Handbook on Child Support Enforcement

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 0.0 of 5 stars (0 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is a Federal/State/local partnership to collect child support: we want to send the strongest possible message that parents cannot walk away from their children. Our goals are to ensure that children have the financial support of both their parents, to foster responsible behavior towards children, and to reduce welfare costs.

The CSE Program was established in 1975 as Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. It functions in all States and territories, through the State/county Social Services Department, Attorney General's Office or Department of Revenue. Most States work with prosecuting attorneys, other law enforcement agencies, and officials of family or domestic relations courts to carry out the program at the local level.

State Child Support Programs locate noncustodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce support orders, and collect child support payments. While programs vary from State to State, their services are available to all parents who need them.

The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It helps States develop, manage, and operate their programs effectively and according to Federal law. The Office pays the major share of State program operating costs, provides policy guidance and technical help to enforcement agencies, conducts audits and educational programs, supports research, and shares ideas for program improvement.

We believe that child support enforcement provides hope as well as support to America's children. We dedicate this Handbook to the millions of parents who put their children first by responsibly providing for their emotional and financial support.


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) included provisions to ensure that more children have paternity and child support orders established and receive financial support to cover their basic needs. The new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), that has replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), is time limited. Child support provisions of the new law are designed to ensure that those noncustodial parents who have not done so will take a fair share of the responsibility for the financial support of children.

149 A National new hire reporting system. The law establishes a National Directory of "New Hires" which requires employers to report all newly hired employees for inclusion in State and National Directories of New Hires. This provision will speed direct withholding of child support from wages as well as help track obligated parents across State lines. (Effective 10/1/97)

149 Streamlined paternity establishment. The law makes it easier to establish legal paternity for children born to unmarried parents. It expands the use of administrative (rather than judicial) procedures and the voluntary in-hospital paternity establishment program, and requires standardized acknowledgement forms. (Effective 10/1/96)

149 Uniform interstate child support laws. The law provides for uniform rules, procedures, and forms for interstate cases. (Effective 1/1/98)

149 Computerized state-wide collections. States are required to establish centralized collection and disbursement units. (Effective 10/1/98)

149 Enhanced techniques/tough new penalties. Under PRWORA States can implement enhanced child support enforcement techniques. The law expands wage withholding, and allows states to require obligated parents to work. The law also enables States to revoke drivers, professional, recreational and occupational licenses of parents who owe delinquent child support, and allows States to seize assets.

149 Access and visitation programs. In an effort to support noncustodial parents' involvement in their children's lives, the law includes grants to states to develop programs that support children's visitation with and access to their noncustodial parents.


....................................................... 1
How to apply for child support enforcement services....what they cost

The initial search...Federal and State Parent Locator Services

III. ESTABLISHING FATHERHOOD: PATERNITY................................. 11
Benefits...necessary evidence...voluntary acknowledgment

Determining the amount...changing the amount

V. ENFORCING THE SUPPORT ORDER: ENFORCEMENT........................... 21
Techniques that work

How to collect payments in another State...tracking your case

VII. CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT FOR NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN................................................................. 35

VIII. CONCLUSION........................................................ 37

APPENDIX............................................................... 39
Glossary of Child Support Enforcement Terms.................................. 39
State Child Support Enforcement Offices ..................................... 45
Regional Offices of the Office of Child Support Enforcement.................. 53
Child Support Enforcement Records............................................ 57


Are you a parent--divorced, separated or never married--with children to support?

Do you need help to get a child support order?

Do you need help to collect child support payments from the parent who has an order to pay?

States must use proven enforcement tools on behalf of families who apply for child support enforcement services. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is run by State Human Services Departments, Attorney General's Offices, or Departments of Revenue. To learn more about the program or to apply for child support services, call your local CSE office. Check the county listings in your telephone book to get the telephone number, or call or write the State CSE Agency listed at the back of this Handbook. (CSE Agency toll-free numbers, when available, are listed too.)

For the most part, child support enforcement problems are handled according to State and local laws and practices. States often can use administrative procedures* or other legal processes for establishing and enforcing support orders more quickly than is usually possible with court proceedings.

* Words in italics are defined in the Glossary in the Appendix.

In this Handbook, you will find the basic steps to follow to establish paternity and obtain a support order, and to collect the support due, whether you are working with your State or local CSE Program or your own attorney. The Handbook is organized so that you can refer directly to the sections you need.

Your State's Child Support Enforcement Program is available to help you:

. Find the noncustodial parent: Location

. Establish legal fatherhood for children: Paternity

. Establish the legal support order: Obligation

. Collect child support payments: Enforcement

Problems such as property settlement, visitation and custody are not, by themselves, child support enforcement issues and the CSE Program generally cannot enforce court orders relating to them. Parents must deal with these issues through the courts or other systems set up by the State. Today, about 85 percent of custodial parents are women and 15 percent of custodial parents are men. As you go through this Handbook, remember that either parent may have been awarded primary custody by the court.

REMEMBER: The more you know about child support enforcement, the more you take an active role in getting information to your caseworker and asking questions about your case, the more success you will have in obtaining regular and full child support payments for your children.

The person you will be working with at your enforcement office may be called a caseworker, investigator, enforcement worker, collection specialist, or child support worker. The term "caseworker" will be used in this Handbook. Also, the words "court" or "judge" mean the official agency having the authority in your State to make legally binding decisions.

Who can get help?

Any parent or person with custody of a child who needs help to establish a child support or medical support order or to collect support payments can apply for child support enforcement services. People who have received assistance under cash assistance programs - Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), or the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (we will refer to these as "cash assistance" in this Handbook), or Medicaid or Federally-assisted Foster Care programs are automatically referred for child support enforcement services.

An unmarried father can apply for services to establish paternity--a legal relationship with his child.

A noncustodial parent whose case is not in the CSE Program can request services to make payments through the Program. Doing so can ensure that there is a record of payments made.

Where do I apply for help in obtaining child support?

Through your local child support enforcement (CSE) office. The number can be found in your telephone directory usually under the State/County social services agency.

Is there an application fee?

People receiving assistance under Medicaid, Foster Care, or cash assistance programs do not have to pay for CSE services. For all others, a fee of up to $25 is charged, although some States absorb all or part of the fee or collect payment from the noncustodial parent.

Are there any other costs?

Because child support agencies may recover all or part of the actual costs of their services from customers who are not in a public assistance program, there may be other costs to parents. These can include the cost of legal work done by agency attorneys and costs for locating a noncustodial parent. Such costs may be deducted from the child support before it is sent to you or may be collected from the noncustodial parent. Not all States recover the costs of their services. Your local CSE office can tell you about the practices in your State.

My State recovers costs from the custodial parent. How will I know how much will be deducted from my support checks?

Your caseworker should be able to estimate the costs involved in your case, and give you an idea of how much they will deduct from each check before sending it to you.

Will I receive the entire amount of support paid?

If you have not received cash assistance, you will receive the total child support payment (less any fees the State may collect). If you are receiving cash assistance, check with your State CSE Agency. Some States will give you the entire child support payment and reduce your assistance payment, others will keep the entire amount and not reduce the assistance payment. If you are not receiving cash assistance now but did in the past, if amounts are still owed to the State, any support collected beyond the amount ordered for current support may be used to reduce the arrearages owed.

Will there be an extra cost if the enforcement agency is dealing with the enforcement agency in another State?

There may be extra costs if more than one State is handling your case. Ask your caseworker to estimate these costs, if any.

Will the enforcement agency keep track of my child support payments to make sure they keep coming? I am not in a cash assistance program.

CSE offices are required to monitor payments to make sure they are made regularly and fully. But you should inform the agency if payments are late or in the wrong amount, or if you receive payments directly. When you monitor your case, you can keep the CSE office informed so that it can act quickly if needed.

I'm getting a divorce and my spouse wants me to pay child support directly to her. Can I insist on paying through the CSE office?

You should send your payment to whomever is specified in the child support order. Since January, 1994, support orders must include a provision for wage withholding unless both parents and the courts agree on another payment method. If your order does not call for wage withholding, you can request this service. If you do, you will have a record that you have made payments as required. If you are self-employed, you may be able to arrange for an automatic transfer of funds to the child support agency through electronic funds transfer. Either parent can apply for CSE services, which include receiving and distributing payments.

