Responding to a Child Support Request

If you have been served with papers that ask the court to issue an order about child support, you should respond if you want to have input into the final decision.

You may get papers for a case that was started by your child's other parent, or from a case filed by the local child support agency (LCSA).  

Click if you received papers filed by the LCSA (it may say "Department of Child Support Services" or "DCSS" on your paperwork).


If you got a Request for Order (Form FL-300) and attachments

If you got a Request for Order (Form FL-300) together with attachments explaining what the other parent is requesting:

  • Carefully read the papers you received to make sure you understand what the other parent is asking for.
  • Note the date, time, and location of the court hearing. They are listed on the first page of the Request for Order.  It is very important you go to this court hearing!
  • You must respond if you want the court to know what your position is.  If you do not respond, the court may make orders about child support for your children based on the other parent's estimate of your income, without taking into account your individual situation. 
  • Even if you do not respond, go to the court hearing and take proof of your income and child-related expenses if you want to have any input in the court's decision about child support. You should also bring information on whether medical insurance is available for the child and what the cost of adding the child to the insurance is. The court will be required to order either or both parents to provide medical insurance in most cases.


To respond, you must:

1. Fill out your court forms 
Fill out:

Read Which Financial Form - FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155. 
  

2. Have your forms reviewed
Ask your court's family law facilitator to review your paperwork. He or she can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.” 


3. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms 
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your child's other parent. The original is for the court. If the LCSA is involved in your case, make 3 copies.


4. File your forms with the court clerk
You may have to pay a filing fee to file the Responsive Declaration. And if you have never filed any papers in this case, you may have to pay what is called a “first appearance fee,” which, in general, everyone has to pay when they file court papers in a case for the first time. If you do have to pay a fee for this and you cannot afford it, you can ask for a fee waiver. If the LCSA is involved in your case and parentage and support are the only issues, you will not need to pay a “first appearance fee” or any other fees.  


5. Serve your papers on the other parent
Have someone at least 18 years old (NOT you) serve a copy of the Responsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320) and any other papers you attached, on the other parent (and the LCSA if involved in the case), at least 9 days before the hearing.  You can have your papers served by mail or in person.  If you have your papers served by mail, you must do it at least 14 days before the hearing. 

You can have this form served on the other parent (and the LCSA) before the clerk stamps it.  Just make sure you do not serve the original. Find out more about “service of process.” 


6. File your roof of service
Have the server (person who served your papers) fill out a Proof of Service for the other parent (and 1 for the LCSA if applicable). The server should fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) if he or she served the papers in person. Or fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) if he or she served them by mail.

Then, file the Proof (or Proofs) of Service form with the clerk.  (If you had the other parent served with an unstamped copy of the Responsive Declaration, you can file the original of the Responsive Declaration together with the Proof of Service.)


7.  Go to your court hearing
Go to the hearing scheduled on the Request for Order  (Form FL-300).  Go to court even if you did not have time to fill out and file a Responsive Declaration or other papers.  If you do not go, the judge can make a child support order without your input. 

Read Going to Court to find out how to prepare for your court hearing.

If you got a Notice of Motion (Governmental) (Form FL-680) or an Order to Show Cause (Governmental) (Form FL-683) and attachments

If you got a Notice of Motion (Governmental) (Form FL-680) or an Order to Show Cause (Governmental) (Form FL-683), it means the LCSA is involved in your case and they are asking for a court hearing.  Click if you only received a Summons and Complaint or Supplemental Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations (Form FL-600).

  • Carefully read the papers you received to make sure you understand what the LCSA is asking for.
  • Note the date, time, and location of the court hearing. They are listed on the first page of the Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion.  It is very important you go to this court hearing! If you are served with an Order to Show Cause, you are required to attend the hearing or the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
  • You must respond if you want the court to know what your position is.  If you do not respond, the court may make orders about child support of your children based on the LCSA's or the other parent's estimate of your income and without taking into account your individual situation. 
  • Even if you do not respond, go to the court hearing and bring proof of your income and child-related expenses if you want to have any input in the court's decision about child support.


To respond, you must:

1. Fill out your court forms. 
Fill out:

  • Response to Governmental Notice of Motion or Order to Show Cause (Form FL-685); and
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) OR a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155).

Read Which Financial Form - FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155. 
   
