Custodial Parties FAQs
What kind of information do you need to help me establish paternity when the alleged father (AF) will not cooperate?
We need as much information as possible about the alleged father (AF) including:
- Facts about the mother's relationship with him, her pregnancy and the child's birth;
- Whether or not the alleged father ever provided any money for the child;
- Whether or not the alleged father ever admitted in any way that the child was his (for example: through letters or gifts);
- A picture of the alleged father with the child, if available;
- Any information from others who can confirm the mother and alleged father's relationship;
- His home and business address and social security number;
- Names and addresses of his previous employers;
- Whether or not the child was conceived in California, and if the child ever lived in California
What if he denies he is the father, or says he's not sure?
Paternity may be determined after genetic (DNA) tests are conducted with the mother, the child and the alleged father. Test results are available in approximately two weeks. The tests exclude men who are not the father and indicate the likelihood of paternity of a man who is not excluded. Genetic tests are very reliable, which is why so few paternity cases go to trial.
Despite the genetic tests, the alleged father still says he is not the father. Will the case be closed?
No. If the DNA tests show that it is likely that he is the father, the matter will be set for a hearing and paternity will be decided.
What happens if the father leaves the state before paternity is established?
If the alleged father is found and served a formal complaint, the local court will make a decision on the paternity question. At the same time, a court order to pay child support may be issued. This order can be enforced by any state. However, enforcement may take longer when the non-custodial parent lives outside of California.
Why should paternity be established if the father has no money to support the child?
When the father starts working, he will be able to support the child. Establishing paternity as soon as possible will make collecting child support easier later on.
There are other benefits to establishing paternity, such as, legal documentation of who the child(ren)’s parents are, access to family medical records, medical and life insurance coverage from either parent, inheritance rights, Social Security and Veteran's benefits, and the emotional benefits to the child of knowing who both parents are.
What happens after paternity is established?
Once paternity is established, San Mateo County DCSS will establish a support order, in most cases.
Can paperwork be filed to establish paternity while the mother is pregnant, before the child is born?
No. We cannot accept applications for services from pregnant women until after the child is born.
How do you serve the Alleged Father/Non-custodial Parent (AF/NCP)?
The AF/NCP is served with a summons and complaint; by personal service or substitute service. Personal service is when the AF/NCP is served personally and substitute service occurs when a legal adult residing in the same home or the employer accepts service on AF/NCP’s behalf. Substituted service can only be executed after three (3) attempts have been made to personally serve the AF/NCP.
How long does it take to establish a court order?
Every case has different circumstances. It depends on location information available on the AF/NCP, court date availability, and the cooperation of both parties. The average order can take three to six months to establish.
What if the Alleged Father (AF)/Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) doesn’t cooperate and provide financial information?
Information that you provide regarding the AF/NCP’s earning ability will be considered as well as information that we are able to obtain using our data sources.
I don’t want anything to do with my child’s father, why do I have to have a child support order?
If you or your children are receiving cash aid from the State of California, an order will be pursued. If you are not currently receiving cash aid, the decision as to whether you want current child support is yours to make. You may send a written request to our office asking the San Mateo County DCSS not to proceed with the child support order. If you are receiving Medi-Cal only, with no cash aid, we must obtain a health insurance order. However, we will not pursue a child support order, unless you specifically request one.
We are back together and I don’t need a child support order. What should I do?
You must send a letter to San Mateo County DCSS stating you no longer want child support included in the order. Include your name and address. If public assistance has been expended, the state will pursue an order for the time it was expended.
What does it mean to "cooperate" with the San Mateo County DCSS?
To "cooperate" means you must provide San Mateo County DCSS any information or documents needed to establish paternity and/or locate the other parent in order to get support payments for your child.
If you are receiving CalWORKS and/or Medi-Cal and you do not cooperate with us, you must have "good cause" for not doing so. "Good cause" means you must have a legally acceptable reason for not cooperating with the San Mateo County DCSS—such as the probability of physical or emotional harm to you or your children if paternity and/or child support is pursued. If you feel you have “good cause” for not cooperating, you must advise your CalWORKS worker immediately to initiate the appropriate paperwork.
I know the NCP will sign a Paternity Affidavit. Can you send me one?
No, you need to come to our office with the NCP to complete the form. A San Mateo County DCSS representative will provide the necessary forms and witness the signing of the documents.
His name is on the birth certificate. Why do we need to have paternity established?
