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What do I do if I am served Child Support papers while incarcerated?
If you are served with a Summons and Complaint from the District Attorney/Family Support Division (DA/FSD), or other Child Support Agency (CSA), you should immediately file an "Answer" to the Complaint. if you are not the father of the child, this is your only chance to contest paternity. If you are the father, you will need to make the court aware that you are incarcerated and have no source of income.
The instructions and proper form for answering the complaint will be attached to the Summons and Complaint. It is very important that you do not ignore these papers, because if you fail to file the Answer (or make an appearance in court), the district attorney will obtain a default judgment against you. If you need assistance you should contact/write to the Family Law Facilitator in the county in which the DA/FSD is located (see Resources section of this manual). You are entitled to a court-appoined attorney in child support actions. You must request an attorney from the court, not from the FSD.
What do I do if there is a default judgment against me?
If you think the support order was entered against you inappropriately, you may be able to have the order "set aside"(disregarded). There are four ways to set aside a support order, depending on the type of order and why you need it set aside. An order may be set aside for one of the following reasons:
What do I do if I know I have a current child support order?
One of the basic rules in child support cases is that the court cannot make retroactive modifications. This means that your child support obligation continues while you are incarcerated unless you request the court to change the order. While the court cannot legally eliminate your past due child support, it can and will reduce your current payment to zero while you are incarcerated.
There are two different modification procedures available to you: (1) have the FSD of your county DA's office modify the order, or (2) do the Motion for Modification yourself.
NOTE: It is very important to take the above steps as soon as possible because the court will only reduce your payment to zero as of the date you file the request for modification.
What do I do if my current order is zero but I have an arrearage (owe a past due amount)?
As stated above, the court cannot make retroactive modifications. Some FSDs/ CSAs will reduce the arrearage (past due amount) if you can show that you were in prison and/or unable to pay when the arrearage accrued. You should contact the county DA/FSD or CSA that has the order against you, or contact the Family Law Facilitator in that county for help, and request a reduction.
What do I do if the FSD does not act properly?
If the FSD does not act as it is required by law to act, you may do any of the following:
NOTE: Please be aware that failure to deal with your child support issues may cause you major problems when you are released from jail or prison. If you fall behind in your payments at least 30 days, the DA/FSD can have your driver's license or state commercial or business license denied (new issue or renewal). If you are more than four (4) months behind in payments, these licenses can be revoked. Commercial/business licenses include licenses to practice law, medicine, construction contracting, commercial truck driving, and auto repair. See Welfare and Institutions Code §11350.6.
Whether you have a current order, owe an arrearage or owe nothing, it is important that you contact the law facilitator or the DA/FSD or CSA upon your release to make sure that you have no problems in the future.
Dealing with the FSD can be a frustrating process. Make sure you keep track of all your correspondence and follow through on everything (see the section How to Make a Record in this manual). Giving up is no way to deal with child support issues; the problem will not go away.
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