General FAQs

What is child support?
Child support is defined by law as the ongoing monetary expenditures and payments necessary to cover a child’s living and medical expenses.  Both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children.  The court may order either or both parents to make ongoing payments to cover a child’s living and medical expenses.
What services does the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) offer?

The services provided by the State through the local child support agencies (LCSA) include:

  • locating parents
  • establishing paternity
  • establishing and maintaining support orders
  • working with other states to enforce support orders
  • collecting and processing payments

Child support services do NOT include divorce, custody, or visitation.  These services must be resolved in a court of law.

How can I find out more information about the child support program?
You can find pamphlets about the program and available services in our DCSS Publications
What is the local child support agency (LCSA)?
There are 51 county and regional child support agencies throughout California.  The LCSA is the organization through which the public can apply for help in obtaining child support.  Find an LCSA.
Who can get help from an LCSA?

Parents, guardians, and caretakers of minor children can receive services from an LCSA regardless of marital status and income.  Individuals with children receiving California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) benefits are required to cooperate with the LCSA in establishing paternity and collecting child support.  If you have applied for services, or if an application has been filed on your behalf with the LCSA, your case is considered IV-D.

For more information read PUB 245: Your Guide to Child Support Services.

What is the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU)?
In 1996, the Federal Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) mandated that each state must create a centralized location to process all child support payments.  The centralized location in California is called the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU).  The SDU collects and disburses court-ordered child support payments including payments made by wage withholding for private (Non IV-D) cases.
How do I open a child support case?

There are several ways to apply:

Completed applications with an original signature can be mailed to, or dropped off at your LCSA to be processed. For more information read PUB 246: Opening a Child Support Case.

I have a private child support case, what does that mean?
If you have a private child support case, it is considered Non IV-D and means that your case is not being enforced by the State or the LCSA.  In private cases, the State only processes payments made by wage withholding order through the employer of the parent paying support.
What does the State need from me as a customer with a private child support case?

Customers with private child support cases must complete and provide the State the FL-191 (Child Support Case Registry) and FL-195 (Income Withholding for Support) when entering into a court order with family, or child and spousal support.  Often the court will provide the FL-191 to the State.

  • After serving the FL-195 to the employer, mail a copy of the FL-195 to the SDU at:

    CA State Disbursement Unit (SDU)
    P.O. Box 980218
    West Sacramento, CA 95798-0218
What is an FL-195?
The FL-195 is the Income Withholding for Support that is served to employers to withhold an employee’s wages in payment of child support.  This form may also be referred to as: wage assignment, garnishment order, and withholding order.
Is my child support case open to the public?
Child support case information is confidential and not open to the public, but documents in court files or county recorder files are public records.
May I look at the payment records?
Yes.  Both the party receiving support and the parent paying support may view the records of all payments made.  If you believe errors have been made, you can request a review or audit of the account.
How can I get my payment information?
Both the parent paying support and party receiving support can get payment information through Customer Connect at or by phone at 1-866-901-3212.  You must provide your Social Security Number or participant ID number and PIN to access the system.  If you do not have a PIN, you can either go to the Customer Connect website or call 1-866-901-3212 and speak with a representative to request a new PIN.
As a parent, what should I do when I get a Summons and Complaint?
Within thirty (30) days of receiving the Summons and Complaint, you should complete and file the Answer form, included in the Summons and Complaint packet, with the Superior Court clerk.  If you need assistance, contact your LCSA or Family Law Facilitator in your county.
What if a parent ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?
If the parent does not respond, the estimated child support payment stated in the Summons and Complaint will be the amount of child support ordered by the court.  When the court enters the order, the parent will need to ask the court for permission to challenge it.
If I file a response with the court, will I have a chance to talk to the judge?
Yes.  If you respond to the Summons and Complaint and contest paternity or the amount of child support requested, you will be given a court date.
Is there any way to avoid having to go to court?
Yes.  You can avoid going to court by signing a legal agreement (stipulation).  The parent paying support and the LCSA can agree (stipulate) on the amount of child support if the party receiving support is receiving welfare benefits.  If neither parent is receiving welfare benefits, then both parents may sign a legal agreement (stipulation) that establishes paternity and makes a formal arrangement to make child support payments.
What else is in a stipulation?