The noncustodial parent lives across the State. I cannot afford to take the time off from work or travel there for a child support hearing. How can I get enforcement of my child support?

Most local CSE offices handle enforcement in different jurisdictions in the same State without your having to travel outside your own jurisdiction. Ask your local CSE office for details about how enforcement would work in your case.

I am applying for cash assistance. Do I have to provide information about the father?

To be eligible for assistance, you must provide information to help to identify the father and collect child support from him. Any child support collected will be used to help support your children--going either directly to you or to repay the State for your assistance grant. Your State CSE Agency will explain how the child support will be used.

I am applying for cash assistance, but I am afraid that the father may hurt me or the children if I tell a caseworker who he is. What should I do?

Under some conditions, the CSE office may agree that there is "good cause" for not trying to collect support from the father. You can explain the situation to your caseworker and provide supporting information.

My children and I need money now. The noncustodial parent left us 10 years ago. Can the CSE office still take my case?

If you apply for services, the CSE office will try to find the noncustodial parent to establish or enforce a child support obligation. Be sure to give your caseworker all the information you have that might help find the parent.

If the CSE office can't find the noncustodial parent, does that mean I can't get cash assistance?

No. You can get cash assistance if you are trying to help find the noncustodial parent. Your State or local CSE Agency will tell you what information they will need you to provide in order to get assistance.

What does the child support enforcement agency need to know?

No matter where you start--establishing paternity, finding a noncustodial parent, establishing or enforcing a support order--the CSE office must have enough information to pursue your case. All information you provide will be treated in confidence. The more details you provide, the easier it will be to process your case and to collect child support payments for your children.

What documents do I need to bring to the enforcement agency?

The following information and documents will help the CSE office to locate the parent, establish paternity, and establish and/or enforce your child support order:

149 Information about the noncustodial parent

149 name, address and social security number
149 name and address of current or recent employer
149 names of friends and relatives, names of organizations to which he or she might belong
149 information about his or her income and assets - payslips, tax returns, bank accounts, investments or property holdings
149 physical description

149 children's birth certificates

149 if paternity is an issue, written statements (letters or notes) in which the alleged father has said or implied that the child is his

149 your child support order

149 your divorce decree or separation agreement

149 records of any child support received in the past

149 information about your income and assets

You play a big role in getting the child support your children deserve.

I'm the noncustodial parent. I love my kids. I pay my child support. About half the time when I go to pick them up for my weekend, my ex-wife has made other plans for them. It's not fair that the State will enforce my child support obligation but not do anything about my rights.

Although the CSE Program lacks authority to enforce visitation, many State or local governments have developed procedures for enforcing visitation orders. Also, a provision of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) makes funding available to States for developing model programs to ensure that children will be able to have the continuing care and emotional support of both parents. Check with your CSE office to see what resources are available to you and to find out about laws which address custody and visitation.


To establish the paternity of a child, to obtain an order for support, and in most cases, to enforce that order, the CSE agency must know where the other parent lives or works. When a legal claim is made by one person against another, the defendant must be given notice of the legal action taken and the steps necessary to protect his or her rights. To notify the noncustodial parent in advance--either by certified mail or in person--child support enforcement officials need a correct address. If you do not have the address, the CSE office can try to find it. The most important information that you can provide to the child support office is the noncustodial parent's social security number (SSN).

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) has given us an important new tool for locating parents who owe child support. It requires State and National Directories of newly hired employees. Employers will be required to report their employees within 20 days of their hiring to a State Directory of New Hires. The State Directory will report the information to a National Directory of New Hires provided by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

State CSE Agencies, with due process and security safeguards, have access to information from the following:

149 State and local government:

vital statistics
state tax files
real and titled personal property records
occupational and professional licenses and business information
employment security agency
public assistance agency
motor vehicle department
law enforcement departments

149 Records of private entities like public utilities and cable television companies (such as names and addresses of individuals and their employers as they appear in customer records)

149 Information held by financial institutions, including asset and liability data.

I think the noncustodial parent is still in the area. What information will the enforcement office need to find him?

Most important is the SSN and an employer's name and address; also helpful are the names, addresses and phone numbers of relatives, friends, or former employers who might know where he/she works or lives. Unions and local organizations, including professional organizations, might also have information.

What if I don't have the SSN?

Social security numbers are now required on applications for professional licenses, commercial driver's licenses and marriage licenses, on divorce records, support orders, paternity determinations or acknowledgements, and death records.

If none of these is available, or the SSN was not yet required when the document was issued, the CSE office can subpoena information about bank accounts, insurance policies, credit cards, payslips, or income tax returns. If you and the other parent filed a joint Federal income tax return in the last three years, the CSE office can get the social security number from the IRS. Your caseworker may be able to get the SSN with at least three of the following pieces of information: the parent's name, place of birth, date of birth, his/her father' name, and his/her mother's maiden name.

What if the noncustodial parent cannot be found locally?

Your CSE office will ask the State Parent Locator Service (SPLS) to search. Using the social security number, the SPLS will check the records of State agencies such as motor vehicle registration, unemployment insurance, income tax, and correctional facilities. If the SPLS finds that the parent has moved to another State, it can ask the other State to search, or send a request to the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS).

What resources does the FPLS have?

The FPLS can search for addresses in the records of the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Defense, the National Personnel Records Center, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and State Employment Security Agencies. States will be reporting newly hired employees to a National Directory of New Hires, which, as of October 1, 1997, will be a part of the FPLS.

Can my lawyer or I ask the FPLS to find an address for the other parent?

Not directly. However, you or your attorney can submit a request to use the FPLS through the local or State CSE Agency.

Can State and Federal location efforts be made at the same time?

Yes. For instance, a search can be initiated by the State to another State and to the FPLS at the same time.

Can enforcement agencies use the Federal income tax return to find out where the noncustodial parent lives and what he or she earns?

Yes. Under certain conditions, the IRS, working through the State and Federal Child Support Enforcement Agencies, may disclose to the child support office information that income providers submit on IRS Form 1099. This information is a valuable tool to help find a noncustodial parent and determine his or her financial assets. The information may only be used for the purpose of enforcing child support payments.

Information available through Form 1099 includes both earned and unearned income, including wages, earnings on stocks and bonds, interest from bank accounts, unemployment compensation, capital gains, royalties and prizes, and employer and financial institution addresses. A number of very small businesses submit 1099 asset information to the IRS, so this can be a good source of information. Any information obtained from the IRS must be verified through a second source, such as an employer or bank, before the CSE agency can use it.

What will happen when the caseworker has the current address of the noncustodial parent?

The worker will verify the home and work addresses, then ask the noncustodial parent to come to the CSE office for an interview, or notify him/her that legal action may be taken.

The father of my child is in the military, but I don't know where he is stationed. Can the enforcement agency find him?

Yes. The FPLS can provide the current duty station of a parent who is in any of the uniformed services.


A father can acknowledge paternity by signing a written admission or voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. All States have programs under which birthing hospitals give unmarried parents of a newborn the opportunity to acknowledge the father's paternity of the child. States must also help parents acknowledge paternity up until the child's eighteenth birthday through vital records offices or other entities designated by the State. Parents are not required to apply for child support enforcement services when acknowledging paternity.

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (PRWORA) an acknowledgment of paternity becomes a finding of paternity unless the man who signed the acknowledgment denies that he is the father within 60 days. If it becomes necessary to seek child support, a finding of paternity creates the basis for a child support order. A support order against the father cannot be established for a child who is born to unmarried parents until paternity has been established.

It is important to establish paternity as early as possible. While CSE offices must try to establish paternity for any child up to the child's 18th birthday, it is best to do it as soon after the child's birth as possible. If the man will not acknowledge that he is the father, the CSE agency can order genetic testing. These tests are simple to take and highly accurate.

What are the benefits of establishing paternity?

Paternity establishment can provide basic emotional, social, and economic ties between a father and his child.

Once paternity is established legally, a child gains legal rights and privileges. Among these may be rights to inheritance, rights to the father's medical and life insurance benefits, and to social security and possibly veterans' benefits. The child also has a chance to develop a relationship with the father, and to develop a sense of identity and connection to the "other half" of his or her family. It may be important for the health of the child for doctors to have knowledge of the father's medical history.

What will the enforcement caseworker need to know to try to establish paternity?

