When a custodial parent receives cash aid from the State of California on behalf of a minor child, the issue of child support comes within the jurisdiction of the Family Support Division. The receipt of aid divests the Family Court of jurisdiction to hear the child support issue, without the County of San Diego having a representative involved.
The Family Support Division operates differently from Family Court. The County of San Diego becomes an indispensable party, meaning it must have an opportunity to have representation at the hearing. The County of San Diego’s interest in the issue is represented by the Department of Child Support Services (“D.C.S.S.”), and the attorneys acting on its behalf. Typically, these cases are heard daily in Departments 42, 43 and 44 at the downtown courthouse, or in Department 34 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in North County. When D.C.S.S. is involved, child support orders are made payable through the State Disbursement Unit, and the funds are in part used to reimburse the County’s expense of providing cash aid to the minor child.
The D.C.S.S. has several arrows in their quiver when it comes to enforcing orders. A common method of enforcement is to garnish wages of the support obligor (the person ordered to pay support). If wages cannot be garnished, or the obligor is unemployed, drivers licenses, passports, and professional licenses can all be withheld or denied. Tax returns and bank accounts can be levied so that any arrears or back support can be paid from funds collected in the obligor’s bank account or the tax return they would otherwise be entitled to.
Because the jurisdictional and procedural issues are different than family court, it is important to be prepared and knowledgeable about the correct venue for child support determination and enforcement when government aid is involved.