Obtaining an Order for Support

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.

Determining the Amount of Child Support

If you want to know the amount of child support that would be payable under the California State Child Support Guideline, you can contact an attorney or go to the California Department of Child Support Services - external link.

Health and Daycare Costs

When you apply for child support, you can also request the other parent share in the health care insurance and unreimbursed or uncovered health care costs for your child or children. You may also request that child care costs be shared or paid by the other parent.

Setting a Hearing - Filing a Request for Order

A Request for Order can be filed at the same time you file your petition for divorce, legal separation, nullity or parental relationship or if you already have an active case with this court. This Request for Order will get you a court hearing date for your support issues and require the other party in your case to appear in court. You can use a Request for Order to:

  • Ask for child support order(s) when filing a petition to establish a parental relationship, or for divorce, legal separation or nullity.
  • Ask for modification of an existing order for support.
  • Ask to cancel (set aside) a Default Judgment of Parentage in a child support case. There are special rules that apply here and you should seek legal assistance.

If you are the party filing the Request for Order to set a hearing, you will need to complete the Request for Order forms.

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 Spinetta 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.

Reinstating your Driver License

If your driver license has been suspended or renewal denied due to your failure to pay child support, you may contact the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), located at 3701 Power Inn Road (across the street from the front entrance of the Spinetta Family Law Center.) You may also contact DCSS by telephone at (866) 901-3212.

If DCSS denies your request to have your license reinstated, you may then file a Notice of Motion for Judicial Review of License Denial (FL-670), and an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150).

Transferring a Child Support Case from Another County

There are two ways to have your case brought here from another county:

  • Registration of California Support Order
  • Change of Venue

Registration of California Support Order: If you are the parent receiving child support, you may register your child support order from a different California county here in Contra Costa County. The paying parent may not. Keep in mind that if you register the support order, you are only allowed to modify or enforce child support orders. You are not allowed to change custody or visitation.

How to Register Your Order:

  1. Fill out the Statement of Registration of California Support Order (FL-440) and attach a filed copy of the support order or income withholding order. If the paying parent owes back support, you may attach a Declaration of Arrearage (FL-420). Make 2 copies of the documents.
  2. File the forms at the Family Law Filing Counter of the Spinetta Family Law Center. Include an envelope addressed to the paying parent with enough postage to assure delivery.

Change of Venue: If you have a dissolution, legal separation, nullity or parentage case in another county and you and your child(ren) now reside in Contra Costa County, you may ask the court in the other county for permission to transfer the entire case to this county. This is done by filing a Request for Order to Change Venue. If granted, the entire case moves to this county and all future orders including support and custody will be decided here in Contra Costa County.