The caseworker needs as much information as you can give about the alleged father and the facts about your relationship with him, your pregnancy, and the birth of your child. Some of these questions may be personal. States must keep the information that you give confidential.

The caseworker will also want to know whether he ever provided any financial support, or in any other way acknowledged--through letters or gifts--that the child was his. A picture of the alleged father with the child is helpful, as well as any information from others who could confirm your relationship with him.

What if he denies he is the father, or says he's not sure?

Paternity can be determined by administrative procedures which take into account highly accurate tests conducted on blood or tissue samples of the man, mother and child. Genetic test results indicate a probability of paternity and can establish a legal presumption of paternity. These tests have an accuracy range of between 90 and 99 percent. They can exclude a man who is not the biological father and can also show the likelihood of paternity if he is not excluded. Each party in a contested paternity case must submit to genetic tests at the request of either party or the CSE agency.

If genetic tests are necessary, who pays for them?

If the State orders the tests, the State must pay the cost of the testing. If the father is identified by the tests, some States will charge him for their costs.

If a party disputes the original test result, he or she can pay for a second genetic test and the State must then obtain additional testing.

What happens if I am not sure who the father is?

If the father could be one of several men, each may be required to take a genetic test. These tests are very accurate, and it is almost always possible to determine who fathered a baby and to rule out any one who did not.

My boyfriend is on a military base abroad and I am about to have his baby. How can I establish paternity and get an order for support?

You can apply for child support enforcement services at your local CSE office. If he is willing to sign documents to acknowledge paternity and agree to support, then enforcement can proceed by a wage withholding order. If the man is on a naval ship or lives on a military base abroad and will not acknowledge paternity, it may be necessary to wait until he returns to the United States for blood work to be done.

The father of my child said I would never get a paternity judgment on him because he'd just leave the State. What happens in this case?

If the accused father fails to respond to a formal complaint properly served upon him, a default judgment can be entered in court. The default judgment establishes paternity. At the same time, a court order for support may be issued. If the parent has disappeared, State and Federal Parent Locator Services can be called on to help find him. States must give full faith and credit to paternity determinations made by other states in accordance with their laws and regulations.

My boyfriend and I are still in high school, and our baby is 6 months old. Why should legal paternity be established if the father has no money to support the child?

When the father gets older and starts working, he will be able to support the child. Having paternity established legally, even if the order for support is delayed, means collecting child support will be easier later.

My baby's father lives out of State. Can I still have paternity established?

Yes, you can. If the baby was conceived in your State, or the father used to live there, your State can claim "long arm" jurisdiction over him, and require that he appear for paternity establishment. If your State cannot claim jurisdiction, the CSE Agency can petition the State where he lives to establish paternity. Your caseworker will be able to tell you what needs to be done in your case.

What happens after paternity is established?

If it becomes necessary to establish a child support order, a CSE caseworker may discuss the child's needs with the father and what he is required to pay for child support according to the State guidelines. The court may also include at this time the exact terms of custody, visitation, and other parental rights.

I don't want my daughter's father in our lives. I'd rather work two jobs and support my child myself than have him establish paternity. As long as I don't receive public assistance, why does establishing paternity matter?

There are few situations when it is not in children's best interest to have paternity established. Knowing their father and having his emotional and financial support is very important to children. Also, remember, the child's father has the right to request genetic testing to prove that he is the father and he can then establish the legal right to a relationship with his child.

I don't have any way to support my baby without help, but my baby's father is dangerous. I'm afraid to tell the caseworker who he is.

If you are worried about your or the baby's safety if you try to establish paternity, if you need to be in a cash assistance program, you may talk with your caseworker about showing "good cause" for not naming the father.

My child's father wants to declare paternity. Is there an easy way for him to do this?

All States offer parents the opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge a child's paternity until the age of 18. Forms are available at the hospital or from the State vital records agency. More information is available from the CSE agency.


If child support enforcement becomes an issue, it is necessary to have a legal order for child support spelling out the amount of the obligation and how it is to be paid. Data from the United States Census Bureau show that, of the over 11 million families with a parent living elsewhere, only 56 percent have legally binding support orders.

Establishing a support order depends on how much success you and your caseworker or lawyer have in several critical areas, such as locating the noncustodial parent if necessary, identifying what he or she can pay, and determining the financial needs of the child.

States are required to have child support guidelines available to all people who set child support amounts. Most State guidelines consider the needs of the child, other dependents, and the ability of the parents to pay. States must use the guidelines unless they can be shown to be inappropriate in a particular case.

States today have arrangements for establishing the support order by an administrative procedure or other expedited legal procedure. The hearing may be conducted by a master or a referee of the court, or by an administrative hearings officer. An agreement made between the parents, based on the appropriate child support guidelines, and approved by this kind of agency generally has the same effect as one established in court. It is legally binding on the parties concerned.

The agreement that the parents make should provide for the child's present and future well-being. It may be useful to discuss these issues together if you can, or with a mediator or family counselor. You may call your Child Support Enforcement (CSE) office to find out about your State's guidelines.

How does the caseworker find out about the other parent's income or assets? I don't know much that will help.

The caseworker will make every possible effort to identify the parent's employment, property owned, and any other sources of income or assets. This information must be verified before the support order is final. Under certain situations, the IRS may provide financial information about the parent's earned and unearned income such as interest payments and unemployment compensation. The State CSE agency now has access to financial institution data, such as bank accounts, and credit bureau data, which may provide information about employers and/or assets.

I'm sure the other parent is willing to pay support. Can we make an agreement between ourselves and present it to the court?

If parents can cooperate and agree, all the better. You can get help from a lawyer, mediator or family counselor. The court's sole interest in your agreement is to see that it is fair to all parties, that the welfare of the children is protected, and that the agreement conforms with the guidelines.

Are the earnings of both parents considered in setting support awards?

In some State guidelines, both parents' earnings are considered in setting the amount of the support order. Check with your CSE office. Laws vary from State to State, but parents who can work out a fair support agreement between themselves will have a better chance of having their wishes recognized in court.

My wife and I are working out a joint custody agreement. How would the court decide the amount of child support for each of us?

That depends a lot on the terms of your custody agreement and on your State guidelines: some States have guideline formulas that take joint custody into account. The same factors would apply: State guidelines, each parent's ability to pay, and the needs of the child.

My husband's income is enough to support the children and me without a drop in our standard of living after the divorce. Do the courts consider this?

These decisions, again, are based on the State's guidelines. Of course, parents can try to have the amount of support changed if their financial situations change.

I just heard that my son's mother has had three promotions in the last four years but the child support is still like it was six years ago. Is there some way to find out when she has a raise?

CSE offices will review child support orders every three years if either parent requests such a review. Ask your caseworker for information about reviewing and, if appropriate, modifying your child support order. States can adjust child support orders according to child support guidelines, a cost of living adjustment, or automated methods determined by the State. What can I do to get my support increased if it is too low?

If you go to your CSE office for a modification of your order, the income and assets of the noncustodial parent, in many States your financial situation, and any special needs of the child will need to be determined. If appropriate, the agency can then seek a legal modification.

Is there a limit to the amount of money that can be taken from my paycheck for child support?

The amount that can be withheld from an employee's disposable wages is limited by the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (FCCPA) to 50 percent of disposable earnings if an obligated parent has a second family and 60 percent if there is no second family. These limits are each increased by 5 percent (to 55% and 65%) if payments are in arrears for a period equal to 12 weeks or more. State law may further limit the amount that can be taken from a wage earner's paycheck.

My ex-husband has remarried and has another family to support. How will this affect the support that my children are due?

Even though the noncustodial parent has a second family, this does not eliminate responsibility to the first family. In some States, the judge may grant the noncustodial parent a decrease in the obligation based on guidelines for child support. You should be notified beforehand and given an opportunity to contest the proposed change. Other factors which could lower the support order include steady employment of the child or poor health or decreased earning ability of the noncustodial parent.

My children's father is divorcing again and will have another child support order. We live in another State and I'm afraid that this second order will be enforced before mine.

State guidelines may indicate how child support is to be shared when there is more than one support order. If his income will not provide for both orders, the amount of support for your children may be reduced, but you will receive a share of the support collected. For orders enforced by wage withholding, States must have a formula for sharing the available income among the support orders. Ask your caseworker for more information.

