Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to DSHS Economic Services Administration's Frequently Asked Questions!

When a non-custodial parent has more than one case with DCS, the law tells DCS how to split up a support payment between cases. It is based on a percent-of-total basis.

Current support is paid first. If a payment does not equal the total amount owed for all the non-custodial parent's cases, DCS divides the payment proportionately. Once current support for the month is paid, DCS applies amounts over current support to back support owed.

IRS tax refund intercept payments are an exception to this rule. These payments may only be applied to back support owed, and they are always applied to state debt owed before debt owed to the custodial parent.

Between October 1, 2008, and June 30, 2010, DCS applied IRS tax refund collections to both current support and arrears. These collections applied first to the debt owed to the custodial parent and then to state debt.

Beginning July 1, 2010, DCS applies tax-refund offset collections to debt as it did before October 1, 2008. This change back to the pre-October 2008 distribution rules is based on budget decisions made by the Washington State Legislature during the 2010 session.

Back support payments are also proportioned based on a percent of total. If you received public assistance in another state that has asked DCS to collect back support, that case will receive a percent of the back support payment. When DCS is providing payment processing services only (PSO) on one of the cases, the non-custodial parent must send payments and indicate that a payment is for the PSO case only. Otherwise, DCS will apply payments proportionately to the non-PSO cases.


Also please see Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility in FAQ question topics.

NO. The premium limit shown on the Notice applies only to the additional cost the employee has to pay for the children's coverage.

EXAMPLE: If the cost for the employee only coverage is $33 per month and the cost for the employee plus children is $85 per month then the cost for the children only is $52 per month. ($85 -$33 =$52). If the premium limit on the notice is $52 or more, you would have to enroll both the employee and the children.

NO. The premium limit shown on the Notice applies only to the additional cost the employee has to pay for the children's coverage.

EXAMPLE: If the cost for the employee only coverage is $33 per month and the cost for the employee plus children is $85 per month then the cost for the children only is $52 per month. ($85 -$33 =$52). If the premium limit on the notice is $52 or more, you would have to enroll both the employee and the children.

Many people who apply for TANF or medical assistance do not understand that they will automatically get child support services. This is very important to know, especially if you are a domestic violence victim.

The DSHS Division of Child Support (DCS) will open a child support case if you qualify for TANF or medical assistance and will make you help with your child support case. If you are a victim of domestic violence, and child support makes you nervous because it will put you in contact with your abuser, it is very important to read the following information.

Child support services can be a really good thing. The state of Washington can use its many tools to help your children get the money and resources they need now - and will need well into the future. You need to do very little. DCS will take over (at no cost or very low cost to you) to collect the child support owed to your children.

Child support can also be scary if you do not know how it works. We hope the answers to all the questions here will help you understand and feel more confident about using child support services.

No, since these are voluntary payments it is up to the parties to know when payments should cease.

Note: See WAC 388-14A-3200(4) and 388-14A-4800 through 388-14A-4830.

  • Although RCW 26.23.050(5)(d) provides that every child support order must state the monthly child support obligation as a sum certain amount, it does not require the support obligation to be stated in a "differentiated" or "per month per child" amount when more than one child is covered by the order.
  • When DCS calculates a support obligation for more than one child, DCS may set the monthly support obligation as an "undifferentiated" amount if one or more of the following are true:
    • The calculation involves a deviation from the standard calculation based on the existence of children from other relationships,
    • The support obligation is limited to not exceed 45% of the noncustodial parent's monthly net income,
    • The support obligation is subject to the self-support reserve limitation, and the monthly support obligation is greater than the presumptive minimum obligation of fifty dollars per month per child,
    • Part III of the worksheets includes health care or day care expenses.
  • When DCS sets support as an undifferentiated amount, this means that the monthly support amount remains the same as long as at least one child remains covered by the order.

EXAMPLE: DCS is setting support for three children. Assume the order sets the monthly support obligation at $600:

  • If the order clearly states that the support obligation is set at $200 per month per child, DCS calls this a "differentiated" order. When the oldest child emancipates, the monthly support obligation drops to $400 per month.
  • If the order does not provide a specific support obligation for each child or does not contain information or instructions in either the order or the worksheets associated with the order to justify dividing the monthly amount into "per child" amounts for each child covered by the support order, DCS calls this an "undifferentiated" order. Even after the two older children emancipate, the monthly support obligation remains at $600 per month.

