If you’re thinking about using the services of the state child support agency to enforce a court support order, chances are good that you’re caught in a frustrating situation. Whenever an outside agency has to get involved with child support, parents in need of financial help for their children are usually at their wits’ end with a former spouse who refuses to make timely payments.
While contacting child support services may look like your only option, it has its drawbacks. This article was written to discuss some of these drawbacks as well as the advantages of dealing with an independent child support agency.
While this article should provide some useful information, it’s important that if you are dealing with a child support issue, that you consult a qualified family attorney for guidance. Here is our main page on CA’s law on child support. If you have questions about a specific issue of your own, consider scheduling an appointment with our office.
Child Support Services, What Is It?
In California there exists what is known as the Department of Child Support Services. The stated goal of this agency is to work with parents, custodial and non-custodial, to ensure children and families receive court ordered financial and medical support. The department delivers services through 51 local agencies. Services include helping to locate parents, establishing paternity as well as helping with enforcing court orders for child support or health insurance.
What Services Do They Offer?
While the agency offers a number of different services, one that may particularly appeal to a parent whose having difficulty collecting child support is the agency’s ability to effect license suspension. What does this mean? It means the local child support agency is tasked with maintaining a list of parents who are more than 30 days behind in child support payments and submitting the list to the state. A parent who is behind in payments and is licensed by the state as a cosmetologist, a physical therapist, or some other occupation, could have their occupational license suspended or not-renewed!
Is This An Advantage?
The answer to this question isn’t a black and white yes or no answer. Obviously, license suspension could have the desired effect of motivating a person to catch up on their payments so that their business isn’t affected.
However, such a move could also have the effect of financially harming a parent who’s been struggling to make timely child support payments in the first place. While this might be satisfying to the spouse awaiting child support, it might not be the most practical solution to the problem.
What About Cost?
Since the Department of Child Support Services is a taxpayer funded agency, their fees and costs pale in comparison to that of a family attorney. It may cost you nothing to apply for the services provided by this agency.
However, it’s important to remember that the agency technically works for the county. A family attorney, although expensive, will represent you exclusively.
What About Disadvantages?
Any time you deal with a bureaucratic agency, you can expect significant disadvantages. That’s not to say that bureaucracies don’t serve vital functions in society, but they are often, by their nature, inefficiently run.
The reason for this is that agencies such as Child Support Services serve the public and are required to take on a large number of clients while remaining within a limited budget.
This could lead to your case being bogged down with delays. Additionally, issues can arise when making requests for information about the supporting spouse’s financial situation, a process known as discovery. If the child support services agency is experiencing a backlog of cases, and discovery is incomplete, you might not obtain a complete picture of your spouse’s finances. This could lead to payment issues.
Should You Contact a Lawyer?
Whether you decide to hire a lawyer to handle your child support case exclusively, or opt to go with Child Support Services, you should still discuss your options with an attorney. In some cases, based on a client’s financial situation and the needs of his or her children, it makes the most sense to go with Child Support Services. However, this is not always the case.
A misstep in this area could lead to further problems and more difficulties in collecting court ordered child support. A good family lawyer will help you explore your options and make a decision that is best for you.