In 1975, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act required each state to establish a child and spousal support enforcement program. Part 300, Section 45, of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) further broke down the responsibilities between the federal, state and local governments for the child and spousal support enforcement program. The following is a summary of the roles and responsibilities of government agencies from these two sources:

Federal Government

The federal agency responsible for the child support enforcement program is the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). OCSE is located in the Administration for Families and Children (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS). OCSE is responsible for:
  • Developing program regulations
  • Reviewing and approving state plans and plan amendments
  • Establishing and maintaining a Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) including the new National Directory of New Hires (10/1/97) and a Federal Case Registry of Support Orders (10/1/98). States submit the relevant information to maintain these databases. FPLS matches data between the New Hire and Case Registry every two days
  • Funding states' programs, including funding of computer systems at regular and enhanced funding levels
  • Approving state waiver requests
  • Providing technical assistance to states on request
  • Conducting on-site program reviews
  • Auditing states' programs for compliance, efficiency, and effectiveness
  • Imposing sanctions when a state's plan fails to comply with federal laws or regulations
The goal of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to ensure that both parents financially support their children. Child support enforcement services are required for those families on public assistance and, upon request, for those families not receiving welfare.

State Government

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is the state agency responsible for the child support enforcement program in California. Within CDSS, the Child Support Program Management Branch directly oversees the program. Its responsibilities include:
  • Maintaining the state plan
  • Seeking legislation as needed to implement program requirements
  • Maintaining the California Parent Locator Service (CPLS). CDSS contracts this responsibility to the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General - Public Rights Division
  • Publicizing the availability of Title IV-D services
  • Evaluating the quality, efficiency, effectiveness and scope of county program operations
  • Maintaining a Central Registry for all interstate requests for support enforcement and assuring compliance with the states' UIFSA laws
  • Paying county claims for administrative reimbursement
  • Maintaining state-level intercept and/or withholding systems
  • Developing and disseminating program policies, standards, procedures and instructions
  • Allocating and distributing incentive payments to counties
  • Reviewing, evaluating, monitoring and recommending federal approval for electronic data processing efforts undertaken by local jurisdictions
  • Providing technical assistance to counties on request
  • Maintaining the State Directory of New Hires
  • State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The system transmits withholding orders to employers, monitors payment defaults, and uses automatic enforcement procedures. All state employers send payments to the SDU.
  • "Federal Case Registry" (under construction) containing records of all child support orders including all IV-D and non IV-D orders established after 10/1/98
  • Mandatory Bank Match Systems for quarterly data matches of financial institutions throughout the United States
The California Parent Locator Service (CPLS) handles locate requests from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS), other states' parent locator services and from local California child support enforcement agencies. CPLS attempts to find non-custodial parents' addresses or assets by accessing the following records: Employment Development Department, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Motor Vehicles, criminal justice agencies, public utilities and records of other state and local agencies. CPLS also administers California's New Employee Registry (NER) to identify newly employed absent parents.

The California Central Registry (CCR) receives all incoming inter-jurisdictional cases and reviews the documents from other agencies for completeness and assigns cases to the appropriate local child support enforcement agency in the county where the non-custodial parent resides.

Local Government

Family Code 17305 transferred the administration of child support enforcement and services from the District Attorney to local child support agencies in a phased 3-year period ending 1/1/03. This new Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) has most of the same enforcement tools and remedies that the District Attorney had. Each county operates with a plan of cooperation with CDSS.

DCSS is responsible for the following:

  • Receiving and distributing child support applications and referrals
  • Opening cases
  • Locating non-custodial parents and their assets
  • Establishing paternity
  • Determining the amount, terms and payment method of the obligation
  • Maintaining financial records
  • Enforcing child, spousal and health insurance orders through legal and administrative means

 The agency also complies with some general administrative programs:

  • Keeps all records of case activities
  • Secures case information
  • Works with other states and foreign countries to deliver IV-D services
  • Separates cash handling and accounting functions
  • Processes and distributes collections according to state and federal regulations
  • Maintains an accounting system that has generally accepted accounting standards