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Automated Child Support System

DCSS Liaison Report

An Overview of the New Automated Child Support system for Family Law Practitioners

THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA IS in the process of implementing a new statewide automated Child Support Enforcement (ESC) system. This system, which we will describe, significantly impacts the manner in which we as attor­neys interact with the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), and how child support is established, modified and collected. As explained below, the biggest impact for private attorneys is the manner in which child support is collected, and for those who practice before the child support commissioner, the new vehicle for calculating support.

Before we discuss the components of the new system, it is important to under­ stand how these changes came about. The first section of this article provides a short history of the statewide child support system. The second section will explain the changes, and the final section will discuss its possible impact on the private bar.


The 1988 Family Support Act (FSA) amended the Social Security Act to mandate that each state establish a single statewide uniform CSE system by October 1, 1995. This deadline was lacer extended co October 1, 1997. 1

The functional requirements for the computerized enforcement system are desccibedin45 CFR307,10et. seq. These requirements include opening cases, find­ing obligor parents, cracking arrearages, centralized support collection and dis­bursement system, automatic use of enforcement procedures, and the calcula­tion of child support.2

To compel the states co comply with this new mandate, the federal government provided grants co pay for the creation and maintenance of the system. The federal government levied significant fines against states that failed co timely create and implement a compliant system.

California’s First Attempt. In 1992, the State of California entered into a contract with Lockheed Martin co develop and implement a Statewide Automated Child Support System (SACSS). This first attempt was a disaster, costing California (after five years of design) in excess of $15 7 million, plus penalties and fines exceeding $1 billion.

According to the California state audi­ tor, the failure of the Lockheed Martin project was the result of a “cascade of events” from three sources: the federal government, Lockheed Martin, and the State of California.3

Although FSA was enacted in 1988, the federal government did not issue the final system requirements until June of 1993, leaving a little more than one year for the states to develop and implement a compliant program by the original deadline of October 1, 1995. Even with the extended deadline of October 1, 1997, none of the 10 largest states were able to develop and implement a program meet­ing the federal system requirements.

According to a California state auditor’s report, Lockheed Martin “underper­formed” on the project. Only 10 of the 87 staff members specifically named as working on the SACSS project actually did any work on the project, Lockheed Martin had high staff turnover, developed a “flawed system” and failed co test it adequately.4 Even though the State of California paid $3 million to a quality assurance contractor, it failed co heed the contractor’s warnings of the deficiencies with Lockheed Marcin.5 On November 20, 1997, after lengthy negotiations with Lockheed Martin and consultations with the federal government, the independent verification and validation vendor, the counties, the legislature, and others, the state terminated the project entirely. The ensuing litigation between the state and Lockheed commenced in June 1998 and ended with a judgment in June of 2000 in favor of Lockheed against the state for an additional $46.4 million, on top of the initial contact price of $111 million, bringing the total price paid to Lockheed Martin for SACSS to $15 7 million.6

California’s Second Attempt. In 1998, the state attempted to implement a statewide child support system, based on a consortium method under which each county would select one of four systems that already existed in the Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Francisco Counties. The intention was to link these systems together to form a statewide system. However, by early 1999, the federal Department of Health and Human Services rejected the consortium approach and required a single statewide automated child support system. 7

Fines and Penalties. In 1990, the federal government reimbursed the states for 90% of the cost of planning, developing and implementing an automated child support system. Because of California’s noncompliance, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) reduced its funding to California to the statutory base amount of 66% under 42 USC 655 (a).8 Note the90% funding level for states with compliant programs ended in 1998. Additional grants above and beyond the base 66% were available pursuant to 42 USC 655 (a) to states that had a certified automated system through the 2001 fiscal year ending in 2002. 9

The cut in funding was only the start. Since California failed to meet the revised federal deadline of October 1, 1997, to develop an approved child support system, California scarred paying penalties to the federal government in 1998. According to
42 USC 655, the penalties increased in severity over the course of five years. During the first year, the penalty was 4% of the amount of the reimbursement grant described above and increased to 8% in the second year, 16% for the third year, 25% for the fourth year and 30% for the fifth and any subsequent years. In dollars, chis meant that for California, the penalties started at $11.9 million for fiscal year 1998-1999, and grew to $157 million by fiscal year 2001-2002_10 For fiscal year 2005- 2006, the penalty has reached $223 million, for a cumulative total of almost $1.2 bil­lion.11 By June of last year, only South Carolina and California did not have a cer­tified automated child support system.12


In 1999,AB 150 set out the approach currently being implemented. It began with Version 1 under which each county con­ verted co one of two systems that are now linked together. The federal government approved chis approach and is evaluating the state’s application for actual certifica­tion. Version 2 will bring all the counties from the two existing systems onto the CSE statewide system, discussed below.

California started to develop the new plan, known as the California Child Sup­ port Automation System (CCSAS) in 2000. CCSAS has two components: 1) The Child Support Enforcement system, which is being developed by a team of vendors led by IBM. IBM was awarded the CSE contract in July of 2003 for $801 million; 2) The Stare Disbursement Unit (SDU), which is a service contract that was awarded to Bank of America in December of 2004. The initial contract is for seven years and costs the state $186 million.

On September 20, 2006, the State of California requested federal certification for CCSAS. DCSS anticipates that it will take a year or more for the federal OCSE to make a decision. Regardless, additional penalties will be suspended for the certi­fication period.13


The CSE will be linked to SDU and will, among other functions, provide services related to the establishment of paternity, and setting, modifying and enforcing child support orders.14 Elements of the CSE will include a new child support guideline calculator.

The CSE guideline calculator was developed, certified by the Judicial Council, and rolled our to all counties by the State Department of Child Support Services as a part of CCSAS, Version I. DCSS attorneys will start bringing print­ outs from this system. However, calcula­tions from a commercial system can still be produced in court at this time. Pilot counties will come up on CCSAS Version 2 (the version to be implemented) this month. Contra Costa is scheduled to convert in August of 2007. Final imple­mentation of Version 2 statewide is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008. Once completed, it is anticipated that the child support guideline calculator program, in some form, will be available on the internet for free use.

(Note: The CSE child support guideline calcula