I can't get health insurance with my job but my ex-wife gets good benefits where she works. Can she be required to put the children on her insurance?

Yes. The CSE agency must petition the court to include medical support in any order for child support when employment related or other group health insurance is available to the noncustodial parent at a reasonable cost. Court orders can also be modified to include health care coverage.

If you are not receiving cash assistance or Medicaid, the CSE agency will help you enforce a medical support order if you want it to. If you do not want its help, you may decline it. For people on cash assistance, or Medicaid, the CSE agency must order the noncustodial parent to provide health insurance, if it is available.

Federal law requires States to have laws which should make medical support enforcement easier. For example, insurers can no longer refuse to enroll a child in a health care plan because the parents were not married or because the child does not live in the same household as the enrolled parent. The law also created a tool that child support agencies will be able to use to establish and enforce medical support when the noncustodial parent participates in a group health plan but does not enroll the child.

This law provides that custodial parents can obtain information about coverage directly from an insurer, submit claims directly to the insurer, and be reimbursed directly by an insurer. For specific information about these laws in your State, contact the CSE office.

The father of my child is in jail. Can I get support?

Past-due support may accumulate while the father is in jail. But unless he has other assets, such as property or any income such as wages from a work-release program, it is unlikely that support can be collected while he is in jail. Depending on State law, your support order may be modified so that payment is deferred until he is released and working.

After I pay my child support, I don't even have enough money for decent food. When my child support order was set I was making about $300 a month more than I am now. Can I get the order changed?

Either parent can request a review, and adjustment, if appropriate, of a child support obligation every 36 months, or sooner if there has been a substantial change in circumstances such as reduced income of the obligated parent. Check with your CSE office to see if your child support obligation is in line with State guidelines and ask how to request a review.

If your case does not meet the State's standards for review, either because the order has been reviewed within three years or the change in income is smaller than would merit an adjustment under State standards, you may still be able to petition the courts for a hearing. In this case, it may be helpful to have the services of an attorney. Your local legal aid society may be able to provide low-cost counsel to parents who cannot afford a private attorney. Also a number of States have information about how to handle your case pro se (a legal term for representing yourself) to have the courts determine if your support obligation should be changed. Contact your local CSE office or the court.


A main objective of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to make sure that child support payments are made regularly and in the correct amount. While many noncustodial parents are involved in their children's lives and are willing to pay child support, lapses of payment do occur. When they do, a family's budget can be quickly and seriously threatened, and the anxiety the custodial parent feels can easily disrupt the family's life.

For this reason, Congress decided that immediate wage withholding should be included in all child support orders. (States must also apply withholding to sources of income other than wages.) For child support orders issued or modified through State CSE Programs, immediate wage withholding began November 1, 1990. Immediate wage withholding began January 1, 1994 for all initial orders which are not established through the CSE Program. The law allows for an exception to immediate wage withholding if the court (or administrative process) finds good cause, or if both parents agree to an alternative arrangement. In these cases, an arrearage equal to one month's payment will trigger withholding.

If the noncustodial parent has a regular job, wage withholding for child support can be treated like other forms of payroll deduction--income tax, social security, union dues, or any other required payment.

If payments are skipped or stop entirely, especially if the noncustodial parent is self-employed, works for cash or commissions, changes employment, or moves frequently, the CSE office will try to enforce the support order through other means.

Subject to due process safeguards, States have laws which allow them to use enforcement techniques such as State and Federal income tax offset, liens on real or personal property owned by the debtor, orders to withhold and deliver property that may satisfy the debt, or a seizure and sale of property with the proceeds from the sale applied to the support debt. These methods can be used by the CSE office without directly involving the courts.

The noncustodial parent refuses to pay child support, but owns a good deal of property in the county. Can a lien be issued on the property?

Yes. But you must remember a lien on property does not by itself result in the immediate collection of any money. It only prevents the owner from selling, transferring, or borrowing against the property until the child support debt is paid. However, the presence of a property lien may encourage the noncustodial parent to pay the past-due child support in order to retain clear title to the property. States are now required to give full faith and credit to liens issued by another State.

Is it possible to collect the support payments from personal property?

Under some State laws, the enforcement official can issue an order to withhold and deliver. The order is sent to the person, company, or institution that is holding property belonging to the debtor, such as a bank account, investments, or personal property. The holder of the property must deliver it either to the enforcement agency or court that issued the support order. Some States permit the property to be attached or seized and sold to pay the debt. Some States require noncustodial parents with a poor payment history to pledge property as a guarantee of payment. Non-payment results in forfeiture of the property.

I am working with a private attorney. Can she request wage withholding for my child support payments?

Yes. You can collect support through wage withholding if you use a private attorney rather than the CSE office. States must also apply withholding to other kinds of income in addition to wages, such as bonuses, commissions, retirement, rental or interest income.

Can I have the wage withholding applied to my existing child support order?

Yes, you can apply for the wage withholding through your local CSE office or your attorney. Though there are limits on how much of a person's check can be withheld, wage withholding can be used for both ongoing support and arrearages. Ask the CSE agency how this can be done.

Why can't my attorney work on my child support problem while I am receiving services from the child support program?

Your attorney can work with the child support program. For best results, they should coordinate their efforts to prevent duplication of services and conflicting enforcement decisions.

My child's mother works for a big company and has moved several times in her job. Can wage withholding work in this case?

Yes. States must recognize the wage withholding orders from other States, and continue the wage withholding as ordered, without regard to where the noncustodial parent or the custodial parent and children live.

My ex-husband has a good job and is willing to have the payments deducted from his paycheck, but his employer won't do it. What can I do?

Under Federal law, an employer must withhold the support if ordered to, or if the noncustodial parent requests it. If you run into problems with an employer, seek the assistance of your CSE office.

The children's father works irregularly and is paid in cash. Wage withholding won't work for me. What will?

Automatic billing, telephone reminders, and delinquency notices from your CSE office might convince him to make regular payments. Other techniques, such as property attachment, credit bureau reporting, tax refund offset, and liens might work for the arrearages. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) requires States to enact legislation to allow suspending or revoking drivers, professional, occupational and recreational licenses if an arrearage develops. If none of these is successful, your enforcement office can take the case to court for stronger enforcement methods.

My ex-wife has her own computer programming service. How can the CSE office find out how much she earns, and how can they collect the money?

The CSE office has access to information from the Internal Revenue Service to determine her income and assets. This information will help to set the support order amount.

Cases involving self-employed noncustodial parents can be the most challenging to work, and often take more time and effort. If it is not possible to arrange for an allotment or withholding, it may be possible to secure liens on her payments from regular clients or to garnish her bank account. If her business depends on having a license, she may make arrangements to pay rather than risk losing her license. Knowing that arrears will be reported to a credit bureau may give her a strong incentive to comply with the order. Provide your caseworker with as much information as you can about the business and her clients.

My children's father owns a cross-country moving van and a nice home. Why won't the child support office put a lien on either one?

Most States will not put a lien on a primary residence or attach property which a person needs to make a living. Talk to your caseworker about what kinds of property are available for liens and attachment in your State.

My ex-spouse is in the Army. How do I go about having child support payments deducted from a paycheck? And can I get medical coverage for my child?

Members of the military are subject to the same wage withholding requirements as other public or private employees. Federal garnishment procedures should be used in most instances, although use of military involuntary allotments is sometimes more appropriate. If a service member is not meeting a support obligation, a wage withholding order can be sent to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Ask your CSE office for information on how to start this action.

To get medical coverage for a child of a military member, the child must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Contact the following DEERS Office for the nearest DEERS enrollment site:

800-334-4162 (California only)
800-527-5602 (Alaska and Hawaii only)
800-538-9552 (all other States)

My children's father retired from the Navy when he was only 40, just before our divorce. Can his military retirement check be garnished for back child support?

Yes, it is possible to garnish the income of retired members of the military. With the assistance of your caseworker or lawyer, you can get a garnishment order from the court and send it with a certified copy of your child support order to DFAS (as above). Your local enforcement office can tell you the exact procedures and follow through on your behalf.

The children's mother works for the Federal government. She was recently transferred and stopped making payments. What do I have to do to get them started again?

