Opening a Case
Q: Who is eligible for your services?
A: Any custodial or non-custodial parent may open a case in our office. If you are currently receiving benefits from CalWORKs, Department of Social Services (DSS) must refer your case to us and a case will be opened on your behalf.
Q: I am not receiving CalWORKs; how do I apply for your services?
A: You can call our office to have the forms sent to you through the mail. Our toll-free phone number is 1-866-901-3212. Our street address is on our Contacts page.
Q: What is the cost of your services?
A: Our services are free. We charge no fee nor do we retain any of the money we collect. We are funded by state and federal incentive monies.
Q: What sort of documentation or information will I need to open the case?
A: The most important piece of information is the non-custodial parent's Social Security number; it is key to accessing locate sources. Also important is information regarding the non-custodial parent's employment, home and work addresses, date of birth, any prior court order information and, if you're not receiving CalWORKs, a copy of your paystub. The more information you supply in your application, the quicker we will be able to proceed.
Q: How long will it take to open a case?
A: Within twenty days of receipt of a completed application or welfare referral we will open a case, we will start verifying information received, such as addresses and employment information, and mail a case opening letter to the custodial and non-custodial parent.
Q: Will you open a case for spousal support only?
A: We only collect spousal support obligations when child support is also ordered in the court order or if the non-custodial parent resides in another state and the only way to enforce the obligation is to open a case in our office.
Q: My children and I are receiving CalWORKs benefits, but I did not apply for your services. Why was a case opened?
A: If you are receiving benefits from the CalWORKs program, State and Federal law require recipients to participate in the child support program. The Department of Social Services office must send us a referral to notify us to open a case to establish parentage and child support for the child(ren) receiving the benefits. When you are approved for these benefits, your rights to child support are assigned to the county for the time period you are on aid. The Department of Child Support Services is charged with the duties to establish and enforce a parentage, child support and Health Insurance Coverage Assignment order in order to reimburse the money paid to you.
Q: The non-custodial parent and I already have an agreement regarding child support. Why are you pursuing them?
A: This office must legally establish parentage and child support in a court order for children receiving welfare benefits. An agreement, even a notarized agreement, is not an enforceable court order, which is what we are required to pursue.
Q: If I discontinue from CalWORKs, will you close your case?
A: We will continue to collect child support on your behalf unless you request in writing that we close the non-welfare portion of your case. Even if we do close your non-welfare portion of the case, we will continue to pursue for the child support owed for the time period you were receiving CalWORKs benefits.
Q: How long before I start receiving child support payments?
A: It varies from case to case depending on the information provided and the cooperation from the non-custodial parent.
Q: How do you locate the non-custodial party?
A: This office has several resources to locate the non-custodial party. We use the following locate sources to find addresses and employment information: Employment Development Department (EDD), IRS/FTB, credit reporting agencies, DMV, local and state criminal records and the California and Federal Parent Locator Service (CPLS and FPLS).
Q: What locate information are you looking for?
A: We are looking for the non-custodial parent's home and work addresses, employer, date of birth and Social Security number, assets and if they have other children to legally support.
Q: I received a Summons and Complaint; what does this mean?
A: State and Federal laws require us to legally establish parentage, child support and a Health Insurance Coverage Assignment for the child(ren) listed on the Complaint. You must respond by filing an Answer with the Fresno County Superior Court Clerk's office within thirty days of service. If you do not file an Answer, a Default Judgment will be filed based upon the Proposed Judgment included in your Summons and Complaint packet.
Q: I disagree with the child support amount, or one of the terms, set in the Proposed Judgment. What do I do?
A: You must file an Answer with the Fresno County Superior Court Clerk's office. A court date will then be set and the issues resolved there.
Q: How did you arrive at this child support amount?
A: The child support amount is based upon the information you provide to us prior to the filing of the Summons and Complaint (i.e. health insurance coverage costs, union dues, etc.), and the information in the case. This includes the information we receive from the Employment Development Department regarding your work history and the amount of child support for other children you may have for whom you pay child support through our office. This information is inputted into a state designed and approved computer program Dissomaster (copy is attached to the Proposed Judgment in your packet) which indicates the income and deductions given to arrive at the amount of child support.
Q: A child support order exists and an account is open, so where is my money?
A: We will mail you a payment within two days from the day we receive the payment. To collect a child support obligation, we need to know where the non-custodial parent is working. We will then serve a Wage Assignment so that the obligation is automatically deducted from their wages. If you know where the non-custodial parent is working, please inform us via mail or phone, and we will serve a Wage Assignment.
Q: How do I get my child support modified?
A: We will review your court order for modification only if: 1) it is at least 24 months old AND; 2) the order has not been reviewed by this office within the last 12 months AND; 3) The basis for any decrease is anticipated to last more than 6 months. If you believe your case meets these requirements and would like to start the review process, please telephone, fax, or drop-by our office to submit your request to start the modification review process. WARNING! This review may result in either an increase or decrease in your support amount depending on the circumstances of both parents. ONCE YOU HAVE RETURNED THE APPLICATION FOR REVIEW, THE PROCESS WILL NOT BE TERMINATED REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOUR ORDER WILL BE INCREASED OR DECREASED. In other words, as the payor, you may expect your obligation to decrease but when the guidelines are calculated and it is actually increased, we will proceed with the increase. You may also seek a modification on your own behalf pursuant to California Family Code Section 3651.
Q: Your county has started collecting from my job by wage assignment, and now FTB has served an earnings withholding order at 50% - can I get this reduced?
