Start a child support case with the Local Child Support Agency
To set up a child support order for your children, you or the other parent must ask for a court order, either from the court or through the local child support agency (LCSA). If you go through the LCSA, they will start a court case for you. They can also set up genetic testing and get an order that says who a child's legal parent is (called parentage). This service is free.
How an LCSA child support case starts
The LCSA starts a case on its own
In some cases, the LCSA will start a child support case on its own. This happens automatically.
The LCSA will start a child support case if a parent receives money from the government for their children (for example, if they receive Cal-Works). If a child is in foster care, the LCSA may start a child support case against one or both parents.
Parents can ask the LCSA to open a child support case
You can ask the LCSA to start a case for child support for you rather than handling the case on your own in family court. If they need to establish that you or another person is the legal parent of the child (called parentage), the LCSA will file papers asking for that as well. They can arrange for genetic testing for free.
If you have a child support order in another family court case (like as part of a divorce), you can open a case with the LCSA to collect support.
There are benefits to having the LCSA open a child support case
- The LCSA handles the paperwork and most of the background investigation
- They will formally deliver (serve) legal papers to the other parent
- They will keep track of payments
- They can help enforce an order
- Their services are free
There are also some limitations to keep in mind if the LCSA is involved in your case. For example:
- The LCSA lawyer is not your lawyer
- The LCSA must approve any agreements you and the other parent make about child support or health insurance
- It can take longer to get a child support order through the LCSA than doing it yourself in family court
Talk to your court's Family Law Facilitator. They offer free legal information about child support and can answer questions about going through the LCSA.
How to ask the LCSA to start a case
Fill out an application online
To start the process, fill out an application online. You can also contact the LCSA and ask for an appointment to open a case. Either or both parents can ask them to start the case. A lawyer from the LCSA can file the papers to start the case. They ask the court for a child support and health insurance order. If they need to establish that you or another person is the legal parent of the child (called parentage), they will file papers asking for that as well and arrange for genetic testing, if needed.
Get more information about how an LCSA child support case works from the Department of Child Support.