All Federal employees are subject to wage withholding, and there is a central payment office for each Department, so moves within the Department should not affect a wage withholding order. If you do not have a formal support order, ask a child support office or an attorney about establishing one. If you have a child support order, your CSE office or attorney can help you to secure payments by wage withholding. If she has moved to a different Department, the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) can provide her new location.

Can past-due child support be taken from the State income tax refund?

Under Federal law, all States with State income tax must offset State income tax refunds for past-due support owed to families, and to States for cash assistance they have provided.

How does the non-paying parent find out that his or her State tax refund will be taken?

The State must notify the noncustodial parent in advance of taking the action. The notice specifies the amount owed in arrears and the amount to be offset. It also tells whom to contact if the person wants to contest the offset.

Can Federal income tax refunds be offset the same way?

Yes, States can request an offset of Federal income tax refunds for past-due support of over $500 owed on behalf of minor children not receiving cash assistance as well as over $150 owed to States that have provided assistance.

Doesn't the Internal Revenue Service have another method it can use to help us get the support owed?

Yes, your caseworker may be able to make a request for use of the IRS "full collection" technique. Under certain conditions, the Internal Revenue Service can attach a parent's income and other assets for child support payments. The CSE agency can submit the request when the amount owed is over $750 and there is good evidence that the obligated parent has assets that can be tapped for collection. Contact your caseworker for more information.

The children's father lost his job and is collecting unemployment compensation. Can child support payments be deducted and sent to me?

Yes. Unemployment compensation, and other State and Federal benefits can be tapped for child support. Ask your caseworker about the procedures, and make sure you tell your caseworker immediately if you learn about changes in the father's employment situation.

By my own calculation, my ex owes me $3,475 in past due child support. Can the enforcement agency try to collect it for me?

If this support was owed before the CSE office became involved in your case, the CSE office will have to verify the amount owed, and may have to present the documentation to a court before it can start collection procedures. While it is doing this, the agency can try to collect support payments for current months.

I heard that my children's father is buying a very expensive car. He owes over $5,000 in back support. Can the credit agency be told this?

Yes. By Federal law, the CSE office must periodically report the amount of past-due child support to credit reporting agencies. Consult your caseworker for more information.

The other parent does not work regularly and keeps falling behind in child support payments. Is there any way the court can establish regular payment?

As mentioned before, property liens and attachments might work. In certain cases Federal law also authorizes that the parent be required to post security, bond, or other guarantee to cover support obligations. These may be in the form of money or property. Ask your enforcement caseworker if these might be applied to your case.

My ex-wife has declared bankruptcy and says she doesn't have to pay child support. Is that true?

Child support payments generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. This means that the parent who owed child support cannot escape this duty by filing for bankruptcy. As of October 1994, bankruptcies do not act as a stay, or hold, on actions to establish paternity or to establish or modify child support obligations. The relationship between child support and bankruptcy is complex, and you may need the help of someone familiar with bankruptcy law. Ask your caseworker how the CSE office can help.

My daughter's father says that since he gives her gifts and money he does not have to pay child support.

Courts generally will not allow gifts to a child to take the place of child support, and require that child support payments are carried out as ordered by the child support agreement. In some cases, if the voluntary payment is larger than a normal gift would be, a court may decide to credit the payment as a child support payment.

Will the Federal Government step in to enforce a difficult child support case?

No. State and local offices are responsible for establishing paternity and establishing and enforcing child support orders. The Federal Government tries to make sure that States use appropriate enforcement techniques. It pays much of the cost of the program, issues policies, offers technical assistance, and reviews State programs for compliance with Federal requirements. (However,see Interstate Enforcement below.)

The child support office is not enforcing my case. Can I take it to a Federal Court?

If your caseworker and State CSE office have had no response to their requests for enforcement in another jurisdiction, it is possible for the case to be heard by a Federal court. This is not done often, and the decision to use a Federal court will be made by the Federal Regional Office of Child Support Enforcement at the request of your caseworker and the State enforcement office. If you are not satisfied with the services you are receiving in your local CSE office, you may ask your State CSE Agency for help. State Agency addresses are listed at the end of the Handbook.

My children are over 18 and don't get child support any more, but there is still a $10,000 arrearage owed to me for support that was never paid. Will the CSE office collect that money for me?

State statutes of limitations determine how long the CSE Office can try to collect on a child support debt. Within this period, the CSE office is required by Federal law to collect verified back support. Ask your CSE office for more information.

Can my children be provided for if my ex-husband dies?

A well written child support order should provide for continued support if the noncustodial parent should die. The child support payments should be defined as a claim against his estate. The children can also be named as beneficiaries in your ex-husband's life insurance policy or will.

The children's mother lives in another State and we don't know when she is buying something. Every time the kids come home from there they talk about her new car or stove or something, but she still won't pay her child support. Why can she get credit if the courts know she owes her kids so much?

CSE offices must report child support arrearages to credit bureaus. The State notifies the noncustodial parent if the debt will be reported to the credit reporting network. That sometimes is enough to encourage payment of the overdue support.

My ex-husband inherited a house and a sizeable amount of money from his parents. He already had some income property. Now he doesn't have to work, and he put everything into his brother's name and got his child support reduced to the State minimum.

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, States must have, or develop, laws and procedures for voiding transfers of income or property that were made to avoid payment of child support. Your CSE Office will have current information about how your State is handling these fraudulent transfers.


The most difficult child support cases to pursue are those in which the parent obligated to pay child support lives in one State and the child and custodial parent live in another. However, all States are required to pursue child support enforcement, including location, paternity establishment, and establishment of support obligations, as vigorously for children who live outside their borders as for those under their own jurisdiction.

State enforcement agencies must cooperate with each other in handling requests for assistance, however, it has not been a simple matter for one State to automatically enforce the court orders of another State. Until recently, States used all or parts of a law called the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA).

With the enactment of the Full Faith and Credit For Child Support Orders Act and the Federal mandate that all States enact the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) by January 1, 1998, interstate enforcement of child support obligations should improve. UIFSA includes a provision designed to ensure that, when more than one State is involved, there is only one valid child support order which can be enforced for current support, and a provision which allows a State to work a case against an out-of-State obligor directly if certain conditions are met.

Both URESA and UIFSA have procedures under which an enforcement official (or private attorney) can refer a case for action in another State. The laws can be used to establish paternity and to establish, modify, or enforce a support order. A URESA State is able to refer a case to a UIFSA State, and vice versa.

Interstate wage withholding can be used to enforce a support order in another State if the noncustodial parent's employer is known. With interstate wage withholding, the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) office in the State where the noncustodial parent lives will make sure that a wage withholding order from another State contains all the information required by their State laws and will forward it to the noncustodial parent's employer. The order does not have to go through the courts as it would >with an interstate child support enforcement petition. State laws vary and you will need to ask your caseworker whether this option is available in your case.

State CSE Agencies all have an office called the Central Registry to receive incoming interstate child support cases, make sure that the information given is complete, send them to the right local office and respond to inquiries from out of State CSE offices. Standard forms make it easier for caseworkers to find the information they need to enforce a case, and to be sure they are supplying enough information for another State to enforce their case.

I know the address of my children's father in another State, and my caseworker sent a petition to establish my support order there. That was three months ago, and still no support payments. What's wrong?

It may be any number of things: enforcement officials may not be able to serve notice on the noncustodial parent due to inadequate address information; if a hearing is necessary, it may take a while to get a court date. Continue to keep in touch with your caseworker to resolve any delay or to provide any new information you may have.

I need to establish paternity for my child, and the father lives in another part of the country. How does this work?

The fact that you and the alleged father live in different States will not keep you from pursuing a paternity establishment action. Your State may be able to claim jurisdiction and establish paternity if the alleged father had lived there or the child was conceived in your State. Otherwise your State can petition the other State to establish paternity under their laws. Often, genetic tests will be ordered to help prove paternity. Ask your caseworker for specific information about the laws in your State and the State where the other parent lives.

My caseworker filed a URESA petition for paternity. The father denied it, and the other court just dismissed the case. What went wrong?

A responding State's CSE office should not dismiss a case without asking for the information it needs. The initiating State is required to provide that information in 30 days. Either party in a contested paternity action can request blood or genetic testing. Ask your caseworker to reopen the case. You have the right to establish paternity until your child's 18th birthday.

If paternity is established in another state, will the support order also be entered in that State?

