A child support case is open when at
least one parent files an application either online or at a local child
support agency, or when a referral is received from the welfare department
because the child is receiving CalWORKs, KinGAP, or foster care. The local child
support agency will conduct interviews and obtain the necessary information
needed to determine who will owe child support. The parent who is presumed to
owe child support will receive a “Summons and Complaint” as well as a blank “Answer
to Complaint” form that must be sent back within 30 days from the date it is
received. If you have received a Summons and Complaint, there are several ways to
respond in order to make sure that your financial circumstances and the amount of time you spend with your children are taken into consideration when
determining the child support amount. Option 1—File an answer. If you do not think you are the parent of the child, or disagree with any part of the information or proposed amount, you must complete the “Answer to Complaint” form explaining why you disagree. A blank Answer form is included in the Summons and Complaint packet. If you need free legal assistance with this, every family court has a Family Law Facilitator that provides child support information and help to any parent at no cost. Option 2— If both parents agree to meet with a local child support agency employee for a “family meeting,” they can potentially avoid going to court by working out an agreement with each other. When both parents agree, this becomes a “stipulated agreement” that is filed with the court. The court usually approves this agreement without requiring parents to appear in court. Option 3—You may hire your own attorney. A Summons and Complaint is a legal document and you may wish to seek your own private legal advice regarding how you would like to the Summons and Complaint.
Remember, a Summons and Complaint is a legal document, and if you receive one it’s very important to respond within 30 days. This is your opportunity to explain your financial circumstances to ensure a fair and reasonable child support amount is established. If you do not respond within 30 days of receiving the Summons and Complaint, then the court will set the child support amount based on the information it has available, known as a “default judgment”. A few frequently asked questions about the court process include:
• What if a parent ignores or forgets about the Summons and Complaint?
If the parent does not file a response, the estimated child support payment stated in the Summons and Complaint will be the amount of child support ordered by the court and the parent must pay that amount. If I respond to court, will I have a chance to talk to the judge? Yes, if you file a response to the Summons and Complaint and either deny paternity or the child support amount proposed, you will be given a court date. How will the court decide how much support I have to pay as a parent? The amount of child support is based on various factors, including the income of both parents and the amount of time each parent cares for the child. If you would like further information please contact your child support agency, which you can find at our website www.childsup.ca.gov. you