In California, the State Disbursement Unit handles child support payments. Money is sent to the SDU by the parent who is supposed to pay, and then the SDU sends it on to the other parent through a direct deposit, a check, or an electronic card.
There are a lot of benefits to this system, one of which is that regular payments can be expected as long as the other parent continues to send the money to the SDU on time. Parents know what they’re going to get every month. For this reason, it can be a bit confusing when a payment that is under that expected amount arrives.
One reason this could happen is that the SDU service, though very inexpensive, is not free. There is a $25 charge that is made once a year, called an Annual Service Fee, and it can be taken from the payments.
Another reason is if the other parent has multiple children that he or she has to support through the system. Distribution could change to accommodate this. For example, if the parent’s income hasn’t changed and another child is born, there could be a shift so that all available money doesn’t go to one child.
Finally, the parent who is paying may have seen a significant change in some part of his or her employment, leading to a corresponding payment change. This could be the loss of a job, a change in hours assigned, a change in pay grade, or a disability that prevents the person from working.
Because of the stability of this system, it is important to know why any changes have occurred. If you think they should not have, be sure you know what legal options are open to you.
Source: California Department of Child Support Services, “Custodial Party FAQs,” accessed Aug. 23, 2016