Yes. Ask your caseworker how this is done.

I have had to wait several months for my enforcement agency to get a reply to its request for location assistance in another State. Why does it take so long to get an answer?

Even though they try to be responsive, enforcement agencies have a very high demand for their services. A State's ability to act rapidly depends on the characteristics of the case, the quality of information received, and the amount of staff and other resources they have to devote to it. Be sure to follow up regularly with your caseworker to make sure that each State is actively working your case.

As soon as the children's father is notified about enforcement, he moves. How will I ever be able to collect my support?

Many custodial parents are angry when, after the noncustodial parent is finally located and served notice of the enforcement action, he or she moves on. It is difficult to enforce child support payments when the noncustodial parent intentionally moves to avoid paying. Try to be an active participant in your own case. Whenever you learn that the noncustodial parent has moved or has a new job, you should tell your caseworker as soon as possible. Starting October 1997, all States are required to have a State Directory of New Hires, and employers will be required to report hiring new employees within 20 days. The information will, in turn, be sent to a National Directory of New Hires. This will help in locating the noncustodial parent if he/she moves on to a new job.

Isn't there a law now that makes it a Federal crime to not pay child support if the child lives in another State?

The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 makes it a Federal crime to willfully fail to pay support for a child living in another State.

Briefly, in order to prosecute under this Act, the United States Attorney's Office must prove that the noncustodial parent was financially able to meet his/her obligation at the time the payment was due. If support arrearages are more than $5,000 or are unpaid for longer than one year, the noncustodial parent is subject to punishment. A major consideration in screening a case for Federal prosecution is whether all reasonably available civil and State criminal remedies have been pursued first. Next, priority is given to cases: (1) where there is a pattern of moving from State to State to avoid payment; (2) where there is a pattern of deception (e.g., use of false name or social security number); (3) where there is failure to make support payments after being held in contempt of court; and (4) where failure to make support payments is connected to some other Federal offense such as bankruptcy fraud.

My former wife lives in another State. She owns an expensive car, jewelry, and several pieces of property. Would the CSE Program be able to attach this property for child support?

An interstate CSE action may be filed on your behalf to enforce your child support order. Before requesting the other State to attach this property, your enforcement worker or lawyer should see if a "withhold and deliver" or "attachment" of the property could be successfully carried out from your State.

Will location and enforcement services cost more if my agency is dealing with another State? I am not receiving cash assistance.

Possibly. It depends on what the CSE office has to do to find the noncustodial parent and to establish regular payment. The more solid information and leads you provide, the more efficiently your case can be conducted. For non-assistance cases, States vary in the fees they charge for services. Your caseworker should be able to tell you more about these costs in your particular case. (See discussion in Introduction.)

I don't have a support order. Can I have one established by petitioning the court where my ex-husband lives?

Yes. This can also be done by your CSE office. Depending on the facts, it could be handled in your State or referred to another State under URESA or UIFSA. An affidavit of the facts, including the name and address of the responsible parent, details of your financial circumstances, and the needs of the child will be included. The petition will be mailed to the enforcement agency, the court, or the interstate official where the father lives. The responding State will review this information together with information about the father's ability to pay, and set the amount to be paid.

The father of my child has left the United States. How can I get my court order for child support enforced?

We suggest you check with your local CSE office and State CSE agency (at the address listed in the back of this Handbook). Many State CSE agencies have agreements with foreign countries to recognize child support judgments made in other countries, or to help establish orders when there is none. The U.S. Government is in the process of negotiating federal-level reciprocity declarations with other countries on behalf of all U.S. jurisdictions. These international child support agreements specify procedures for establishing and enforcing child support orders across borders. While requirements for getting enforcement action may vary depending on the other nation involved, a parent will be asked to provide the same information as in a domestic case, including as much specific information, such as address and employer of the noncustodial parent, as is possible.

If the noncustodial parent works for an American company, or for a foreign company with offices in the United States, wage withholding might work even if the country he lives in does not have any agreement to enforce an American State's order. Even in cases where the noncustodial parent is living and working in a country that has no reciprocity agreement, approaching the foreign employer directly for help might prove successful.

I checked with the CSE office, but my daughter's father lives in a country that has no agreement with any State to enforce child support obligations. Is there anything else to try?

The Office of Citizens Consular Services may be able to give you information about how to have the support order enforced in that country and how to obtain a list of attorneys there. That address is: Department of State, Office of Citizens Consular Services, Washington, D.C. 20520.

She is still in this country, but I understand that my children's mother is planning to live abroad with her new husband. She owes me $14,000 in child support. Is there anything the CSE Office can do?

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) legislation, State CSE Agencies can certify child support arrearages of more than $5000 to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who, in turn, will transmit the certification to the Secretary of State for denial, revocation or limitation of passports. This becomes effective October 1, 1997.


The Native American Child Support Program in the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has been consulting with the Tribes and Native American organizations to ensure that Native American children receive the child support to which they are entitled. New provisions in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provide more options to achieve this goal.

American Indian Tribes or Tribal organizations will be eligible to apply for grants to operate full or partial child support enforcement programs. The projects must meet child support enforcement criteria that will be issued through regulations in mid-1998. Formal consultation is planned for the proposed rules.

Native American reservations are governed by Tribal laws which may differ from those of the States, just as laws differ from State to State. The differences, and the various types of State and Tribal court systems, sometimes make it difficult to enforce child support orders or to locate absent parents on reservations.

However, some States and Tribes have entered into Cooperative Agreements to facilitate obtaining child support for Native American children. If Tribes do not operate child support enforcement programs, it is expected that more Tribes and States will enter into Cooperative Agreements to work together to carry out their child support responsibilities.

In the interim, Tribal and State child support staffs will continue to pursue all available means to assist Native American children to receive support. What works best, and barriers encountered, will be shared. This will assist Tribes to decide how best to meet child support enforcement requirements, through Tribal programs or Cooperative Agreements with States.

My ex-husband is a Native American who lives and works on an Indian Reservation. Can the CSE Program help get child support for my children?

It may be difficult to establish or enforce a child support order when the non-custodial parent lives and works on an Indian Reservation if the Tribe does not have an agreement with a State to establish or enforce each other's child support orders. When a Tribe has an agreement with a State CSE Agency to establish paternity, locate absent parents, or enforce or modify child support orders, State and local CSE staff and the Tribal courts work together to obtain the child support for Native American children.

State CSE Agencies and OCSE are currently working with a number of Tribes to develop cooperative agreements to solve the complex problems of obtaining child support. Talk with your State or local CSE office about the specific situation and how it can help. Be sure to provide any information about any assets off the Reservation that your ex-husband may have.

My ex-husband is a Native American living on a Reservation. My caseworker hasn't been able to get any child support for my children. What can I do?

Check with the Tribal leaders to see if there are any provisions established by the Tribe for supporting Tribal children. Your children may be eligible to receive special services (health, education, general assistance payments, etc.), or some other kind of specialized assistance.

I am a Native American mother of a three-year-old and I live on a reservation. His father is not Native American, does not live on the Reservation, and does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Tribal Court. How can I get him to help support his son?

Seek assistance for your child through the Tribe if you live on the Reservation. If the Tribe does not have an agreement with the State, also work directly with the IV-D office in the State, or local, OCSE office to locate the father and establish a child support order.


The success you have in obtaining regular, adequate, and full child support payments depends to a great extent on how well you can make the child support enforcement system work for you. At the same time it is important to remember that not all the solutions to your child support problems are within your control. The legal rights and welfare of all parties must be carefully guarded, and sometimes laws that protect the rights of one parent seem unfair to the other.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about child support enforcement procedures where you and the noncustodial parent live, the better you will be able to exercise your rights and responsibilities under the law, and the more successful you will be in obtaining the support that rightfully belongs to your children. As you proceed with your enforcement case, it is a good idea to keep a written account of the actions taken and the outcomes of those actions. Do not hesitate to ask questions and make suggestions to your enforcement caseworker. If you are not satisfied with the actions taken on your behalf, you have recourse to the head of the local CSE office as well as to the director of the State Child Support Enforcement agency. Keep in mind that it is always best to communicate the problem in writing.

