Enforcing

a Court Order

One of the primary functions of the Child Support Service Department (CSSD) is to enforce (collect) child support, family support and spousal support. In most cases we enforce current child support, family support and spousal support only until the child reaches the age of majority (AOM) or emancipates by law. The AOM in California is eighteen (18). However, if a child becomes 18 years old and is still a full time high school student, the current child support order continues until the date the child graduates or becomes nineteen (19) years old, whichever occurs first. A child may emancipate before the age of 18 by marrying, joining the armed forces, or by court order.

We enforce child support and family support arrears (past-due support) until they are paid in full. However, we enforce spousal support arrears only if we are also enforcing child support or family support arrears.

There are many enforcement tools we can use to collect support. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) is issued in every case we enforce. If the Person Paying Support (PPS) has a job, the IWO is sent to his or her employer. The employer automatically deducts the monthly support payments from the PPS’s wages. If the PPS is self-employed or works for cash, other enforcement tools are used to collect support. It is important to remember that every case is unique; what works for one case may not work for others. What follows are brief descriptions of some of the enforcement tools commonly used by CSSD.

The State License Suspension and Revocation Program, also known as the State Licensing Match System (SLMS), is used to collect payments towards support orders. When a Person Paying Support (PPS) does not pay support as ordered, the California Department of Child Support Services is required to report the PPS to California licensing boards. The State of California will deny permanent state-issued driver, business and professional licenses (for example: cosmetologist, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney) to PPSs who owe arrears and apply for a license or a renewal.

When there is a license match, the licensing boards immediately send the PPS a Notice of Intent to Suspend License. The licensing boards issue a temporary license valid for 150 days (if all other licensing requirements are met). The PPS has those 150 days to Contact Us to make arrangements to pay the arrears. If no arrangements are made, the PPS’s application for issuance or renewal is denied.

Arrangements to pay the arrears can be made at any of our public contact offices. If the PPS is unable to reach an agreement with us, he or she can request a court hearing. The Office of the Family Law Facilitator can assist with that request.

Child support agencies are required to report Person's Paying Support (PPS) who owe arrears, to the federal government. If a PPS owes more than $2,500 in arrears he or she is entered into the Passport Denial Program (PDP). The U.S. State Department will not issue or renew a passport to a person who has been placed in the PDP. PPSs who have been placed in the PDP can only be removed from the program if:

  • The PPS was submitted in error
  • Arrears are paid in full
  • A member of the PPS’s immediate family has a life threatening illness and lives outside the United States (subject to proof)
  • A member of the PPS’s immediate family died or is close to death outside the United States (subject to proof)
  • The PPS filed a petition for bankruptcy protection (under limited circumstances)
  • A foreign government requests extradition

A PPS should Contact Us to make arrangements to pay arrears in full or if any of the above conditions apply.

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is authorized to assist in the collection of arrears by taking money from accounts held in financial institutions. These accounts may include bank accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts, and financial securities.

DCSS may submit a Person Paying Support (PPS) for bank levy even if he or she is making payments on arrears. DCSS sends a withholding order to the financial institution asking for the full amount of the arrears. The institution must transmit all available funds, up to the full amount, to the State Disbursement Unit.

If the PPS has been making support payments and is deemed to be “compliant,” the first $3,500 in his or her bank account is exempt from the withholding order and will not be taken. A compliant PPS can also file a claim, based solely on hardship, requesting that all or a portion of the amount over $3,500 be exempt.

PPSs who need assistance with a bank levy can contact our Customer Contact Center at (866) 901-3212.

The Child Support Services Department (CSSD) records support orders and judgments with the County Recorder's Office to create a lien against real property in any California county in which a PPS has or acquires an interest. Once the lien is filed, the PPS cannot sell or refinance that property unless arrears are paid in full, or other arrangements are made with CSSD. For more information, see Title Companies.

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) reports all Person Paying Support (PPS) who owe arrears, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). These agencies intercept PPS's federal and state income tax refunds to pay arrears. The IRS and the FTB send the intercepted refunds to the State Disbursement Unit. The IRS and FTB notify the PPS by mail of any tax refund intercept.

DCSS sends the PPS a Pre-Offset Notice prior to an intercept. If the PPS disagrees with the intercept, he or she should Contact Us immediately.

When a PPS files a tax return jointly with a current spouse, the entire amount of the tax refund can be intercepted. However, the spouse many file an "Injured Spouse” claim form with the IRS or send a letter to the FTB requesting “innocent spouse” relief. In either case, the spouse must explain why he or she should receive his or her portion of the tax refund. The IRS and FTB will determine if an amount should be refunded to the spouse. IRS intercepts may be held from distribution to the custodial party for up to six (6) months during this process. In some cases arrears are owed to the State for aid paid to the family. In those cases, money intercepted from a federal tax refund will be used to pay those arrears first.

If you are a PPS who disputes that arrears are owed or you dispute the amount of the arrears you owe, Contact Us.

