Child Support pass through in former assistance cases

Effective May 1, 2024, all child support collections in cases where the family previously received CalWORKs benefts, including collections assigned to arrears owed to the government for recoupment of CalWORKs benefits, will be paid to the family receiving child support.  This change is not retroactive.  Collections in former assistance cases made before May 1, 2024 can still be retained by the government agency to recoup CalWORKs benefits paid to the family.

Effective May 1, 2024, child support collections that are passed through in cases where the family previously received CalWORKs, will count towards reimbursing the government agency for CalWORKs previously received by the family.  Any child support collected that exceeds the amount of CalWORKs received by the family will be passed through to the family.

Any pass through payments that cannot be delivered to the former aid recipient within six months will be retained by the government agency to recoup CalWORKs that was paid.  The former recipient has 12 months after the payment is used for CalWORKs recoupment to make a claim for that payment.  If the former aid recipient is deceased, collected child support will be used to recoup CalWORKs that was previously paid. (CSSI Letter 24-04, May 1, 2024.)

Distribution of collected child support in former assistance cases

In 2005, the federal government gave states the option, in cases where the family previously received Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (CalWORKs in California) to distribute current child support and arrears payments owed to the family to the family first before retaining payments to pay arrears assigned to the state.  In AB 135, chapter 85 (2021) California permanently exercised this option.  California had temporarily exercised this option by Executive Order dated May 1, 2020.

Now, for former assistance cases, all current support and arrears owed to the family will be paid to the family before assigned arrears are retained by the state.  This election also applies to collections made via federal tax intercept.  (CSSP Letter 21-05, November 29, 2021.)

 

Child support orders against incarcerated parents

The California legislature has reenacted Family Code section 4007.5.  Effective January 1, 2021, child support obligations will be suspended by operation of law when the child support order is established after January 1, 2021, the parent paying support has been incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized for more than 90 consecutive days prior to the suspension.  This means that payment due on the current child support order, arrears or interest during a qualifying period of incarceration is set to $0 during the period the parent paying support is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized.  The prior child support obligation resumes on the first day of the first full month after release.

Exceptions to suspension of the child support order are when the parent paying support has the means to pay support while incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized, is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized for domestic violence against the supported party and/or the supported children, various offenses that are subject to restraining order including stalking and harassment, or incarceration is for failure to comply with the child support order.

When the parent paying support has been incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized, the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) must administratively adjust the child support order and/or modify the court order.  For administrative adjustment, the LCSA must verify: the order was issued on or after January 1, 2021, the period of confinement has lasted more than 90 consecutive days, there is no evidence to support an exclusion from administrative adjustment, the LCSA has sent notice of the intended adjustment to both the person paying support and the person ordered to receive support, and neither party has objected to administrative adjustment within 30 days of receipt of the notice.  If either party objects to administrative adjustment, the LCSA must file a motion with the court.

Existing review and adjustment regulations are unchanged.  If there is no evidence of support potential when the parent paying support is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized, the LCSA can ask the court to establish a zero-dollar order or move that an existing order be modified to zero.  If there is evidence the parent paying support has some ability to pay, an order can be established or an existing order can be modified to the appropriate amount.

Family Code section 4007.5 now sunsets on January 1, 2023 unless that date is extended by legislation.  Any administrative adjustment action must be completed before January 1, 2023.  The prior order must be reinstated on January 1, 2023.  (CSSP Letter 21-01, February 10, 2021.)

Increase in child support disregard for the CalWORKs program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the increase in the child support disregard for the CalWORKs program.  Effective January 1, 2022, or when the computer systems are programmed, whichever is later, the disregard of current child support will increase from $50 to $100 for one child and $200 for two children.  These payments are not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Safety net cases that are exempt from child support assignment will have the first $100 for one child and $200 for two children of collected child support will not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Families that receive direct child support payments must report those payments as income, and will have first $100 for one child and $200 for two children not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Families with a child that is opted-out of the CalWORKs assistance unit and are directly receiving child support for that child under SB 380 qualify for the $200 disregard because those families have more than one child in the assistance unit.

In determining eligibility for opt-out under SB 380, the amount of child support collected to be eligible is the maximum aid payment for that child plus the $200 disregard.

Counties are required to inform applicants and recipients of this change at least 90 days before implementation, and to inform new applicants at application beginning no later than 30 days prior to implementation.  (ACL 20-115, October 28, 2020.)

Distribution of child support collected by federal tax offset

Effective May 1, 2020, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is distributing child support collections from federal tax intercepts in cases where the custodial parent is not currently receiving CalWORKs to the custodial parent.  DCSS states that this has been an option since 2005 but California has not implemented it.  DCSS states that Governor Newsom’s
Executive Order N-52-20 requires it to exercise this option.

Going forward, child support collections from federal tax intercepts will be applied to current support first, which means the collection will be paid to the family first before being applied top government-owed arrears when the family is not currently receiving CalWORKs.  (CSSP Letter 20-05, August 10, 2020.)

Gender and name changes in child support cases

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) has issued a policy that individuals may change their gender with the DCSS at any time.  Local Child Support Agencies must accept any change of an individual’s gender to male, female or nonbinary without the need for documentation or form completion.  Gender changes may or may not be accompanied by name changes.

A name change requires a government issued form of identification such as a driver’s license or a Social Security card with a new legal name.

All Local Child Support Agencies must change all materials, including county specific forms and outreach materials, to comply with AB 179, the Gender Recognition Act, including but not limited to adding a nonbinary gender option and removing gender specific pronouns.  (CSSP Letter 19-06, July 31, 2019.)