An informed parent can make the child support enforcement system work. This, together with improvements that State enforcement programs, legislatures, and the courts are making, can benefit millions of parents and their children.


administrative procedure - method by which support orders are made and enforced by an executive agency rather than by courts and judges

Aid to Families with Dependent Children - assistance payments made on behalf of children who don't have the financial support of one of their parents by reason of death, disability, or continued absence from the home; known in many States as ADC (Aid to Dependent Children)

arrearages -unpaid child support for past periods owed by a parent who is obligated to pay

assignment of support rights -a person receiving public assistance agrees to turn over to the State any right to child support, including arrearages, paid by the obligated parent in exchange for receipt of a cash assistance grant and other benefits

complaint -written document filed in court in which the person initiating the action names the persons, allegations, and relief sought

consent agreement -voluntary written admission of paternity or responsibility for support

custodial parent -person with legal custody and with whom the child lives; may be parent, other relative, or someone else

custody order -legal determination which establishes with whom a child shall live

default -failure of a defendant to appear, or file an answer or response in a civil case, after having been served with a summons and complaint

default judgment -decision made by the court when the defendant fails to respond

defendant -person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun

electronic funds transfer -transfer of money from one bank account to another or to a CSE Agency

enforcement -obtaining payment of a child support or medical support obligation

Federal Income Tax Offset Program -a program under the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement which makes available to State CSE Agencies a route for securing the tax refund of parents who have been certified as owing substantial amounts of child support.

Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) -a service operated by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to help the States locate parents in order to obtain child support payments; also used in cases of parental kidnapping related to custody and visitation determinations; FPLS obtains address and employer information from Federal agencies

Federally-assisted Foster Care -a program, funded in part by the Federal government, under which a child is raised in a household by someone other than his or her own parent

finding -a formal determination by a court, or administrative process that has legal standing

Full Faith and Credit -doctrine under which a State must honor an order or judgement entered in another State

garnishment -a legal proceeding under which part of a person's wages and/or assets is withheld for payment of a debt

genetic testing -analysis of inherited factors (usually by blood or tissue test) of mother, child, and alleged father which can help to prove or disprove that a particular man fathered a particular child

guidelines -a standard method for setting child support obligations based on the income of the parent(s) and other factors as determined by State law

immediate wage withholding -automatic deductions from income which start as soon as the agreement for support is established (see wage withholding)

jurisdiction -legal authority which a court has over particular persons, certain types of cases, and in a defined geographical area

legal father -a man who is recognized by law as the male parent

lien -a claim upon property to prevent sale or transfer until a debt is satisfied

long arm statute -a law which permits one State to claim personal jurisdiction over someone who lives in another State

Medicaid program -federally funded medical support for low income families

medical support -legal provision for payment of medical and dental bills

noncustodial parent -parent who does not have primary custody of a child

obligation -amount of money to be paid as support by the responsible parent and the manner by which it is to be paid

offset -amount of money taken from a parent's State or Federal income tax refund to satisfy a child support debt

order -direction of a magistrate, judge or properly empowered administrative officer

paternity judgement -legal determination of fatherhood

plaintiff -person who brings an action, complains or sues in a civil case

presumption of paternity -a rule of law under which evidence of a man's paternity (e.g. voluntary acknowledgment, genetic test results) creates a presumption that the man is the father of a child. A rebuttable presumption can be overcome by evidence that the man is not the father, but it shifts the burden of proof to the father to disprove paternity.

probability of paternity -the probability that the alleged father is the biological father of the child as indicated by genetic test results.

public assistance -money granted from the State/ Federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children program to a person or family for living expenses; eligibility based on need

State Parent Locator Service (SPLS) -a service operated by the State Child Support Enforcement Agencies to locate noncustodial parents to establish paternity, and establish and enforce child support obligations

statute of limitations -the period during which someone can be held liable for an action or a debt--statutes of limitations for collecting child support vary from State to State

stay -an order by a court which suspends all or some of the proceedings in a case

TANF -Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; time- limited assistance payments to poor families. The program provides parents with job preparation, work and support services to help them become self-sufficient.

Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), and Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) -laws enacted at the State level which provide mechanisms for establishing and enforcing support obligations when the noncustodial parent lives in one State and the custodial parent and the children live in another

visitation -the right of a non-custodial parent to visit or spend time with his or her children

voluntary acknowledgement of paternity -an acknowledgement by a man, or both parents, that the man is the father of a child, usually provided in writing on an affidavit or form

wage withholding -procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wage or income to pay some debt such as child support; may be voluntary or involuntary



Department of Human Resources

Division of Child Support

50 Ripley Street

Montgomery, AL 36130-1801

(334) 242-9300

FAX: (334) 242-0606

1-800-284-4347 *


Child Support Enforcement Division

550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 310

Anchorage, AK 99501-6699

(907) 269-6900

FAX: (907) 269-6813

1-800-478-3300 *


Division of Child Support Enforcement

P. O. Box 40458

Phoenix, AZ 85067

(602) 252-4045

(no toll-free number)


Office of Child Support Enforcement

P.O. Box 8133

Little Rock, AR 72203

Street Address: 712 West Third

Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 682-8398

FAX: (501) 682-6002

1-800-264-2445** (Payments)

1-800-247-4549** (Program)


Office of Child Support

Department of Social Services

P. O. Box 944245

Sacramento, CA 95244-2450

(916) 654-1532

FAX: (916) 657-3791



Division of Child Support Enforcement

1575 Sherman Street, 2nd Floor

Denver, CO 80203-1714

(303) 866-5994

FAX: (303) 866-3574

(no toll-free number)


Department of Social Services

Bureau of Child Support Enforcement

25 Sigourney Street

Hartford, CT 06106-5033

(860) 424-5251

FAX: (860) 951-2996

1-800-228-5437** (problems)

1-800-647-8872** (information)

1-800-698-0572** (payments)


Division of Child Support Enforcement

Delaware Health and Social Services

1901 North Dupont Hwy

P.O. Box 904

New Castle, DE 19720

(302) 577-4863, 577-4800

FAX: (302) 577-4873

(no toll-free number)


Office of Paternity and

Child Support Enforcement

Department of Human Services

800 9th Street, SW, 2nd Floor

Washington, DC 20024-2485

(202) 645-7500

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Enforcement Program

Department of Revenue

P.O. Box 8030

Tallahassee, FL 32314-8030

(850) 922-9590

FAX: (850) 488-4401

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Administration

P.O. Box 38450

Atlanta, GA 30334-0450

(404) 657-3851

FAX: (404) 657-3326

1-800-227-7993* (for 706 & 912

area codes)

from area codes 404 & 770, dial

code + 657-2780)


Department of Law

Child Support Enforcement Office

238 Archbishop F.C. Flores, 7th Floor

Agana, GU 96910

(671) 475-3360

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Enforcement Agency

Department of Attorney General

680 Iwilei Street, Suite 490

Honolulu, HI 96817

(808) 587-3698

(no toll-free number)


Bureau of Child Support Services

Department of Health and Welfare

450 West State Street, 5th Floor

Boise, ID 83720 - 5005

(208) 334-5710

FAX: (208) 334-0666



Child Support Enforcement Division

Illinois Department of Public Aid

509 South Sixth

Mariott Building

P. O. Box 19405

Springfield, IL 62701-1825

(217) 524-4602

FAX: (217) 524-4608



Child Support Office

402 West Washington Street, Rm W360

Indianapolis, IN 46204

(317) 233-5437

FAX: (317) 233-4925



Bureau of Collections

Department of Human Services

Hoover Building - 5th Floor

Des Moines, IA 50319

(515) 281-5580

FAX: (515) 281-8854

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Enforcement Program

Department of Social & Rehabilitation Services

P.O. Box 497

Topeka, KS 66601

Street Address: 300 S.W. Oakley Street,

Biddle Building

Topeka, KS 66606

(913) 296-3237

FAX: (913) 296-5206

1-800-432-0152 (Withholding)

1-800-570-6743 (Collections)

1-800-432-3913 (Fraud Hotline)


Division of Child Support Enforcement

Cabinet for Families and Children

P. O. Box 2150

Frankfort, KY 40602

(502) 564-2285

FAX: (502) 564-5988


Support Enforcement Services

Office of Family Support

P.O. Box 94065

Baton Rouge, LA 70804-4065

(504) 342-4780

FAX: (504) 342-7397

1-800-256-4650* (Payments)


Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery

Bureau of Family Independence

Department of Human Services

State House Station 11 Whitten Road

Augusta, ME 04333

(207) 287-2886

FAX: (207) 287-5096



Child Support Enforcement Administration

Department of Human Resources

311 West Saratoga Street

Baltimore, MD 21201

(410) 767-7619

FAX: (410) 333-8992



Child Support Enforcement Division

Department of Revenue

141 Portland Street

Cambridge, MA 02139-1937

FAX: (617) 621-4991



Office of Child Support

Department of Social Services

P.O. Box 30478

Lansing, MI 48909-7978

Street Address: 7109 W. Saginaw Hwy.