Important! If parentage (paternity) has not been established yet and the forms you received from the LCSA ask the court to establish parentage, make sure you check the box in item 1 on your Response that says whether you admit (agree) you are the parent or whether you want a genetic test (by saying “I do not admit I am the parent”). If you have any question whether you are the parent, you need to confirm this by genetic testing. If you admit parentage without asking for genetic testing, the court is unlikely to order genetic testing in the future or cancel your agreement to parentage.


2. Have your forms reviewed.
 Ask your court's family law facilitator to review your paperwork. He or she can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”   


3. Make at least 3 copies of all your forms. 
 One copy will be for you; another copy will be for the LCSA, and the third copy is for your child's other parent. The original is for the court.


4. File your forms with the court clerk. 
 You may have to pay a filing fee. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.  If the LCSA is involved in your case, you will not have to pay any filing fees if the only issues are parentage and support.


5. Serve your papers on the LCSA and the other parent.
Have someone at least 18 (NOT you) serve a copy of the Response to Governmental Notice of Motion or Order to Show Cause (Form FL-685), and any other papers you attached, on the other parent (and the LCSA if involved in the case) at least 9 days before the hearing.  You can have your papers served by mail or in person.  If you have your papers served by mail, you must do it at least 14 days before the hearing

You can have this form served on the other parent (and the LCSA) before the clerk stamps it.  Just make sure you do not serve the original. Find out more about “service of process." 


6. File your proof of service.
Have the server (person who served your papers) fill out a Proof of Service for the LCSA and 1 for other parent.  The server should fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) if he or she served the papers in person. Or fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) if he or she served them by mail.

Then, file the Proof (or Proofs) of Service with the clerk.  (If you had the LCSA served with an unstamped copy of the Response, you can file the original of the Response together with the Proof of Service.)


7. Go to your court hearing.
 Go to the hearing scheduled on the Notice of Motion (Governmental) (Form FL-680) or an Order to Show Cause (Governmental) (Form FL-683).  Go to court even if you did not have time to fill out and file a Response or other papers.  If you do not go, the judge can make a child support order without your input. 

Read Going to Court to find out how to prepare for your court hearing.

If you got a domestic violence restraining order with a child support request (Forms DV-100, DV-105, DV-109, and DV-110)

  • Carefully read the papers you received to make sure you understand what the other parent is asking for.
  • Note the date, time, and location of the court hearing. They are listed on the first page of the Notice of Court Hearing.  It is very important you go to this court hearing if you want to participate in the case.
  • You must respond if you want the court to know what your position is.  If you do not respond, the court may make orders about child support for your children (and the restraining order) without taking into account your position. 
  • Even if you do not respond, go to the court hearing and bring proof of your income and child-related expenses if you want to have any input in the court's decision about child support.
  • Read How Can I Respond to a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order? (Form DV-120-INFO) for more information about responding to a restraining order request.

To respond, you must:

1. Fill out your court forms.
Fill out:

Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-120 | Video instructions );
• Request for Child Custody and Visitation Orders (Form DV-105); and
Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150 | Video instructions Video Icon) OR a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155 | Video instructions Video Icon).

Read Which Financial Form - FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155.

2. Have your forms reviewed.
Ask your court's family law facilitator to review your paperwork. The facilitator may not be able to help you with the restraining order part of the case, but he or she can help you with the forms that relate to your child support. He or she can make sure you filled them out properly before you move ahead with your case. You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”

3. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms. 
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your child's other parent. The original is for the court.

4. File your forms with the court clerk. 
The clerk will keep the original and return the copies to you, stamped "Filed." One is for you. The second copy is for the other parent.

5. Serve your papers on the other parent.
Have someone at least 18 (NOT you) serve a copy of the Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-120 | Video instructions ) and your other forms on the other parent.

These papers can be served by mail. Find out more about “serving."  You can have this form served on the other parent before the clerk stamps it. Just make sure you do not serve the original.

The number of days you have to serve your response varies.  Look at the second page of the Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV-109), under “To the Person in 2,” and it will tell you when you have to serve your response by.

6. File your proof of service.
Have your server fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (CLETS) (Form DV-250) and give it to you so you can file it with the court.  It is very important your server fills out the Proof of Service correctly. If possible, have your family law facilitator review it to make sure it was filled out properly.

File the Proof of Service with the clerk.  (If you had the other parent served with an unstamped copy of the Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order, you can file the original of the Response together with the Proof of Service.)

