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Child Support for Incarcerated Parents FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The Basics of Child Support for Incarcerated Parents
Taken from a pamphlet issued by Judicial Council of California

The California Family Code (sections 4050 – 4076) establishes a statewide guideline for child support. The amount of child support ordered by the court depends on:

  • Number of children
  • Percentage of time share with the children
  • Income, earnings, or earning capacity of each parent
  • Tax filing status
  • Support of children from other relationships
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Child care and uninsured health expenses
  • Other factors

The court will order that health insurance be maintained, if available, at no or reasonable cost through the employment of the parent(s). The court will also order, as additional child support, reasonable uninsured health-care costs and child-care costs related to employment or to education or training for employment.

The child support order may also include the cost of travel for visitation, educational expenses, and other special needs.

You must file the Answer to a Complaint or the Response to the Petition at the court clerk’s office within 30 days after you receive the papers, or a default judgment will be entered against you. You must pay the required filing fee or submit a completed Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs form with your papers. (Sending your Answer or Response to the child support agency without filing the original with the court clerk will not protect you.) You must have someone over 18 years old who is not a party to your case serve your Answer or Response on the other party and the local child support agency and file a Proof of Service with the court clerk.

If a default judgment for child support was based on a “presumed income,” you have one year from the date of the first collection of money by the local child support agency to file a Notice of Motion to Cancel (Set-Aside) Support Order Based on Presumed Income.

The court may, where appropriate, set aside the original support order and recalculate the guideline amount based on your actual income, or possibly your income earning ability, for the period of time for which a support judgment was entered.

If you are not successful in setting aside an order for child support, you may also seek to change the order by filing a Request for Order (form FL-300) for modification of child support.

You can contact the local child support agency (LCSA) to determine the interest and arrears (past due support). You may also file a request for a court hearing to determine the arrears and interest. In the meantime, you may also try to negotiate an acceptable payment plan with the LCSA.

The California Department of Child Support Services is the single state agency responsible for child support enforcement. The local offices in every county are called local child support agency (LCSA) or local Department of Child Support Services (DCSS).

Toll-free DCSS number: 1-866-249-0773
TDD: 1-866-223-8529

You can contact the ombudsperson of your local child support agency (LCSA), who can:

  • Help you resolve issues with your child support case,
  • Explain your rights and responsibilities, and
  • Tell you the ways you can get child support services.

Call 1-866-249-0773 (toll-free) to find the ombudsperson in the county handling your child support case.

Yes. You continue to owe the monthly child support plus 10 percent interest on any past-due support until the court changes the order. To change the child support amount, you must file a request for a court hearing.

NOTE: The court cannot change your child support retroactively. The earliest date the court may change your support order is the date you file your court papers or the date of your court hearing.

Court forms are available at every county court clerk’s office in California. Child support forms are also available at the Office of the Family Law Facilitator. Always provide a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want any forms to be mailed to you.

Court forms can be printed from the California Courts website

Yes. If you receive public assistance, have low income, or no income, you can ask the court to waive any court filing or copy fees by completing forms from the list of forms below.

You must contact the court clerk in the courthouse where your case is filed to get copies of your file.

Provide your name, the other party’s name, the type of case, the case number (if available), and the appropriate date of the court order or document requested. There is a photocopy charge unless you have no income or qualify as low income. Ask the court clerk for a fee waiver application form to waive this photocopy fee.

There are many different forms that you may use. Here are the typical forms you will need to fill out for each child support order you want to change:

Complete and sign (in black or blue ink) the above forms.

Make three (3) copies of each document. (Always keep one copy for your records!)

File your forms with the proper court in the county where you owe child support.

To file with the court by mail, send the original and two (2) copies to the court clerk, along with a self-addressed stamped return envelope and a cover letter asking the court clerk to file your forms.

When the court clerk returns the “Filed” stamped copy to you, find someone over 18 years old, and not a party in your case, to serve your documents. You cannot serve your own documents. There are two ways to serve documents: (1) by personal delivery, or (2) by first-class mail. The person who serves the documents must complete a Proof of Service and file it with the court clerk.

Most motions are to be served 16 court days prior to the hearing; plus an additional 5 calendar days if mailed.

Child support payments are usually court-ordered until the child reaches the age of 18 years and completes high school, or age 19 if the child is still in high school full time and not self-supporting. Disabled adult children may be entitled to be supported by both parents beyond this period.

Free self-help information is available from the Office of the Family Law Facilitator (FLF) in every county, where you can get help with child support, spousal support, and health insurance issues. The FLF can:

  • Provide educational materials.
  • Provide court forms.
  • Provide assistance with court forms.
  • Prepare guideline child support calculations.
  • Provide referrals to the local child support agency (LCSA), family court services, and other community agencies.

The FLF is not your attorney and does not represent either party. A FLF may assist both parties in the same case. The FLF is not responsible for the outcome of your case.

There is no attorney-client privilege and no confidential relationship between any person and the FLF.

You should contact your own attorney if you want personalized advice or strategy, a confidential conversation, or representation in court.

California Courts Free and Low Cost Legal Help 

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