In 1975, the United States Congress created a national child support program. This federal effort required each state to set up an organization for the establishment and enforcement of child support orders. In return, the federal government provides states with much of the funding needed to operate the child support program. While the focus was initially on developing a program for recouping money states and counties paid to welfare recipients, the program also includes families who are owed support but who are not receiving any type of public assistance.

In California, the child support program is administered at the State level by the California Department of Child Support Services , but is operated at the county level. There is a Department of Child Support Services in every county in California. The San Mateo County Department of Child Support Services primarily serves children who reside in San Mateo County. The Department has approximately 14,000 child support cases, serves about 20,000 children, and collects roughly $30 million annually in child support. Approximately 93% of child support collections go directly to families, while the remainder is reimbursement for public assistance. (i.e. CalWORKS/Welfare, Foster Care, etc.)

You will probably encounter the term “IV-D” (pronounced “four dee”), as in “IV-D program” or “IV-D case.” This phrase comes from the location of the original legislation that created the child support program within Title “IV-D” of the Social Security Act. Not all child support cases involve the Department of Child Support Services. Many cases are handled by private attorneys or by the parents themselves with no governmental involvement. A child support matter becomes a IV-D case when the child and a parent receive public assistance OR a parent applies for services from their county Department of Child Support Services. Either parent may request that a case be opened by their county Department of Child Support Services.