7. Go to your court hearing.
 Go to the hearing scheduled on the Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV-109). Go to court even if you did not have time to fill out and file an Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order.  If you do not go, the judge can issue the restraining order against you for 3 years or more and can make a child support order without your input.

Read Going to Court to find out how to prepare for your court hearing.

If you and the other parent have an agreement on child support

The procedure for writing up your child support agreement and getting a judge's signature so that it becomes a court order may be a little different from court to court, even if the forms are the same statewide. Make sure you ask your court clerk or family law facilitator about the procedures for your court.

In general, these are the steps you will have to follow:

1. Figure out what guideline child support is
You and the other parent need to find out what the guideline child support would be in your case. Once you and the other parent know what the guideline child support would be, you can agree to the child support that California's guideline sets for your individual case. Or you can agree to an amount of child support that is lower or higher than the guideline amount. But before the judge can sign an agreement between the parents that sets a child support amount different from the guideline, you must first know what the California guideline child support amount would be.

Either way, you need to calculate guideline child support.  To figure out what it would be, you can:

  • Ask the family law facilitator in your county. He or she can run the calculation and tell you what the guideline would be.
  • You can calculate the amount yourself by using the California Guideline Child Support Calculator. To understand how to fill in the information in the Child Support Calculator, download the User Guide.  Calculating child support can be complicated, especially if you have never done it before.  If you do it yourself, you may want to have a lawyer or the family law facilitator check the calculation.


2. Agree on an amount and other issues
Part of being fully informed about your child support rights is knowing what the guideline amount of child support would be. This way, if you agree to pay more or receive less than the guideline, you are doing it voluntarily and with all the information.

You also have to agree on who will keep or pay for health insurance for the children and on how to split other expenses related to your child or children, like:

  • Child-care expenses;
  • Health-care costs not covered by insurance (co-pays, etc.);
  • Special education or other needs of the children (tutoring, after school activities, etc);  
  • Travel expenses related to visitation (if any); and
  • Any other expense related to your children.

Child-related expenses are usually shared 50-50 or proportionate to each parent’s income where there is a large difference between the parents' incomes, but you can agree to any division that you feel is appropriate in your situation.

And you need to decide how the child support payments will be made: directly between the parents, directly to the provider, or by wage garnishment (wage assignment).


3. Write up your agreement
Use the Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order (Form FL-350). The form walks you through all the issues you need to address in your agreement so make sure you read it carefully.  Make sure you use the right case number.

Notice that, in this agreement, you are agreeing to keep each other promptly informed of any changes in income, employment or address.

Ask the family law facilitator in your county if you need help writing up your agreement. Or if you wrote it up on your own, have the facilitator review it to make sure you filled it out correctly. 

You should also attach a copy of the guideline child support calculation, whether you agree to guideline child support or another amount. The court will want to know what the amount of guideline support is and what each parent's financial circumstances were at the time of the agreement. By attaching the child support calculation, you have done this.


4. Sign your Stipulation (agreement) 
Each parent must sign the Stipulation.  When you sign, you are agreeing that you understand it and that you are signing it voluntarily and are not being pressured or forced to agree. Do not forget to attach the guideline child support calculation even if you agree to a different amount.
     
If the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved in your case, either because they were the ones to open the case or because 1 of the parents asked them to get involved, they have to sign this Stipulation.  If one of you is on public assistance (like TANF), the LCSA has to agree to the amount of child support.


5. Turn in your Stipulation to the court for the judge to sign
Find out from the court clerk if you need to make copies ahead of time and turn them in with the original or just turn in the original and make copies after. And find out when you should return to pick up your paperwork.

  • Each parent will also have to fill out and turn in a Child Support Case Registry Form (Form FL-191).  This form is confidential and will not be kept in the cour's files. It is kept in a confidential file with the State of California. It registers the case in a national registry to help with child support enforcement.  If any of the information you provide on this form changes, you have to complete a new form and deliver it to the court clerk within 10 days of the change. If the LCSA is involved in your case, they will electronically send this information so you will not need to fill out Form FL-191.
  • If you are agreeing to have the child support paid by wage garnishment, also turn in an Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195).  Use the Income Withholding for Support - Instructions (Form FL-196) for help filling out Form FL-195. When you fill out this form, keep in mind that "Obligor" refers to the parent that is paying the child support. "Obligee" is the parent who is receiving the child support. And make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the obligor's social security number – the law requires it to protect their privacy


6. File your Stipulation after the judge signs it
After the judge signs the Stipulation, file the original with the court clerk (after making copies if you did not already make them). The clerk will keep the original and stamp your copies "Filed" and return them to you.  One copy will be for each parent and the third copy is for the LCSA if they are involved.

