FAMILY CODE SECTION 4250-4253
4250. (a) The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(1) Child and spousal support are serious legal obligations.
(2) The current system for obtaining, modifying, and enforcing
child and spousal support orders is inadequate to meet the future
needs of California’s children due to burgeoning caseloads within
local child support agencies and the growing number of parents who
are representing themselves in family law actions.
(3) The success of California’s child support enforcement program
depends upon its ability to establish and enforce child support
orders quickly and efficiently.
(4) There is a compelling state interest in creating an expedited
process in the courts that is cost-effective and accessible to
families, for establishing and enforcing child support orders in
cases being enforced by the local child support agency.
(5) There is a compelling state interest in having a simple,
speedy, conflict-reducing system, that is both cost-effective and
accessible to families, for resolving all issues concerning children,
including support, health insurance, custody, and visitation in
family law cases that do not involve enforcement by the local child
(b) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to: (1) provide
for commissioners to hear child support cases being enforced by the
local child support agency; (2) adopt uniform and simplified
procedures for all child support cases; and (3) create an Office of
the Family Law Facilitator in the courts to provide education,
information, and assistance to parents with child support issues.
4251. (a) Commencing July 1, 1997, each superior court shall
provide sufficient commissioners to hear Title IV-D child support
cases filed by the local child support agency. The number of child
support commissioners required in each county shall be determined by
the Judicial Council as prescribed by paragraph (3) of subdivision
(b) of Section 4252. All actions or proceedings filed by the local
child support agency in a support action or proceeding in which
enforcement services are being provided pursuant to Section 17400,
for an order to establish, modify, or enforce child or spousal
support, including actions to establish paternity, shall be referred
for hearing to a child support commissioner unless a child support
commissioner is not available due to exceptional circumstances, as
prescribed by the Judicial Council pursuant to paragraph (7) of
subdivision (b) of Section 4252. All actions or proceedings filed by
a party other than the local child support agency to modify or
enforce a support order established by the local child support agency
or for which enforcement services are being provided pursuant to
Section 17400 shall be referred for hearing to a child support
commissioner unless a child support commissioner is not available due
to exceptional circumstances, as prescribed by the Judicial Council
pursuant to paragraph (7) of subdivision (b) of Section 4252.
(b) The commissioner shall act as a temporary judge unless an
objection is made by the local child support agency or any other
party. The Judicial Council shall develop a notice which shall be
included on all forms and pleadings used to initiate a child support
action or proceeding that advises the parties of their right to
review by a superior court judge and how to exercise that right. The
parties shall also be advised by the court prior to the commencement
of the hearing that the matter is being heard by a commissioner who
shall act as a temporary judge unless any party objects to the
commissioner acting as a temporary judge. While acting as a temporary
judge, the commissioner shall receive no compensation other than
compensation as a commissioner.
(c) If any party objects to the commissioner acting as a temporary
judge, the commissioner may hear the matter and make findings of
fact and a recommended order. Within 10 court days, a judge shall
ratify the recommended order unless either party objects to the
recommended order, or where a recommended order is in error. In both
cases, the judge shall issue a temporary order and schedule a hearing
de novo within 10 court days. Any party may waive his or her right
to the review hearing at any time.
(d) The commissioner shall, where appropriate, do any of the
(1) Review and determine ex parte applications for orders and
(2) Take testimony.
(3) Establish a record, evaluate evidence, and make
recommendations or decisions.
(4) Enter judgments or orders based upon voluntary acknowledgments
of support liability and parentage and stipulated agreements
respecting the amount of child support to be paid.
(5) Enter default orders and judgments pursuant to Section 4253.
(6) In actions in which paternity is at issue, order the mother,
child, and alleged father to submit to genetic tests.
(e) The commissioner shall, upon application of any party, join
issues concerning custody, visitation, and protective orders in the
action filed by the local child support agency, subject to Section
17404. After joinder, the commissioner shall:
(1) Refer the parents for mediation of disputed custody or
visitation issues pursuant to Section 3170 of the Family Code.
(2) Accept stipulated agreements concerning custody, visitation,
and protective orders and enter orders pursuant to the agreements.
(3) Refer contested issues of custody, visitation, and protective
orders to a judge or to another commissioner for hearing. A child
support commissioner may hear contested custody, visitation, and
restraining order issues only if the court has adopted procedures to
segregate the costs of hearing Title IV-D child support issues from
the costs of hearing other issues pursuant to applicable federal
(f) The local child support agency shall be served notice by the
moving party of any proceeding under this section in which support is
at issue. Any order for support that is entered without the local
child support agency having received proper notice shall be voidable
upon the motion of the local child support agency.
4252. (a) The superior court shall appoint one or more subordinate
judicial officers as child support commissioners to perform the
duties specified in Section 4251. The child support commissioners’
first priority always shall be to hear Title IV-D child support
cases. The child support commissioners shall specialize in hearing
child support cases, and their primary responsibility shall be to
hear Title IV-D child support cases. Notwithstanding Section 71622 of
the Government Code, the number of child support commissioner
positions allotted to each court shall be determined by the Judicial
Council in accordance with caseload standards developed pursuant to
paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), subject to appropriations in the
annual Budget Act.
(b) The Judicial Council shall do all of the following:
(1) Establish minimum qualifications for child support
(2) Establish minimum educational and training requirements for
child support commissioners and other court personnel that are
assigned to Title IV-D child support cases. Training programs shall
include both federal and state laws concerning child support and
(3) Establish caseload, case processing, and staffing standards
for child support commissioners on or before April 1, 1997, which
shall set forth the maximum number of cases that each child support
commissioner can process. These standards shall be reviewed and, if
appropriate, revised by the Judicial Council every two years.
(4) Adopt uniform rules of court and forms for use in Title IV-D
child support cases.
(5) Offer technical assistance to courts regarding issues relating
to implementation and operation of the child support commissioner
system, including assistance related to funding, staffing, and the
sharing of resources between courts.
(6) Establish procedures for the distribution of funding to the
courts for child support commissioners, family law facilitators
pursuant to Division 14 (commencing with Section 10000), and related
(7) Adopt rules that define the exceptional circumstances in which
judges may hear Title IV-D child support matters as provided in
subdivision (a) of Section 4251.
(8) Undertake other actions as appropriate to ensure the
successful implementation and operation of child support
commissioners in the counties.
(c) As used in this article, “Title IV-D” means Title IV-D of the
federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 651 et seq.).
4253. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, when hearing
child support matters, a commissioner or referee may enter default
orders if the defendant does not respond to notice or other process
within the time prescribed to respond to that notice.