Raising a child is expensive. In fact, a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that the average middle class family would spend upwards of $240,000 to raise a child born in 2012 over the course of 17 years. Therefore, this financial commitment can be difficult without support from both parents. However, in order to obtain this support, you must first ensure you have all the relevant information about the application process. As Ventura’s premier non-attorney legal document self-help assistance service, A People’s Choice is ready and able to help guide you through the process of establishing your paternity and child support order in California.

Steps to Obtain a Paternity and Child Support Order in California

1. Establish Paternity – Voluntary vs. Court Ordered

The first step in establishing a child support order is establishing paternity, or fatherhood. A father may establish paternity through a voluntary admission by filing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) Form CS 909. Whenever a child is born in California and the parents are not married, the hospital will automatically ask both parents to sign this form before they leave the hospital. Then, the hospital provides both parents with a copy of the form and retains one on site.

A VDP is not a court order and does not legally confirm paternity. Instead, this confirmation requires a formal court process including filing a paternity petition. During this process, both parents sign a copy of the VDP. However, if the father disputes paternity, the court will require a paternity test to conclusively prove his fatherhood. The case cannot move forward without taking these steps.

If the father leaves the state before paternity is established, options are still available. For example, if the father is in another state but willing to take part in establishing paternity, he could still sign the VDP. Additionally, he also has the option to submit to genetic testing at his resident state’s branch of Child Support Services. On the other hand, if the father has left the state and the court cannot find him, they may still be able to prove paternity. In this case, the court could still enforce a child support order.

It is important to keep in mind that the court must establish paternity before issuing a child support order. However, custodial parents usually submit both of these issues to the court for determination at the same time.

2. Obtain a Child Support Order in Paternity Case

The next step in establishing child support is filing the necessary court documents to the order.  Typically, custodial parents file the motion for custody, visitation, and child support at the same time as the paternity petition. This may sound complicated; however, you do not need an attorney to establish a paternity and child support order. Instead, an experienced legal document assistant can easily complete these forms for a low fee.

Furthermore, even if you want to work through the California Department of Child Support Services, (CDCSS) you can fill out a packet of forms, including the FS-CSS-002, on your own. Plus, you can still seek help from a legal document assistant in filling out this paperwork. Ultimately, you must submit the completed forms to CDCSS, at which point the court system will start processing your claim.

3. Enforcement of the Child Support Order

Once you’ve established your California paternity and child support order, it can be enforced. For example, if you used a legal document assistant and obtained the child support order directly from the court, they can issue an automatic pay-over order. Under this order, child support is automatically withdrawn from the supporting parent’s paycheck and paid directly to the other parent. On the other hand, if the custodial parent obtained the order through DCSS, all payments will be filtered through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). Then, the SDU issues payments directly to the custodial parent via direct deposit, check, or Electronic Payment Card (EPC).

If the paying parent refuses to pay, the state has safeguards in place to compel him or her to do so. Under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), child support issued in one state is enforceable in another state. Furthermore, as a last resort, the court may take action against the non-paying parent. Such action may include garnishment of wages, suspension of a driver’s license, suspension of a passport, and more.

Help with Establishing Paternity and Child Support Orders in California

Governmental Help – CDCSS

The California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) is the central state government agency that handles the issuance and enforcement of child support orders. Throughout these processes, this agency will serve as the intermediary between the two parents. The CDCSS can help you find a parent, prove paternity, and establish, change, or enforce court ordered child support.

Professional Help – LDA

An alternative to using a governmental agency to help establish a paternity and child support order in California is enlisting the services of a California registered legal document assistant (LDA). Using an LDA to help you establish your paternity and child support order may be faster than a government agency. This quick action offers the custodial parent peace of mind with formal, legal custodial orders and child support payments.

With over 35 years of experience, A People’s Choice has a reputation for providing stress free non-attorney legal document services in Ventura County and throughout California. If you are considering pursuing paternity and child support in California, let A People’s Choice help you prepare the necessary documents. Contact us today to learn more.

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