The Obligor Parent and the Child Support Process

Obligor parents, or parents who currently do not have primary physical custody of their children, have an important role in the child support process. This section helps explain their role and answers some of the most commonly asked questions by obligor parents.

San Mateo County DCSS role is to provide the following services and guide the obligor parent through these processes.

Establish Paternity

If paternity (fatherhood) has not yet been established, San Mateo County DCSS will take the necessary steps to establish paternity. (Paternity must be established before child and medical support can be ordered by the court.)

Establish a Support Order

If a court order for child support does not already exist, and the obligor parent is located, a support order will be sought by San Mateo County DCSS and established by the court based on both parent's ability to pay support, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and the financial needs of the child. San Mateo County DCSS will also request that the court require the obligor parent to provide health insurance for the child if it is available at a reasonable cost.

Enforcement of Support Order

San Mateo County DCSS will take steps to enforce court orders for child support and medical support. Enforcement action will be taken by San Mateo County DCSS if the obligor parent does not pay or pays less than the amount ordered, or if the obligor parent does not provide health insurance for the child as ordered by the court. San Mateo County DCSS will determine what type of enforcement action is to be taken, consistent with state and federal regulations.

When the Action for Child Support is Served

When the San Mateo County DCSS brings a legal action against the obligor parent for child support, he/she may discuss the matter with a San Mateo County DCSS representative by calling or visiting the San Mateo County DCSS. A telephone number and address is provided with the papers that are served on the obligor parent.

Remember, the San Mateo County DCSS's Attorney does not represent the obligor parent, custodial party, the children in the case, or any other individual. The Attorney represents the public interest in all cases.

The obligor parent has the right to be represented by a lawyer. For more information, contact a private attorney, a legal clinic or the San Mateo County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service.

A Child Support Judgment

A judgment by the court may be entered against the obligor parent unless she/he files a written answer (responsive pleading) with the clerk of the Superior Court within 30 days of when he/she was served with the summons and complaint papers (see the next topic). This will happen whether or not the obligor parent has a lawyer. If the obligor parent is served with a document stating the date of a court hearing, she/he must appear for a mandatory meet and confer conference the day of the hearing an hour before court at the San Mateo County DCSS office. If the obligor parent and custodial parent are unable to reach a stipulated agreement during the mandatory meet and confer conference, the obligor parent should appear in court. If the obligor parent does not show up, an order can still be entered.

If the obligor parent and the San Mateo County DCSS are able to reach an agreement regarding the requests made in the papers served, the obligor parent may handle the matter by signing an agreement called a stipulation. By signing a stipulation, the obligor parent is agreeing:

  • That he/she is the parent of the children;
  • That she/he is obligated to pay the amount of child support and provide the health insurance stated in the stipulation; and
  • That the court may enter an order or judgment based on the stipulation without further notice.

If a Responsive Pleading is Filed

If the obligor parent files an answer (responsive pleading), he/she has a right to a court hearing. The obligor parent also has the right to have the court determine how much she/he will have to pay for support. If the obligor parent (in this case an alleged father) denies that he is the father of the children, he has the right to request the court order paternity tests to determine if he is really the father.

Wage Assignments and Deductions for Health Insurance

All orders for child support must include a wage and earnings assignment requiring the obligor parent's employer to deduct child support payments from the obligor parent's salary or wages. An order to deduct health insurance premiums for the children may also be ordered.

Modification of Child Support Orders

The obligor parent can request that the San Mateo County DCSS review his/her case for modification. The amount of the child support order may be modified by increasing or decreasing the order or by requiring the obligor parent to provide health insurance for the children (See "Establish a Support Order" ; Notice of the Right to Request a Review). Based on financial and other information that both the custodial parent and obligor parent must provide, the San Mateo County DCSS will determine if a modification for a higher or lower amount is justified. Both parents will be informed of the San Mateo County DCSS's decision.

If the obligor parent is laid off, she/he should immediately notify the San Mateo County DCSS. The obligor parent can request a review for modification of the support order.

If the custodial parent allows the children to visit or live with the obligor parent on a long-term or permanent basis, the obligor parent should immediately take action to have his/her support order terminated or modified by the court. The obligor parent may request that the order be modified, but she/he should also contact the Local Child Support Agency to schedule an appointment to discuss the situation. As long as there is a current support order requiring the obligor parent to pay support, unless the obligor parent takes immediate action, he/she may be required to pay support even if the children are living with her/him. (See "Establish a Support Order"; Notice of the Right to Request a Review).

You can complete an Online Request for Modification and submit it to DCSS electronically.

Failure to Pay Child Support

Child support enforcement methods are explained on the page entitled "Enforcement of Support Orders".