Before 1/1/97, in the State of California, having the father’s name on a birth certificate did not establish paternity. After 1/1/97, paternity must have been established by the father signing the paternity declaration where it was administered, in order for his name to be put on the birth certificate.
What if he doesn’t show up for genetic testing?
If the alleged father (AF) has (1) been served with a summons and complaint, (2) stipulates to genetic testing, and (3) there is no answer on file, a default order may be entered for paternity and child support. If a default order is established, the NCP has to set aside the default judgment starting from the time. Two years from the date the PEF (Previously Established Father) knew or should have known of a judgment that established him as the father or within 2 years of the date the PEF knew or should have known of the existence of an action to establish paternity, whichever is first.
How long does it take to get genetic testing results?
Results are available in two to four weeks after genetic tests have been administered. A copy of the results are mailed to the alleged father. Only positive results are mailed to the custodial parent. If the results are negative, the custodial parent is required to come into the office to view the results and picture of the alleged father (AF) and asked to give a name of another AF to pursue.
If the Alleged Father (AF)/Non Custodial Parent (NCP) is in jail or prison, will you still be able to establish a court order for support?
No, in most circumstances, the child support will be set to $0.00 and reviewed once the AF/NCP is out of jail. San Mateo County DCSS will pursue an order for paternity and/or health insurance will be obtained in this circumstance.
Do I have to allow him to see the child if I have an order established?
Child support and visitation are separate issues. Check with your attorney or contact the Family Law Facilitator (FLF) for assistance.
My children’s father has just filed for bankruptcy. Will this affect my child support payments?
As a general rule, bankruptcy will not affect the collection of an existing child or spousal support order, but it may affect the collection of arrears; therefore it is very important that you forward any bankruptcy information/documentation to us immediately. We are required to file a Proof of Claim with the bankruptcy court. Child support is not a dischargeable debt, therefore all support and past-due support will remain due after the bankruptcy terminates.
Since the San Mateo County DCSS is enforcing the support obligation, can they also enforce visitation rights that are contained in the court order?
No. By law, we have no authority to become involved in visitation issues. Issues concerning visitation and/or custody are independent from the issue of child support. Contact the Family Law Facilitator(FLF) for assistance.
Does San Mateo County DCSS seek jail time for NCPs who miss payments?
Yes. San Mateo County DCSS uses civil actions to enforce the payment of child support. Our primary goal is to collect the child support for the children. However, if an NCP has demonstrated that he/she will not pay child support, then the case may be reviewed for a civil contempt.
How do you get an NCP to pay child support if he or she is not fully reporting income or hiding assets?
Collection of support in these types of situations is very difficult. However, the San Mateo County DCSS may be successful in making collections regardless. The department has access to a number of data sources to assist in verifying the NCP's income and assets. Using these sources, it is often possible for us to obtain and enforce an order consistent with the NCP’s true ability to pay. Whatever information you can provide about the NCP’s employment, salary, bank accounts, real or personal property, and the like, will be very useful in helping us collect child support.
Why does it take so long for me to receive child support when it is deducted from the NCP’s paycheck?
There could be several reasons for delays in collection of support. (A) While the employer may make weekly or bi-weekly deductions for child support from the NCP’s paycheck, the employer may not actually remit the payment until the end of the month. (B) Sometimes employers fail to properly identify the check with the appropriate case number or ID and this often causes delays in posting while we work to obtain the information necessary to process the payment. (C) In other situations, the employer’s payroll department is in another state. And lastly, when the collections are in a reciprocal matter, meaning a matter being handled out-of-state or out-of-country by two child support agencies rather than one, it can cause further delays.
Can you tell me if the NCP’s tax refund will be taken for back child support?
If the NCP was certified as owing arrears, his/her tax refund should be intercepted when the NCP files. You must remember that we cannot force the NCP to file taxes.
The obligor parent has files a tax return and is getting a refund. Will I get a portion of the obligor's refund?
Your case may fit the criteria for offset, if the obligor parent owes past due support. Automatic offset submissions are submitted weekly. The criteria for submission are as follows:
- Active IV-D case
- No good cause
- Must have or have had a valid court order
- Balance at the end of the previous month must be greater then or equal to $25
- Social Security number is verified
- Once a year an obligor parent will receive a Child Support Warning Notice (CSWN) indicating that DCSS will use any collection method authorized under state or federal law, including, but not limited to, Federal and State Tax refunds, etc.