Also file the Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195) if you turned in one.  Make sure that you fill in the form to have the child support sent payable to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). Otherwise, your support payments may be delayed because employers have been instructed not to honor a withholding order that is not payable to the SDU.


7. Send the Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support to the employer of the parent ordered to pay support (the obligor)
If you agreed to have the obligor’s (parent paying support) wages garnished, send the filed Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195) to his or her employer.  If the LCSA is involved in your case, they will take care of serving the employer.

If you need help, your local family law facilitator may be able to help both of you write up an agreement.

If you got papers with no court hearing scheduled

If you were served with court papers that did not have a court hearing scheduled, you probably received the documents used to start a family law case.

In general, once you are served with any of these documents, you have 30 days to file a response with the court. If you do nothing, after 30 days the court can make orders about parentage (paternity), child support, and other issues on those papers, like child custody and visitation (or, if a divorce, issues like property and spousal support) without hearing your side of the story. Look at the papers you got and click on the appropriate link below to find instructions to respond:

 

Sometimes, you are served with 1 of these documents to start a case as well as an Request for Order setting up a court hearing.  In that case, fill out the proper response form (in the bullets above this paragraph) as well as the forms to respond to the Request for Order:

Responding to a Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations (Form FL-600)

If you have been served with a Summons and Complaint or Supplemental Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations (Form FL-600) filed by the LCSA  (or on your papers, it may say "Department of Child Support Services") asking  to establish paternity of the children as well as a child support order, you have 30 days from the date you were served to respond.

If you do not respond within the 30 days, the court may establish you as the legal parent without a genetic test (if parentage has not been established yet) AND can order child support without your input. Once a court establishes you as a legal parent, it is very hard to undo that later, even with DNA tests showing you are not the biological parent. You can ask the LCSA to arrange genetic testing at no cost to either parent. If the LCSA does not agree to genetic testing, you can ask the court to order the testing in your Answer to Complaint or Supplemental Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations (Form FL-610) by checking the "No" box in item 1, "Parentage." Also, if you do not agree that you are the parent and you cannot afford a lawyer, the court can appoint a lawyer for you but only on the issue of parentage, not on the issue of child support.  Read more about parentage (paternity).

Even if you agree that you are the child's parent, you need to respond so you can provide information about your income to calculate child support. If you do not respond, the court may make orders about child support of your children based on the LCSA's or the other parent’s estimate of your income and without taking into account your individual situation.

SO, respond within 30 days if you want to make sure you have the chance to participate in the case from the beginning.

Read every paper carefully as soon as you get it. DO NOT ignore the papers because you do not understand them. Take them to a family law facilitator or a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure that you know how to answer.

To respond, follow these steps (and, remember, you only have 30 days):

1. Fill out your court forms. 
Fill out these forms (and remember that you are the respondent):

  • Answer to Complaint or Supplemental Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations (Form FL-610).
  • If you believe you are not the child's parent, or are not sure, and want to ask for a geneic (DNA) test to make sure, you must check the box that says you are NOT the parent.
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) OR Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155).

Read Which Financial Form - FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155. 
  

2. Have your forms reviewed
Ask your court’s family law facilitator to review your paperwork. Th facilitator can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.” 

3. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms 
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for the LCSA. The original is for the court. If your child's other parent is involved in the case, you need a third copy for him or her.

4. Serve your papers on the LCSA (and the other parent, if involved)
Have someone at least 18 (NOT you) serve the local child support agency with a copy of your papers.  You can have them served by mail or in person.  If the other parent is involved in the case, follow the same instructions for him or her.

Service is very important, so you must do it correctly. And, remember, a third person (NOT you) must do it. Make sure that your server (the person sending the papers for you) mails or delivers a copy and not the original.

Read the Information Sheet for Service of Process (Form FL-611) for more information on serving your Answer.  Click to find even more information about "service."

