Child Support Process
Enforcement of Support Orders
The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) strives to make sure that child support payments are regularly made and in the correct amount and that health insurance, if ordered, is provided for the child. Enforcement measures will be taken when a Parent Paying Support (PPS) fails to make their ordered payments for child support.
In reviewing the file to determine the best method of enforcement, the Department of Child Support Services' first concern is establishing a regular payment plan for current support. Collection of arrearages (past-due support) is the secondary concern. The most common and effective method of enforcement is by mandatory wage withholding. If this method does prove ineffective for any case, then the Department of Child Support Services has alternative methods of enforcing a support order. The best method of enforcement is selected based on all the information in the case including the income of the Parent Paying Support (PPS), and what kind of assets they have.
Mandatory Wage Withholding
State law requires that child support payments be withheld from the paycheck of the Parent Paying Support (PPS) from the time that child support is ordered. The earnings of the Parent Paying Support (PPS) will be withheld unless he/she can:
- Show good cause as to why it should not be done, or
- Have an alternative arrangement with the Department of Child Support Services and the Parent/Party Receiving Support (PRS). Good cause and alternative arrangements concerning earning assignments are specified in state law in Family Code § 5260.
The employer of the Parent Paying Support (PPS) is served with a court order or a Notice of Assignment to Withhold a specified amount of current support and back child support, with instructions to send the wages to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) for distribution. Once a wage assignment is served, the employer must honor it as long as the Parent Paying Support (PPS) remains employed.
An employer may not take more than 50% of the disposable earnings of the Parent Paying Support (PPS) unless ordered to do so by the court. The wage assignment order has priority over any other withholding order against the Parent Paying Support (PPS).
Health Insurance Coverage Assignment
A Health Insurance Coverage Assignment (HICA) or Notice of HICA is a method of enforcement for medical support that requires the employer (or other person providing health insurance to the Parent Paying Support (PPS)) of the Parent Paying Support (PPS) to enroll the child(ren) in the parent's health insurance plan. The HICA also authorizes the employer to deduct the cost of the health care premiums from the earnings of the Parent Paying Support (PPS). The employer is instructed to notify the Department of Child Support Services of any lapse or change in the health insurance coverage. Changes can be made to the HICA administratively without going back to court. If the employer notifies the Department of Child Support Services of a change of health plan or lapse in coverage, the Department of Child Support Services will then determine if the Parent Paying Support (PPS) has a new employer/health plan. If so, the Department of Child Support Services will serve that employer/health plan with the Notice of HICA that has the same force and effect as the court ordered HICA.
Personal Property Lien
A judgment lien on personal property is a lien on all interests in that property that are subject to enforcement of a money judgment, such as accounts receivable, equipment, inventory, chattel paper, farm products, and negotiable documents of title. The lien continues on the proceeds received upon the sale, collection or other disposition of the property subject to the lien.
Real Property Lien
The Department of Child Support Services will record support orders and judgments with the county recorder to create a lien against any real property in that county in which a Parent Paying Support (PPS) has or acquires an interest. Any action by the Parent Paying Support (PPS) to sell or refinance is prevented unless the lien is satisfied in full, or other arrangements are made with the Department of Child Support Services.
Franchise Tax Board (FTB) Child Support Collection Program
State regulations require the Department of Child Support Services to refer delinquent child support obligations to the FTB for collection. The Department of Child Support Services may also refer current child support obligations to the FTB for collection. The FTB collects delinquent child support in the same manner and with the same force and effect as they are authorized to use in the collection of state personal income taxes. The system sorts through more than 200 million records to locate an individual's assets. Once assets are found, levies are issued that can attach wages, bank accounts (such as checking, savings, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Keogh), rents, royalties, dividends and commissions. The FTB can also seize both real and personal property such as vacant land, cash, safe deposit boxes, vehicles and boats.
Other Enforcement Techniques
Other child support enforcement techniques include: liens, federal and state income tax refund intercepts, unemployment and state disability intercepts, lottery intercepts, writs of execution, contempt proceedings, suspension of professional licenses, driver's licenses and recreational licenses and also credit approval risk. Specific examples of techniques that may be used are:
(Refer to "Child Support Program Glossary" for further description.)
- Internal Revenue Service Tax Refund Intercept System
- Franchise Tax Board Tax Refund Intercept System
- Unemployment Insurance Benefit Intercept System
- Disability Insurance Benefit Intercept System
- Lottery Winners Intercept
- Credit Report System
- Passport Denial System
- Financial Management Services Intercept
- State Licensing Match System
- New Hire Registry
- Financial Institutions Data Match
- Statewide Utility Match System
- Assets Match Program
- Workers Compensation Appeals Board Match System
- Board of Equalization Sales and Use Tax Intercept System
- Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Match
- Support Order Registry