Stipulations vary with circumstances, but the usual stipulation contains the agreement that the parent paying support is:

  • the parent of the child
  • willing to pay child support
  • willing to provide health insurance for the child if it is available through the parent’s employer
  • willing to allow the court to enter an order without appearing in court
How is the amount of child support determined?

Child support is determined using guidelines established by California law.  Child support amounts are based on each parent’s monthly income and the amount of time the child is cared for by each parent.

The Court Commissioner or Family Law Judge will set the amount of a child support order.  The court will consider income from all sources.  The income can be in the form of money, property, or services and can include:

  • Wages from a job
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Self-employment earnings
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Disability and workers’ compensation
  • Interest
  • Dividends
  • Rental income
  • Social Security or pensions
  • Any payments or credits due or becoming due, regardless of the source, including lottery and prize winnings.

For more information, see the California Guideline Child Support Calculator User Guide.

If you have any questions about the child support guidelines, you should talk with a lawyer, contact a Family Law Facilitator, or call your LCSA at 1-866-901-3212.  LCSA employees can give you general information, but cannot give you legal advice.  For more information read PUB 249: Establishing a Child Support Order.

If either parent loses a job or is earning more money, will child support automatically be changed?

No. A child support order can only be changed by a new order or a stipulation approved by the court.

Either parent may request a review of the child support case if there is a change in circumstances.  Support orders may be changed if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as, an increase or decrease in either parent’s earnings, a change in custody, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with each parent.  For more information read:  PUB 252: Changing Your Child Support Amount.

If the parent ordered to pay support goes to jail, will the party receiving support still receive payments?
Unless the parent in jail has other assets, such as a house or a car, or other income, child support will be nearly impossible to collect.  A parent paying support who goes to jail should contact the LCSA to modify the child support order.  Otherwise, past-due child support may continue to grow and the incarcerated parent will be responsible for paying past-due support plus interest when released.
My ex-spouse has remarried and has another family to support.  How does this affect the support owed to our children?
The amount of the child support order may be decreased if the parent paying support is also financially responsible for children from another relationship.  It is still up to the court to make a change on any child support order.
I would like to spend more time with my child.  Can the LCSA change the visitation schedule?
No.  The LCSA only handles matters related to child support.  Custody and visitation issues must be addressed through the courts.  Every county has a Family Law Facilitator at the courthouse to provide child support information and assistance to parents.  Family Law Facilitators help parents obtain and complete court forms and all services provided are free of charge.
Must the children be covered by health insurance?
Yes.  Health insurance must be included in any child support order.  Even if it isn’t available immediately, the court order will order both parents to provide insurance when it does become available.  This applies to all cases.
I have tried speaking to someone about my child support case, but I am not getting my questions answered.  What can I do?

The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) continuously strives to ensure that individuals receive the highest level of service through the program’s 51 LCSAs.

If you are not satisfied with the customer service you received from the LCSA, you can speak to the LCSA Ombudsperson.  The Ombudsperson helps you resolve issues with your child support case, explains rights and responsibilities, and helps you get child support services.

For more information read PUB 253: How to Resolve Problems with Your Child Support Case.

How do I file a complaint against the local child support agency?
If you’re not satisfied with the assistance you are receiving from the LCSA, you have the right to file a complaint through the Complaint Resolution Program.  Either the party receiving support or the parent paying support may file a complaint with the LCSA.
Is there a phone number for the speech and hearing impaired?
For speech and hearing impaired customers, services are available through our TTY number, 1-866-399-4096.
I moved and live in another country.  What number do I call?
For international customers, the number is 1-408-273-0073.

Additional Questions

I still have questions.  What do I do?

Consult additional webpages:

You may also email a caseworker from within Customer Connect.