workers' Compensation Benefits) unless ordered to do so by the court. A wage assignment order for child support has priority over any other withholding order against the non-custodial parent.
Service of mandatory wage withholding, of course, is contingent upon Child Support Services knowing where the non-custodial parent is employed.
Health Insurance Coverage Assignment
Pursuant to federal and state laws our court orders include a requirement that non-custodial parents maintain health insurance for their child(ren) when insurance is available from their employer at reasonable or no cost. A National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) is sent to the non-custodial parent's employer (or other person providing health insurance to the non-custodial parent) and requires the employer to enroll the child(ren) in the parent's health insurance plan. The order also authorizes the employer to deduct the cost of the health care premiums from the non-custodial parent's earnings. The employer is to notify Child Support Services if insurance is not available and/or of any lapse or change in the health insurance coverage.
Other child support enforcement techniques include: liens, federal and state income tax refund intercepts, lottery intercepts, suspension of professional licenses, credit approval risk, writs of execution, and contempt proceedings.
A judgment lien on personal property is a lien on all interests in that property that are subject to enforcement of a money judgment, such as accounts receivable, equipment, inventory, chattel paper, farm products, and negotiable documents of title. The lien continues on the proceeds received upon the sale, collection or other disposition of the property subject to the lien.
The Alameda County Department of Child Support Services will record support orders and judgments with the County Recorder's Office to create a lien against any real property in any California county in which a non-custodial parent has or acquires an interest. Any action by the non-custodial parent to purchase, sell, or refinance is prevented unless the lien is satisfied in full, or other arrangements are made with the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services.
DCSS Full Collection Program
The DCSS Full Collection Program was created by state law in 1993 to assist with the collection of past-due child support. The California Department of Child Support Services is authorized to assist in the collection of past-due child support by collecting from accounts held within financial institutions. These accounts may include bank accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and financial securities.
Statewide Intercept and Information Systems
Administrative Offset and Federal Tax Refund Intercept Program: This program intercepts federal income tax refunds and other federal payments owed to the non-custodial parent to pay past-due child support. The intercepted funds are sent from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). IRS and FTB notify the non-custodial parent by mail of any tax refund intercept. (Title 26 United States Code (USC) section 6402, Title 31USC 3716, Title 42USC664, Title 45 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 303.72)
State Tax Refund Intercept: This program intercepts any state income tax refund owed to the non-custodial parent to pay past-due child support. Payments are automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). FTB notifies the non-custodial parent by mail of any tax refund intercept. (Title 42USC 666(a), Title 45CFR303.102)
Unemployment and Disability Insurance Benefits Intercept Program
Under state law a portion of state Unemployment and/or Disability Insurance Benefits payments is automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) for payment of court-ordered child support. An amount equal to 25% of each weekly benefit payment will be intercepted as long as benefits are being paid and the amount of child support owed is at least $150.00. (California Family Code (CFC) section 17518)
Lottery Winnings Intercept Program: Lottery winnings and other monies owed by the State of California to non-custodial parents are automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) to pay past-due child support. (California Government Code section 12419.5, California Code of Civil Procedure sections 708.730 & 708.795)
Credit Reporting System: Through this program the names and payment record of non-custodial parents who have court orders requiring that they pay support are reported to all major credit reporting companies. (California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 22 Division 13 Chapter 6.1 Article 4; CFC Section 470; 15USC1681i, 42USC666(a)(7), and 45CFR302.70(a)(7))
State Licensing Match System (SLMS): The State of California will deny permanent state-issued drivers, business and professional licenses (for example: cosmetologist, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney, truck driver) to non-custodial parents who owe past-due child support and apply for a license or a renewal. The licenses of any non-custodial parent who fails to continue to comply with an agreement to pay past-due support may also be suspended or revoked. (CFC17520)
New Employee Registry: Employers in California must report new or rehired employees, including independent contractors, to the Employment Development Department. Matches with the New Employee Registry database provide the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services with early identification when a non-custodial parent becomes employed. When appropriate, a wage assignment order and health insurance coverage assignment order are sent to the new employer. In California this process is automated so that a wage assignment and health insurance assignment are automatically served when a new employer is reported. (Unemployment Insurance Code 1088.5)
Assets Match Program: This program identifies interest and dividend income paid to non-custodial parents, which may be eligible for seizure to pay past due child support (CFC17453 &17522.5)
Workers' Compensation Appeals Board Match System: Identifies workers' compensation claims filed by non-custodial parents, which may be eligible to be withheld to pay past due child support. (California Code of Civil Procedure sections 704.160 & 708.410 & CFC 5206 & 5246)
Board of Equalization Sales and Use Tax Intercept System: This program intercepts sales and/or use tax refunds owed to non-custodial parents who owe past-due child support and forwards the payments directly to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). (CFC 17520).
Under California law an unemployed parent who is not paying ordered child support may be ordered by the court to seek work if due to his or her unemployment the non-custodial parent has not paid in more than ninety days and the non-custodial parent has proven ability to be employed and remains employable. Failure to comply with the seek work order can result in a citation for contempt and include jail time for each finding of contempt. (CFC 4505)
If a non-custodial parent has knowledge of his/her child support obligation and has the ability and means to pay the obligation but refuses to do so, a Contempt of Court action can be sought. If found to be in Contempt of Court, the non-custodial parent can be sentenced to jail time in addition to being required to pay the missed support payments. This action can also be used if a non-custodial parent refuses to provide available health insurance coverage.
A Contempt of Court action can also be sought against an employer who fails to honor a Wage Assignment or Health Insurance Coverage Assignment.
When a non-custodial parent fails to pay their court ordered support obligation, a writ can be used to seize liquid assets, such as bank accounts and retirement or vacation funds. A writ can also be served on the executor of an estate when the non-custodial parent is an heir.
The U.S. State Department will not issue or renew any passport to an individual if more than $2500.00 in past due child support is now or has ever been owed. All arrears must be paid to zero before the passport will be issued or renewed. (Title42USC652k, Title 22 CFR51.70(a)(8) & 51.72(a))