How Child Support Is Charged
Current Child Support is the monthly amount of the court order. Current support is charged on the first day of each month. This must be paid by the last day in the month or the child support will be considered “past due.” If the monthly obligation is not paid it may result in enforcement actions and interest charges.
Past Due Support
Past Due Child Support is any child support that was not paid in the month it was due. Another word used to describe past due support is “arrears.” Arrears are subject to enforcement actions such as tax intercepts, bank levies and property liens. Enforcement on the arrears balance is automatic and will occur even if the current obligation is being paid voluntarily or by wage withholding.
Interest is charged on all California child support orders at the rate of 10% per year. It is calculated monthly based on the past due principal balance. Interest is a separate part of the arrears and interest charges do not compound (i.e. interest is not charged on the interest balance). Generally payments are applied to the principal balance before interest. We are required by law to charge interest on all cases.
When the interest is paid the payment will go to the custodial party unless he/she assigned the right to support. For more information, please see the section below: Receiving Public Assistance.
Under California Law, the Department of Child Support Services may enforce a spousal support obligation if it is included on an order for child support. Payments will be applied to child support before spousal support. We may continue to collect spousal support as long as a child support obligation is owed. Once the child support obligation is fully satisfied we will close the case.
The following actions must be requested through the court:
- Requests to establish an order for spousal support
- Requests to modify a spousal support order
- Enforcement of a “spousal support only” order
Receiving Public Assistance
When minor children receive public assistance the parent or guardian must “assign” the right to support. This means that child support is owed to the government instead of the custodial party. Child support is used to repay the public assistance received by the custodial party.
When child support is paid, the custodial party may receive the first $50 each month in addition to the public assistance grant. This payment is called a “disregard” payment because it is not used to determine eligibility for public assistance benefits. If the custodial party discontinues public assistance, he/she will receive the full amount of the monthly obligation when it is paid.
Direct Payments occur when the parent paying support gives money directly to the custodial party. This is not allowed when a case is open with the Department of Child Support Services as all payments must be made through the State Disbursement Unit. When direct payments are made, it can result in inappropriate enforcement actions and unnecessary work to update account balances.
If the custodial party accepts direct payments and is not receiving public assistance then the case may be closed due to non-cooperation.
If the custodial party is receiving public assistance, the non-custodial parent will not receive credit for direct payments. In addition, we may also notify the Human Services Agency of the non-cooperation which can result in a reduced grant.
When Child Support Ends
California law has various provisions that determine when the child support obligation will end. In general, child support continues until:
- The child becomes legally emancipated through marriage, military service or court order
- The child turns 18
- If the child is still in high school, child support will continue until the child completes high school or turns 19, whichever comes first
- The court may order child support to continue beyond the 18th birthday regardless of age or school enrollment in some cases
Fulltime Student Verification forms will be sent to the custodial party several months before the child turns 18. It is important that these forms be given to the school to complete and return them to our office. If we do not receive verification of school enrollment, we must stop charging child support in the month the child turns 18.
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