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) submits account status information to Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) on a monthly basis. The CRAs include TRANS UNION, EXPERIAN, EQUIFAX (CBI), and INNOVIS. The information provided includes arrears (past due support) owed and payment history. If you are a PPS concerned about the information reflected on your credit report, please Contact Us.

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) submits information regarding Persons Paying Support (PPS) who owe arrears, to the Employment Development Department (EDD) on an ongoing basis. The EDD can withhold up to 25% of a PPS’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) to collect unpaid child support obligations. The amount withheld can exceed the current child support order amount and may be applied toward arrears.

If you believe the amount being withheld is too high, you should Contact Us to see if other arrangements can be made.

When a Person Paying Support (PPS) has a Workers’ Compensation claim, a portion of the benefits he or she receives can be collected for current support and arrears. An Income Withholding Order (IWO) can be used to collect up to 25% of ongoing (sometimes called recurring) temporary disability benefits. An IWO can also be used to collect 25% of any lump sum temporary disability benefits.

We can also file a lien against any compensation awarded to the PPS by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). The lien is filed for all arrears that accumulated from the date the PPS was injured forward. If you are a PPS who disputes the amount of the lien, please Contact Us.

Lottery winnings owed by the State of California to a Person Paying Support (PPS) are automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit to pay arrears. If you are a PPS who disputes that arrears are owed or the amount of the arrears, please Contact Us.

The law requires that all court orders for child support include an Income Withholding Order (IWO). The local child support agency (LCSA) sends the IWO to the Person Paying Support (PPS) employer. The employer must deduct the amount specified in the order and send it directly to the State Disbursement Unit. The employer may not take more than fifty percent (50%) of the PPS’s net earnings (after taxes).

Self-employed PPSs are obligated to deduct the child support amount from their wages as indicated in the IWO.

If you are a PPS who disputes the amount on the IWO, please Contact Us.

The Child Support Services Department (CSSD) can assist in enforcing or modifying private orders. A private order is an order for support that was not obtained by CSSD or another local child support agency (LCSA), e.g., a dissolution (divorce) or private paternity action.

All orders for support enforced by CSSD must be payable through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). This allows us to maintain an accurate payment history. CSSD sends a Declaration of Support Payment History to the Person Receiving Support (PRS) to report any payments that were received before CSSD began enforcing the order.

An Order from a Court in Los Angeles County

If the order was already made payable to the SDU, CSSD can immediately begin to enforce the order.

If the order was made payable to one of the parents, CSSD has to file a Notice Regarding Payment of Support (NRPS) with the court and send a copy to the parents. This notifies the Person Paying Support (PPS) to send all future support payments to the SDU .

An Order from Another California County

Orders from other counties have case numbers that are not recognized in Los Angeles County. To enforce those orders, CSSD must notify the Los Angeles County courts that the case will now be heard in Los Angeles and obtain a Los Angeles County court number. That process is called “Registration.” If the original order is not already payable to the SDU, CSSD must also file a NRPS .

An Order from Another State (aka: Foreign Order)

Orders from other states also have case numbers that are not recognized in Los Angeles County. There are specific rules that govern the enforcement of a court order from other states. See Out-of-State. It is not always necessary to “register” an out-of-state order to enforce it. However, if CSSD determines that the order must be registered, we will file a Registration of Foreign Support Order (ROFO) with the court and will send a copy to the parties.

A civil contempt proceeding can be filed if a Person Paying Support (PPS) knows about his or her child support obligation and has the ability and means to pay the obligation, but refuses to do so. If the judicial officer decides that the PPS is in contempt, the PPS can be sentenced to jail time in addition to being required to pay the missed support payments.

A Contempt action can also be filed against an employer who fails to honor an Income Withholding Order (IWO) or National Medical Support Notice (NMSN).

Under authority granted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney, our office criminally prosecutes Persons Paying Support (PPS) who fail or refuse to provide support even though they have the ability to pay. This happens when other civil remedies, such as wage assignment, license revocation, bank levies, and civil contempt, are unsuccessful. Although a defendant in a criminal case may face up to a year in jail, the primary goal of criminal prosecution is not incarceration. Instead, the purpose is to compel the defendant to make ongoing timely monthly child support payments. Criminal prosecution is particularly useful in cases where the defendant is self-employed or working for cash. A Public Defender can be appointed to represent a PPS who cannot afford an attorney.

In some cases, the Child Support Services Department (CSSD) can file a Writ of Execution with the court. The Writ directs a person or entity holding personal property, bank accounts or other assets owned in whole or in part by a Person Paying Support (PPS) to turn those assets over to CSSD. Writs are obtained for arrears owed, and not for future amounts.

Under California law, the judicial officer can order an unemployed parent who is not paying court-ordered child support to seek work. The judicial officer can make this order if, due to his or her unemployment, the PPS has not paid for more than 90 days and the PPS has proven ability to be employed and remains employable. Failure to comply with the seek work order can result in a citation for contempt and include jail time for each finding of contempt.

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