5. Have the person who served your Answer fill out the Proof of Service
 Have your server fill out the Proof of Service portion of the original Answer (Form FL-610), on the second page.  Make sure your "server" fills out the right section (for personal service if he or she delivered the papers in person, or mail service if he or she mailed your papers).  The server has to print and sign his or her name in the Proof of Service section. 

 If the server also served the other parent, the server can either put down the information for the other parent on this same Proof of Service, or use the Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) or the Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335).

 Once your server fills out the Proof of Service portion, he or she must return the original Answer to you.

6. File your forms with the court clerk within 30 days of being served with the Complaint 
Turn in your original Answer (with the Proof of Service portion filled out), your copy, and any other forms to the court clerk.

The clerk will keep the original and return the copy to you, stamped "Filed."  You will not need to pay a filing fee.  

7.  If you asked for paternity testing, the LCSA will probably set up genetic (DNA) testing for you, the child, and the other parent
Procedures vary from county to county, but in general, you will be scheduled to provide a DNA sample. The child and other parent will also be asked for DNA samples. A lab will run the paternity test and send the result to the local child support agency (LCSA). Talk to your LCSA caseworker to make sure you know the timing of these events and what you need to do to follow up. If the LCSA does not set up genetic testing for you and you have filed an Answer that says you are not the parent, you may ask the court for genetic testing when a hearing is set.

After the paternity test results:

  • If the DNA tests say that there is a very high probability that the man tested is the child's father, he has the option of agreeing to paternity (stipulating) or asking for a trial on the issue of paternity.
  • If the DNA tests say there is a zero probability that the man tested is the child's father, the case against that man will most likely be dismissed, or the court may actually make a finding and order that he is not the parent..
  • You may be able to ask for a second paternity test in another lab, but you may have to pay for it.

8.  If you admit you are the father, the LCSA will either request a court hearing for a child support order or will contact you to see if you can work out an agreement. However, if you have not filed an Answer in the case, the local child support agency may enter an order on the child support issue without any input from you.

Ask your family law facilitator for help with any of these steps or if you just need to know what to do next.

Responding to a Petition for divorce or legal separation

For detailed instructions on how to respond to a Petition — Marriage (Form FL-100) or a Petition — Domestic Partnership/Marriage (Form FL-103), go to the divorce and legal separation section.

Responding to a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship

For detailed instructions on how to respond to a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (Form FL-200), go to the Parentage (Paternity) section.

Responding to a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children

If you have been served with a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children asking for a child support order or child custody, you have 30 days from the date you were served to respond.

To respond, follow these steps:

1. Fill out your court forms 
Fill out (remember, you are the respondent):

  • Response to Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children  (Form FL-270);
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120 | video instructions ); and
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150 | video instructions ) OR a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155 | video instructions ).
  • If you want the court to make orders about custody and visitation, you can also fill out the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (Form FL-311). It is an optional form (you do NOT have to use it) but you may find it helpful in making sure you do not leave anything out of your request. It contains a lot of detail about schedules for visits, holidays, and other details that can help you as you try to do what is best for your children.

Read Which Financial Form - FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155.   

2. Have your forms reviewed
Ask your court's family law facilitator or self-help center to review your paperwork. The facilitator can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case. You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.” 

3. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms 
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your child's other parent. The original is for the court.

4. File your forms with the court clerk within 30 days of being served with the Petition 
Turn in your forms to the court clerk. The clerk will keep the original and return the copies to you, stamped "Filed."  One copy is for you and the other is for the petitioner (the other parent).  You will have to pay a filing fee. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver

5. Serve your papers on the other parent
Have someone at least 18 (NOT you) serve a copy of the Response to Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (FL-270), and any other papers you attached, on the other parent.  You can have someone serve it by mail or in person. 

You can have this form served on the other parent before the clerk stamps it.  Just make sure you do not serve the original. Find out more about “service of process." 

6. File your proof of service
Have the server (person who served your papers) fill out a Proof of Service. The server should fill out avProof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) if he or she served the other parent in person. Or fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) if he or she served the other parent by mail.

Then, file the Proof of Service with the clerk.  (If you had the other parent served with an unstamped copy of the Response to Petition, you can file the original of the Response together with the Proof of Service.)

IMPORTANT: If you have also been served with an Request for Order (Form FL-300) and you have a court hearing coming up, you need to fill out more paperwork to respond to the Request for Order.  

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