If you still have questions, contact your support enforcement officer at the phone number listed on the last page of the notice you received. If you are not sure which office handles your case, call the KIDS line at 1-800-442-KIDS (5437).

No, we simply process voluntary payments. We do not perform debt calculations nor do we determine if there is past due support on a PSO case.

Any information in the DCS records about people who get child support services or pay child support is confidential. DCS can only release the information in limited circumstances and only to specified persons as provided by law.

Yes. The data fields are limited in size based on other databases. If you find an address field is too short use additional lines when available. For other fields abbreviate when possible.

Employee Information Maximum Characters
   
First Name 15
Middle Initial 1
Last Name 24
Address Line 1 40
Address Line 2 40
Address Line 3 40
City 24
State 2
Zip Code 9
Foreign Country Name 25
Foreign Country Postal Code 15
Social Security Number (SSN) 9
Date of Birth 8
Date of Hire 8
   
Employer Information Maximum Characters
   
Business Name 24
Address Line 1 40
Address Line 2 40
Address Line 3 40
City 24
State 2
Zip Code 9
Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN) 9

Based on current policy we cannot accept the signature of an attorney for full enforcement services. The request for full enforcement services must be made by one of the parties to the case.

Send Part B Medical Support Notice to Plan Administrator (including the Cover Letter and Washington State Addendum to Box 2) to the union's third party administrator. Check box 7 on the Employer Response form, enter the date Part B was sent, and send the Employer Response to DCS.

Yes. The employer must promptly notify DCS when the employee is no longer employed.

The employee is required to provide insurance coverage that is accessible to the child. Under the Revised Code of Washington and the Washington Administrative Code, "Accessible coverage" means health insurance coverage which provides primary care services to the children with reasonable effort by the custodian.

Do not enroll the child if the coverage is not accessible to the child. Notify DCS that the child cannot be enrolled and tell DCS why.

DCS does not require that the employee be moved to another plan because DCS has no way of knowing if the employee has a spouse and/or other children already covered on his/her current plan. Some plan administrators will make the employee change plans to one that will cover the child where the child lives when the employee is the only one on the plan. However, this decision is up to the individual plan administrator.

No matter what your employee may tell you, do not stop withholding under an Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support (OWI) until DCS releases the OWI in writing.


  • US Mail Payment Address
    • Washington State Support Registry
      PO Box 45868
      Olympia, WA 98504-5868

DCS will notify DOS through OCSE to release the passport if the noncustodial parent:

  1. Pays the debt in full
  2. Needs the passport for employment or deployment
  3. Has a family emergency

NOTE: Reasons 2 and 3 are not automatic releases.

Noncustodial parents requesting that their passports be released for employment or deployment must provide written verification from their employer (employment) or their commanding officer (deployment).

A family emergency is defined as a life or death situation involving an immediate family member. The federal government defines an immediate family member as:

  • Parent, guardian, or stepparent
  • Child or stepchild
  • Grandparent
  • Sibling or stepsibling
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Spouse

The noncustodial parent must provide verification in the form of a letter from either a doctor or hospital (on letterhead) or the Red Cross.


Despite recent record improvements in paternity establishment and child support collections, much more needs to be done to ensure that all children born out-of-wedlock have paternity established and that all non-custodial parents provide financial support for their children. Currently, only about one-half of the custodial parents due child support receive full payment. About twenty-five percent receive partial payment and twenty-five percent receive nothing.

In an effort to strengthen and improve state child support enforcement activities, several federal laws were passed, including a national new-hire reporting system. These laws required states to pass uniform interstate child support laws, automate enforcement actions, and provide for tougher noncompliance penalties, such as driver's license revocation.

YES. As long as the cost of the children's premium does not exceed the limit in the Notice and the current child support amount plus the cost of the premium for the employee and children does not exceed 50% of the employee's net disposable income.

  • If insurance IS available through a union, send Part B to the union's third party administrator.
  • If insurance IS NOT available through a union, check box 2 on the Employer Response form and send the response to DCS.

If you have questions about the National Medical Support Notice, you can get help in the following ways:

If you offer insurance for which the children are eligible, enroll the children, and complete the Washington State Addendum to Box2 of Plan Administrator Response form and the Plan Administrator response form. Return both forms to DCS within 40 business days after the date of the Notice.