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California Child Support in Administrative Law pt. 3

California Child Support and the Role of Commissioners


Child support commissioners (CSCs) were established in California as part of the broader child support enforcement reforms that followed federal legislation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Specifically, the creation of CSC positions and the formalization of their roles occurred after the passage of the Family Support Act of 1984.


The creation of the CSC role in the California child support system was driven by the need to efficiently handle child support cases, ensure fairness and due process, and provide specialized expertise in an area of family law that requires a deep understanding of complex legal and financial considerations. This role contributes to the effective operation of the child support system and serves the best interests of children and families.




CSCs in California are appointed by the superior court in each county, typically from a pool of qualified individuals who have demonstrated their expertise in family law and child support matters. To be eligible to serve as a CSC in California, an individual must meet the following six basic requirements:


1.    Education: Possess a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an accredited law school

2.    Experience: Have at least five years of experience practicing family law or serving as a family law facilitator

3.    Character and Competence: Demonstrate strong moral character, impartiality, competence in family law matters, and an understanding of child development and family dynamics

4.    Training and Continuing Education: Complete mandatory training and participate in continuing education programs to stay updated on the latest developments in child support laws and procedures

5.    Legal License: Be an active member of the California State Bar

6.    Residency: Reside in California


There is an application process for eligible candidates posted by the local superior courts or other relevant government agencies. Applicants go through an interview and evaluation process. This process may involve a panel of judges or other officials who assess the candidates based on their qualifications, experience, and suitability for the role. After the interviews and evaluations, candidates who meet the necessary criteria and are deemed qualified for the position may be recommended for appointment. These recommendations are typically made by the panel or committee responsible for evaluating candidates. The final appointment of CSCs is usually made by the presiding judge of the superior court in the relevant county.


Ongoing Activities & Management of CSCs

Once appointed, CSCs often undergo specialized training and continuing education to stay updated on changes in child support laws, guidelines, and best practices. This ensures that they remain knowledgeable and effective in their roles. Additionally, CSCs are subject to performance evaluations to assess their effectiveness in handling child support cases and maintaining due process.   This evaluation process helps ensure that commissioners continue to meet the required standards.


Primary Functions

One of the primary functions of these commissioners is to conduct hearings and make determinations regarding child support orders. They carefully consider various factors, including the income of both parents, custody arrangements, and any unique circumstances that may affect child support calculations. Their decisions are not arbitrary; they are rooted in a deep understanding of California's child support guidelines and relevant legal principles.


Furthermore, CSCs play a critical role in ensuring that due process is upheld throughout the child support process. They provide parents with an opportunity to be heard, present evidence, and assert their rights. In doing so, they help maintain the integrity of the legal system and protect the rights of all parties involved. 8


Beyond the courtroom, CSCs engage in extensive research and continuing education. They stay informed about changes in child support laws, economic trends, and evolving family dynamics. This commitment to ongoing learning is crucial in ensuring that child support orders remain fair, equitable, and reflective of the best interests of children. In addition to their adjudicatory role, CSCs in California often serve as mediators, helping parents reach agreements on child support matters outside of court. This mediation process can be invaluable in reducing conflict and promoting cooperative co-parenting arrangements that benefit children.

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