I don’t think that Los Angeles County has calculated my back child support correctly. What can I do?
If you think that the billing statements you’re getting from your Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) are not calculating your back support (aka “arrears”) correctly, here are a few important things you need to know:
- The first thing you need to know is that the billing statements that you are getting very often have mistakes.
- The second important thing you need to know is that billing statements are not official documents, and are not being sent to you by the Court.
- What this means is that the numbers in the billing statements are not official numbers. They are nothing more than in-house calculations that are prepared by staff (who are not attorneys) of the Child Support Department and unfortunately oftentimes have errors.
- The County of Los Angeles (DCSS) has than 500,000 cases and there are no procedures for regularly auditing statements to make sure that they are accurate.
- In other words, there is no system in place for correcting any mistakes, and so if you don’t take any action, chances are your mistakes will never be corrected.
- There are a number of reasons why there might be mistakes, and which will be discussed in a separate blog post.
If you believe that the billing statements you’re getting are not correct, then you have a couple of options available to you which are: (1) Trying to get the problem handled administratively (i.e., asking me County to audit your case); and/or (2) Petitioning the Court (i.e., by filing a Request for Order) to officially determine your arrears.
1. Asking the County to Audit your Case.
Under the California Family Code (at section 17526(a)), on your request, the Child Support Department is required to review their calculations of your back support.
Although you can ask for the County to audit your arrears, there are two problems that can come up. First, if you are not an attorney, your request will be held by a staff person who may or may not have a good grasp of how your arrears should be calculated under the law
The second problem is that the County is unfortunately severely understaffed, and it is possible that either (1) Nobody may ever actually look at your file; or (2) Even if they do, they may not have the time or training to correctly handle any errors.
2. Filing a Motion with the Court to Determine your Arrears.
If you are not satisfied with the results you’re getting back from the County, under the Family Code (at section 17526(c)), you have the right to file a Request For Order (formerly known as an OSC) with the Court and your arrears will be officially determined by way of court process.
What you need to know about this is that this is, in fact, a formal process. There are formal requirements for proceeding, and the arrears determination by the Court will be a final determination that you will likely be stuck with.
For all of these reasons, you will likely want to have experienced legal counsel to represent you in this process — as you may end up getting your day in court, but also end up with a result that could saddle you with a debt you don’t feel you owe, and which you will be paying on for years to come.