How the Department of Child Support Services Can Help You

The DCSS can be an invaluable source of assistance in collecting child support.

Many parents don’t realize that the State of California has a robust system for assisting parents in collecting child support: the Department of Child Support Services. Every county has its own branch, including Sacramento. The easiest way to find your local branch is to simply do a Google search for “[your county] DCSS.”

It needs to be noted that the DCSS does not provide assistance with divorce, arranging visitation or custody, or any other issue directly or tangentially related to divorce. Its sole purpose is to make it easier for parents to collect child support. However, this focus does not make the DCSS any less indispensable, especially in situations where the other parent is fighting the order to pay child support, or has been otherwise uncooperative.

Here are a few key things you should know about the DCSS and the services it offers.

DCSS will help you get a child support order and enforce it for free.

You do not have to have a child support order in place in order to take advantage of DCSS’s services. In fact, one of its key services is to help you get a child support order in the first place.  Key pieces of information that the DCSS will need about the non-custodial parent include:

  • Social Security Number;
  • Employer’s address;
  • Home address;
  • Date of birth;
  • And information about prior court orders.

DCSS will also want additional information and items, such as a copy of your pay stub and whether you’re receiving assistance from CalWORKs or not.

DCSS will automatically open a case if you receive state assistance or cash aid.

If a parent with custody is receiving benefits from Medi-Cal or CalWorks, or is receiving cash assistance from programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the California Department of Human Assistance will automatically notify the DCSS and ask them to open a new child support case.

If you are not receiving such assistance, you can open a child support case through the California DCSS online application.

DCSS can garnish wages and seize tax returns.

State law (as well as federal law) requires all child support orders to include a provision for wage garnishment. As a consequence, DCSS can automatically garnish wages unless the court approves an alternative arrangement, which typically only happens if the paying parent is extremely trustworthy and consistent about paying child support.

The DCSS can garnish up to 50% of the parent’s wages, unless the court mandates a different amount. There is little cause for worry if the paying parent has other wage garnishments in effect, as child support garnishments take precedence over almost all other types of wage withholding.

In some instances, the DCSS will also collect and pay spousal support.

In cases where there are court orders for both child support and alimony, DCSS will collect both at the same time. The DCSS will also collect spousal support if the paying parent lives in a state that has child support laws that provide for the collection of spousal support as well.

However, the DCSS will not collect spousal support if there isn’t a standing order for child support.

The DCSS is not a replacement for a family law attorney.

The DCSS is not equipped to fight for you like an attorney would. In a situation where the other parent is self-employed, has irregular income, or is simply difficult to deal with, you will likely need the assistance of an attorney to successfully collect child support.

A good family law attorney can also help you navigate the DCSS system and get the proper paperwork in order, which can complicated and confusing on occasion.

If you need additional assistance with the DCSS or need advice on your specific child custody situation, we invite you to contact us through our site’s contact form, or by calling us directly at (916) 400-4516.