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Skip Navigation Links Home > How the Child Support Process Works > Step 7: Enforce A Child/Medical Support Order

Enforce A Child/Medical Support Order

 Step 7 - Enforce A Child/Medical Support Order

The department’s primary functions include collecting child support, family support and spousal support and enforcing medical support. In most cases, current child support, family support and spousal support is enforced only until the child emancipates, which in the State of California is when the child reaches the age of eighteen (18). However, if a child becomes 18 years old and is still a full time high school student, the current child support continues until the date the child graduates or reaches the age of nineteen (19), whichever occurs first. A child may emancipate before reaching the age of 18 by marrying, joining the armed forces, or by order of the court.

The department will enforce child support until the child emancipates or the case is closed and child support arrears (past-due support) are paid in full. However, we enforce spousal support arrears only as long as we are also enforcing child support or family support arrears.

Because every child support case is unique, the best method of enforcement will be selected based on the information in the case. This information includes, but is not limited to the non-custodial parent’s:

  • Payment history
  • Date of last payment
  • Other child support obligations
  • Residence
  • Place of employment
  • Income
  • Assets


  • There are many enforcement tools available to the department to use in collecting the support owed. Many of the actions, such as credit reporting and tax refund interception, will be taken automatically when an account for child support is opened. Others, such as a contempt action, will be taken when appropriate for the case. Summarized below are some of the enforcement tools commonly used by the department.

  • Income Withholding Order (IWO)
    The law requires that all court orders for child support include a provision for an IWO. If the noncustodial parent (NCP) has a job, the IWO is sent to his/her employer. The employer must deduct the amount specified in the IWO and send it directly to the State Disbursement Unit. If the NCP is self-employed or works for cash, other enforcement tools are used to collect support up to 50% of income.
  • National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)
    The court will generally order the NMSN, which requires an employer to enroll the child(ren) in a health insurance plan and to deduct the cost of the plan from the wages of the parent.
  • Credit Reporting
    The NCP’s account status information, including arrears (past due support) owed and payment history, is reported to the following Credit Reporting Agencies on a monthly basis: TRANS UNION, EXPERIAN, EQUIFAX (CBI), and INNOVIS.
  • License Suspension
    When an NCP does not pay support as ordered, he/she is reported to California licensing boards. The NCP’s application for new or renewed state-issued driver, business and/or professional licenses (for example: cosmetologist, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney) will be denied if payment arrangements have not been made with our department.
  • State and Federal Tax Intercept
    All NCPs who owe arrears are reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). These agencies intercept NCPs' federal and state income tax refunds and send the intercepted refunds to the State Disbursement Unit.
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB)/Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
    NCPs who owe arrears are submitted to the Employment Development Department (EDD) on an ongoing basis. The EDD can withhold up to 25% of an NCP’s UIB or DIB for child support.
  • Workers’ Compensation
    When an NCP has a Workers’ Compensation claim, up to 25% of ongoing temporary disability benefits can be withheld by Income Withholding Order to pay current support and arrears. A lien against any compensation awarded to the NCP may also be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) for any arrears that accumulated from the date the NCP was injured.
  • Real Property Liens
    The department records a Notice of Support Judgment in any California county in which an NCP has or may acquire property to create a lien against real property. Once the lien is filed, the NCP cannot sell or refinance that property unless arrears are paid in full, or other arrangements are made with the department.
  • Passport Denial
    If an NCP owes more than $2,500 in arrears, he/she is entered into the Passport Denial Program (PDP). The U.S. State Department will not issue or renew a passport to a person in the PDP. NCPs that have been placed in the PDP can only be removed from the program if arrears are paid in full or if other specific circumstances apply.
  • Bank Levy
    NCPs who owe arrears may be submitted for a bank levy to take money from accounts held in financial institutions (including bank accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts and financial securities). A withholding order is sent to the financial institution requesting the full amount of the arrears owed. The institution will transmit all available funds, up to the full amount of the arrears, to the State Disbursement Unit.
  • Lottery Intercepts
    Lottery winnings from the State of California to an NCP are automatically intercepted and forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit to pay arrears owed.
  • Seek Work Order
    In some cases, the department can file an Order to Show Cause to Seek Work to ask the judicial officer to order an unemployed parent who is not paying court-ordered child support to seek work.
  • Contempt
    A contempt action may be filed against the NCP if it is determined that he/she knows about the child support obligation and has the ability and means to pay, but refuses to do so.
  • Writ
    In some cases, the department can file a Writ of Execution with the court, which directs a person or entity holding personal property, bank accounts or other assets owned in whole or in part by the NCP to turn over those assets to pay arrears owed.
  • Out-of-State Enforcement
    The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) provides rules for the jurisdiction and modification of child support orders when the parties live in different states. The United States also has reciprocal agreements with many nations around the world. For those nations, there are procedures in place for establishing and enforcing a child support order.