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Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations

9.5 Child Support

Legal References:

The Child Support section includes:

9.5.1 Background

The Division of Child Support (DCS) has negotiated intergovernmental child support agreements with numerous Indian tribes, as well as, child support provisions in       the TANF Agreements. For more information, see Agreements/Codes on the DCS Tribal Relations Website.

On most cases, income withholding is one of the main ways in which DCS collects child support. On cases involving tribal employees, however, income withholding may not be possible due to jurisdictional restraints, specifically a tribe's sovereign immunity.

As distinct, self-governing legal entities, Indian tribes have laws (tribal codes) that apply to tribal members, residents, employees, and employers. Sometimes these codes include specific provisions regarding paternity, child support establishment, and garnishments.

DCS and the ESA State Tribal Relations Unit (STRU) promote and support government-to-government relationships with tribes to cooperatively address child support. These partnerships have resulted in a number of effective ways of improving child support services, allowing Indian children and families to achieve the highest degree of self-sufficiency possible. Some of the ways in which tribes are addressing child support include: tribal code development and utilization of tribal court, informal state/tribal processes, state/tribal cooperative agreements, and federally-funded tribal child support programs.

9.5.2 Who do I contact at DCS with questions concerning tribal matters?

In each DSHS Region, DCS has designated Tribal Liaisons who manage Tribal cases, provide outreach services to interested Indian Tribes and serve as a single point of contact for tribal cases. Each region also has a Tribal Claims Officer who handles legal issues on tribal cases and is responsible for bringing cases into various tribal courts.

9.5.3 How does DCS define a Tribal case?

A tribal case is one that includes, at a minimum, one or more of the following elements:

If any of the above elements are present, the case is assigned to the Tribal Liaison.

9.5.4 Which Indian tribes in Washington State have Tribal TANF or Tribal Child Support Programs?
9.5.5 Which Indian tribes have cooperative child support agreements with DCS

DCS has signed child support agreements with six Tribes (the Colville Confederated Tribes, Nisqually Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Kalispel Tribe, Nooksack and the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho ). In addition, each state/tribal intergovernmental TANF Agreement includes provisions for DCS to provide varying levels of support enforcement services.

DCS has also developed many informal processes with Tribes to facilitate child support enforcement.

State law provides that the preferred method for handling cases where all or some of the parties are enrolled tribal members living on the tribal reservation is to develop an agreement so that appropriate child support cases are referred to the tribe for action in the tribal court.

9.5.6 Where can I find more information about DCS Tribal Policy?

You can find more information about DCS Tribal Policy in Chapter 13 of the DCS Support Enforcement Handbook.