A CalWORKs child support case is opened when a custodial parent applies for and receives CalWORKs benefits. The California Department of Social Services informs the DCSS when CalWORKs benefits are granted, and a child support case is opened by the DCSS. The DCSS does not determine CalWORKs eligibility. CalWORKs grant amounts, food stamp eligibility and Medi-Cal eligibility are determined by the California Department of Social Services, and the DCSS establishes and enforces the child support order.
Receiving CalWORKs and Child Support
As a condition of receiving CalWORKs benefits, the custodial party automatically assigns (or gives) all rights to child, spousal and medical support to the county up to the amount of aid paid. This includes all current and past-due support and continues as long as a family is receiving aid. Any current child support payments which exceed the amount of aid paid will be sent to the custodial party.
By law, CalWORKs recipients must cooperate with the DCSS to establish parentage and to obtain child support payments. Unless the California Department of Social Services approves a claim by the recipient for "good cause," CalWORKs recipients will be required to provide information about the noncustodial parents.
Receiving Medi-Cal Benefits
"Medically Needy Only" is the term used to describe those cases in which the custodial party and/or children are only receiving Medi-Cal benefits. These cases are referred to the DCSS for the purpose of establishing parentage and obtaining medical support for the dependent children. The custodial party must cooperate with the DCSS to be eligible for Medi-Cal, unless they have filed a claim of good cause for not cooperating for which the California Department of Social Services has approved.
The custodial party must tell the DCSS about any other health coverage that they or their children are entitled to, or that they currently have. By law, any rights to medical support or payments for medical care from other health coverage that a Medi-Cal recipient may have are automatically assigned to the state. The DCSS will also seek to establish and enforce a child support order for the dependent children, unless the custodial party tells the DCSS that they do not want the service.
Stoppage of CalWORKs and/or Medi-Cal Benefits
If the custodial party is receiving CalWORKs and/or Medi-Cal and then stops receiving either one, by law the DCSS must continue to enforce the support order. If the custodial party does not want the continued services of the DCSS, they must notify the office in writing that they no longer wants DCSS assistance. At that time, the DCSS will only pursue assigned arrears (past-due support) and will notify the noncustodial parent to pay current child support directly to the custodial party if current support is still owed.
Distributing Support in CalWORKs Cases
If the custodial party is receiving CalWORKs benefits, child support payments (except the first $50 of current support collected each month) go toward paying back the county, state and federal governments for CalWORKs payments. The first $50 of current support collected goes directly to the custodial party. Any medical support recovered goes toward paying back Medi-Cal.
Receiving Credit for Child Support Payments
Federal regulations require the DCSS to open cases and establish child support orders at the request of either parent. Support payments must be paid to the agency specified in the court order (usually the DCSS) for the noncustodial parent to receive credit for payment.
No credit will be given for payments made directly to the custodial party or in-kind payments such as purchase of clothing, school supplies, rent, etc.
Paying through the DCSS is a good way to make sure an accurate record of child support payments is kept. Child support payments should always clearly identify the case number and for whom the payment is made.
The custodial party must report any payment received directly from the noncustodial parent to the agency the court order says should receive it and, if the custodial party receives CalWORKs, to the California Department of Social Services.