A: Yes, if appropriate. We will confirm that your employer is deducting the child support from your paycheck according to the court order on your case(s) and then the FTB 50% deduction can be reviewed for possible reduction or withdrawal. FTB does, however, request that their order stay in place for two months. After two months, we can review to reduce or lift their assignment as long as the county and/or private order(s) are being honored by your employer.
Note: If you have multiple cases in this county or cases in more than one county, the transaction may be more complex. Please advise how many biological children you are currently paying for, their ages, where you pay, and monthly amounts when you contact our office.
Q: I am paying for the same child(ren) in another county. I am already paying your office by wage assignment and the other county has served an FTB collection at 50%. I cannot afford this. What should I do?
A: We will review your account and tell you the exact period of time we charged in our County. Please tell us your account number(s) in the other count(ies), whether you are paying CURRENT SUPPORT and, if possible, the months charged by the other count(ies). Once you have the breakdown of charges in each county, you can advise the other county that you are paying here to see if they will request a reduction in the FTB collection. Please be advised that only the county who submitted you to Franchise Tax Board Collection is eligible to withdraw your case.
Q: I just received a "Demand for Payment" letter from the Franchise Tax Board asking me to pay off my entire balance within 10 days; will they take my car and/or house, etc., if I cannot pay my balance off?
A: You should contact our office immediately to work out a monthly payment plan and we will contact the Franchise Tax Board to hold off on any additional enforcement actions.
Q: My bank account is frozen; how do I get it reinstated?
A: Please inform this office where you are currently working so that we can serve your employer with a Wage Assignment. When you begin to pay each month, we will review your account for release. If you can bring in or fax bank statements and W2's with current income information, we will review your case to reduce or release the hold, if appropriate.
Q: I just got a notice that my driving or professional license will be revoked. How do I stop the process?
A: Prior to contacting us, please verify that the Fresno County Department of Child Support Services placed the hold on your license. This information is noted on the letter from the licensing agency. We cannot release another county's hold on your license. Once you've verified that it is Fresno County holding your license, please complete and submit to us the SLMS Request for Review form and provide us with the license type and number, your current address, phone number and employer or source of income. We will review your case and if it meets with our release criteria (i.e. you are paying regularly by Wage Assignment), we will fax a license release form to the licensing agency or the DMV. You will also receive a copy in the mail. You can obtain a Request for Review form from the licensing agency. Once the release form is faxed to the DMV, it may take them one to two weeks before it is cleared. You may take your copy to the local field office and they will be able to help you.
Q: I just discontinued from CalWORKs, how do I get child support?
A: Contact our office and we will change the account so that you receive the current support.
Q: I know a payment was recently mailed out to me, but I haven't received it yet. What is the procedure for tracking the checks?
If you have not received the check ten days after it was issued, contact our office and we will send you the appropriate forms to complete and we will immediately put a "Stop Payment" on the check. A new check will be issued when we receive the completed forms from you.
Q: I am the custodial party. How do I close my case?
A: You must notify us in writing. We will then close your portion of the case. If the child(ren) ever received CalWORKs benefits, we will continue to collect the child support owed only for that time period. If the child(ren) never received CalWORKs benefits, we will close the case and send you and the non-custodial parent a closing letter.
Q: How is a payment distributed?
A: All payments except state and federal tax intercepts are first applied to any current month obligation, and then interest, arrears and finally any fees.
A: If you have not received the check ten days after it was issued, contact our office and we will send you the appropriate forms to complete and we will immediately put a "Stop Payment" on the check. A new check will be issued when we receive the completed forms from you.
Out of State Cases
Q: Can you collect child support obligations when the non-custodial parent lives in another state?
A: Yes. We can request the other state obtain and enforce a child support order, or depending on jurisdiction, we can obtain and enforce the order across state lines.
Q: Can you collect child support obligations when the non-custodial parent lives in another country?
A: If the United States has a reciprocal agreement with the other country, we will contact them to obtain and/or enforce a child support order. If not, we have no jurisdiction to enforce and will have to review the case for closure.
Q: Why does it take so long for my case to proceed?
A: Once we have determined that an out-of-state referral is necessary, a request is sent from our office to the other jurisdiction. The other jurisdiction has ninety days from the date we sent the referral to open the case. The only contact we can make with the other jurisdiction during that time period is to request an Acknowledgment letter after thirty to forty-five days. After ninety days, we can send requests to the other jurisdiction asking for the case status of your case.
Q: What is Registration of Foreign Order and why is it necessary?
A: We must register another county or state's order to make it an enforceable Fresno County order. With an enforceable order, we can serve Wage Assignments and Health Insurance Coverage Assignments, submit balances for IRS, FTB, Unemployment and Disability intercepts, and many other enforcement tools to enforce the order. Without the registration process, we have no legal means of enforcing the order.
Q:Why does my order have to be registered out of state?
A: Once we have exhausted all enforcement measures available to use in California, we will request the other state enforce an order on our/your behalf. In order to enforce our California order in another state, the other state must first "register" the California order to make it an enforceable order in their state. This allows them to use various enforcement tools such as service of Wage Assignments and Health Insurance Coverage Assignment, liens on assets and interception of Unemployment or Disability benefits.
Q: Why can't Fresno County enforce my child support order?
A: Prior to requesting the assistance of another state, we review every case to determine if California has jurisdiction to either establish or enforce a child support order. If we determine that California has no jurisdiction, we send a request to the other state asking them to establish and/or enforce a child support order as we do not have the jurisdiction legally necessary to establish and/or enforce a child support order in the case. Jurisdiction is determined pursuant to Federal and State laws and regulations.