The NCP lives in another state. Will the tax refund be intercepted?
Yes. If the case meets the criteria for Federal Tax offset the tax refund will be intercepted. The money is first sent to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement and then to the state that submitted the offset.
How will the tax refund apply when received?
Tax refunds are applied based on federal rules for distribution. The welfare balances, if any, may be paid before non-welfare balances. It will depend on the amount of the tax refund and the case type as to whether the CP will receive any funds. We will be able to give you more detailed information once the offset has been received.
Why is it taking so long to get the money from his/her tax refund? I know they were taken.
San Mateo County DCSS has no way of knowing when the offset will be sent to us. Once the tax refund is received, however, it is distributed immediately. If the tax refund is a joint refund, the funds have to be held for 6 months prior to distribution to allow the joint filer to make an injured spouse claim. We are unable to distribute joint refunds any earlier than 6 months.
Why is it taking so long for the other state to respond back about my child support case?
When there are two states involved with a child support case you must allow more time for the two states to work together. Federal regulations allow the other state 30 days to respond or provide our state with any information receipt of our request. If a prior status request has not been sent, and it is appropriate, one will be generated to the other state asking for status on the request.
Can I contact the other state?
No. The responding state requests that contact be received from our office. We will advise them of any information that you provide, or request the status of your case for you.
I am applying for CalWORKS and/or Medi-Cal. Do I have to personally ask the other parent for child support?
No, San Mateo County DCSS will contact the noncustodial parent. As a condition of eligibility for CalWORKS and/or Medi-Cal, you must cooperate with us in getting child support and/or medical support from the other parent by providing as much information about the NCP as you can.
If you cannot find the noncustodial parent, does that mean I cannot get CalWORKS or Medi-Cal benefits?
No. As long as you have cooperated with the San Mateo County DCSS, CalWORKS payments and Medi-Cal benefits will be available to you while we attempt to find the noncustodial parent.
As soon as the other parent is notified about enforcement, he/she moves. How will I ever be able to collect child support?
It is difficult to enforce child support payments when the other parent continually moves to avoid paying. You can help your case if, whenever you learn that the other parent has moved or has a new job, you provide this information to the San Mateo County DCSS as soon as possible.
Since October 1, 1998 all newly hired or rehired employees are reported to a state New Employee Registry and are forwarded to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) within 20 days of hire. The reports are then matched against all known case and member records throughout the entire United States. Therefore, if the other parent moves to another state and gains employment in that state within 30 days, the NDNH will notify all other states that have a case against the other parent. Once notified, the local DCSS, under state and federal guidelines, must obtain a wage assignment within a very short time frame.
Federal legislation (the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992) now enables criminal prosecution of a non-custodial parent if that parent lives in another state, territory or possession of the U.S., and if the case meets certain other criteria. The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 strengthens the previous 1992 legislation in regard to interstate cases of non-support, or interstate flight, to avoid a support obligation.
I have a California child support order. The non-custodial parent now lives in New Mexico. I know he/she still has land and other assets in California. Can you help me collect on the past due amount?
Yes. The fact that the non-custodial parent now lives somewhere else does not prevent the San Mateo County DCSS from reaching his/her assets in California.
I have a California support order. The non-custodial parent now lives in Texas. I asked my local DCSS to help me collect support. Now the judge in that state lowered the payment amount. Is that legal?
No. Two federal laws known as the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) allow only one state to retain jurisdiction of a child support case. Therefore, as long as the order was issued in California, and California retains jurisdiction, the court of the other state cannot modify the order.
Can paternity be established for my child if the father lives in another state?
Yes. But it is difficult to establish paternity across state lines because the laws in most states are different. Frequently, genetic tests will be ordered to help the court in the other state determine paternity. Parents residing in different states can voluntarily acknowledge paternity. Also, all states must honor paternity established in another state.
What should I do if I am planning to move to another state?
You must ALWAYS inform the local DCSS every time you move, whether you move across the street, to another state or to another country. They will tell you what you need to do to make sure you still receive child support services in your new location.
Does DCSS represent either parent?
The DCSS does not represent either parent or the child (ren) and its attorneys are not your attorneys. Because you are not a legal client, the information you provide is not confidential under the attorney/client privilege. Parents have the right to seek legal advice from a private attorney or legal aid group at their own expense, or the county family law facilitator.