Lansing, MI 48909-7978

(517) 373-7570

FAX: (517) 373-4980

(no toll-free number)


Office of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Human Services

444 Lafayette Road, 4th floor

St. Paul, MN 55155-3846

(612) 215-1714

FAX: (612) 297-4450

(no toll-free number)


Division of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Human Services

P.O. Box 352

Jackson, MS 39205

(601) 359-4861

FAX: (601) 359-4415


1-800-354-6039 (Hines, Rankin

(and Madison Counties)


Department of Social Services

Division of Child Support Enforcement

P.O. Box 2320

Jefferson City, MO 65102-2320

(573) 751-4301

FAX: (573) 751-8450



Child Support Enforcement Division

Department of Public Health

and Human Services

P.O. Box 202943

Helena, MT 59620

(406) 442-7278



Child Support Enforcement Office

Department of Social Services

P.O. Box 95044

Lincoln, NE 68509

(402) 471-9160

FAX: (402) 471-9455



Child Support Enforcement Program

Nevada State Welfare Division

2527 North Carson Street

Carson City, NV 89706-0113

(702) 687-4744

FAX: (702) 684-8026



Office of Child Support

Division of Human Services

Health and Human Services Building

6 Hazen Drive

Concord, NH 03301-6531

(603) 271-4427

FAX: (603) 271-4787

1-800-852-3345* ext. 4427


Division of Family Development

Department of Human Services

Bureau of Child Support and

Paternity Programs

P.O. Box 716

Trenton, NJ 08625-0716

(609) 588-2915

FAX: (609) 588-3369



Child Support Enforcement Bureau

Department of Human Services

P.O. Box 25109

Santa Fe, NM 87504

Street Address: 2025 S. Pacheco

Santa Fe, NM 87504

(505) 827-7200

FAX: (505) 827-7285



Office of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Social Services

P.O. Box 14

One Commerce Plaza

Albany, NY 12260-0014

(518) 474-9081

FAX: (518) 486-3127



Child Support Enforcement Office

Division of Social Services

Department of Human Resources

100 East Six Forks Road

Raleigh, NC 27609-7750

(919) 571-4114

FAX: (919) 881-2280



Department of Human Services

Child Support Enforcement Agency

P.O. Box 7190

Bismarck, ND 58507-7190

(701) 328-3582

FAX: (701) 328-5497



Office of Family Assistance and

Child Support Enforcement

Department of Human Services

30 East Broad Street - 31st Floor

Columbus, OH 43266-0423

(614) 752-6561

FAX: (614) 752-9760



Child Support Enforcement Division

Department of Human Services

P.O. Box 53552

Oklahoma City, OK 73152

Street Address: 2409 N. Kelley Avenue

Annex Building

Oklahoma City, OK 73111

(405) 522-5871

FAX: (405) 522-2753



Recovery Services Section

Adult and Family Services Division

Department of Human Resources

260 Liberty Street N.E.

Salem, OR 97310

(503) 378-5567

FAX: (503) 391-5526




Bureau of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Public Welfare

P.O. Box 8018

Harrisburg, PA 17105

(717) 787-3672

FAX: (717) 787-9706



Child Support Enforcement

Department of Social Services

P.O. Box 9023349

San Juan, PR 00902-3349

Street Address: Majagua Street, Bldg. 2

Wing 4, 2nd Floor

Rio Pedras, PR 00902-9938

(787) 767-1500

FAX: (787) 282-7411

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Services

Division of Administration and


77 Dorrance Street

Providence, RI 02903

(401) 277-2847

FAX: (401) 277-6674



Department of Social Services

Child Support Enforcement Division

P.O. Box 1469

Columbia, SC 29202-1469

(803) 737-5875

FAX: (803) 737-6032




Office of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Social Services

700 Governor's Drive

Pierre, SD 57501-2291

(605) 773-3641

FAX: (605) 773-5246

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Services

Department of Human Services

Citizens Plaza Building - 12th Floor

400 Deadrick Street

Nashville, TN 37248-7400

(615) 313-4880

FAX: (615) 532-2791

1-800-838-6911* (Payments)


Office of the Attorney General

State Office

Child Support Division

P.O. Box 12017

Austin, TX 78711-2017

(512) 460-6000

FAX: (512) 479-6478



Office of Recovery Services

P.O. Box 45011

Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0011

(801) 536-8500

FAX: (801) 436-8509



Office of Child Support

103 South Main Street

Waterbury, VT 05671-1901

FAX: (802) 244-1483



Paternity and Child Support Division

Department of Justice

GERS Building, 2nd Floor

48B-50C Krondprans Gade

St. Thomas, VI 00802

(809) 775-3070

FAX: (809) 775-3808

(no toll-free number)


Division of Child Support Enforcement

Department of Social Services

730 East Broad Street

Richmond, VA 23219

(804) 692-1428

FAX: (804) 692-1405



Division of Child Support

Department of Social Health Services

P.O. Box 9162

Olympia, WA 98504-9162

Street Address: 712 Pear St., S.E

Olympia, WA 98504

(360) 586-3162

FAX: (206) 586-3274



Child Support Enforcement Division

Department of Health & Human


1900 Kanawha Boulevard East

Capitol Complex, Building 6, Room 817

Charleston, WV 25305

(304) 558-3780



Bureau of Child Support

Division of Economic Support

P.O. Box 7935

Madison, WI 53707-7935

Street Address: 201 E. Washington Ave.

Room 271

Madison, WI 53707

(608) 266-9909

FAX: (608) 267-2824

(no toll-free number)


Child Support Enforcement

Department of Family Services

2300 Capital Avenue, 3rd Floor

Cheyenne, WY 82002-0490

(307) 777-6948

FAX: (307) 777-3693

(no toll-free number)

*In-State Only



OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
Room 2000
Boston, MA 02203
(617) 565-2478


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
Federal Building, Room 4048
26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278
(212) 264-2890


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
P.O. Box 8436
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 596-4370


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
101 Marietta Tower, Suite 821
Atlanta, GA 30323
(404) 331-2180


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
105 W. Adams Street
20th Floor
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 353-4237


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
1301 Young Street, Room 945 (ACF-3)
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 767-3749


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
601 East 12th Street
Federal Building, Suite 276
Kansas City, MO 64106
(816) 426-3584


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
Federal Office Building
1961 Stout Street, Room 325
Denver, CO 80294-3538
(303) 844-3100


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
50 United Nations Plaza
Room 450
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 437-8463


OCSE Program Manager
Administration for Children and Families
2201 Sixth Avenue
Mail Stop RX-70
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 615-2547


Custodial Parent_____________________________________________________

Address _________________________________________________________


Names of Dependent Children/ Dates of Birth

_______________________________________ _______________________

_______________________________________ _______________________

_______________________________________ _______________________

_______________________________________ _______________________

Noncustodial Parent__________________________________________________

Address(es) ______________________________________________________



Social Security Number/ Date and Place of Birth

______________________ ____________________________________________

Employer(s)/ Dates

_________________________________________ __________________

_________________________________________ __________________

_________________________________________ __________________

_________________________________________ __________________

_________________________________________ __________________

Child Support Enforcement Office




Enforcement caseworker



Case Number ______________________________

State Enforcement Agency




Lawyer ___________________________________________________




Custodial Parent _____________________________________________


Noncustodial Parent _____________________________________________


Present Support Obligation: $____________

To be paid _______________________




Action Taken




Action Taken




Action Taken




For more information on how the child support system works in your State, contact your State Child Support Enforcement agency. For general information about the Child Support Enforcement Program, contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement, 370 L'Enfant Promenade, Aerospace Building, Washington, D.C. 20447.
Visitor Comments (0) - Be the first to comment
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: