Frequently Asked Questions

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

The Division of Child Support (DCS) distributes support collections within two (2) days of receipt with limited exceptions. DCS uses a mathematical formula by which DCS distributes payments to cases, current support, and arrears.

  • Current support is paid first. If a payment does not equal the total amount owed for all the noncustodial parent's cases, DCS divides the payment proportionately.
  • Once current support for the month is paid, DCS applies amounts over current support to arrears, or past due support.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax refund intercept payments are an exception to this rule. DCS must apply these payments first to arrears owed to the state, then arrears owed to the family. DCS may not currently apply IRS tax intercept payments to current support.
    • Before 10/1/08, DCS distributed collections received from the IRS to past due support on certified debt only. DCS did not distribute IRS collections to current support.
    • Between 10/1/08 and 6/30/10, DCS distributed collections received from the IRS to current support first and then to past due support on certified cases only.
    • Beginning 7/1/10, DCS distributes collections received from the IRS to past due support on certified debt only. DCS may not distribute IRS collections to current support.

Note: Past due support payments are also proportioned based on a percent of total.

Custodial parents may receive their child support payments in one of two ways:

  • DCS staff determine if the custodial parent authorized a direct deposit for their child support payments. DCS will send the custodial parent a Direct Deposit verification letter if we have all the required bank information.
  • DCS may enroll the custodial parent in the DCS Card program if the CP does not provide a completed direct deposit application.

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).

Between October 1, 2008, and June 30, 2010, DCS applied IRS tax-refund offset collections to the debt owed to the custodial parent before state debt. During this period, DCS could apply IRS tax-refund offset collections to both current support and arrears. Beginning July 1, 2010, DCS applies tax-refund offset collections to child support obligations as it did before October 1, 2008. This means that DCS will only apply tax-refund offset collections to back support owed, and these collections are always applied first to debt owed to the state.


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.

DCS sends the obligated parent's employer or union a National Medical Support Notice. The Notice tells the employer:

To enroll the child in a health plan available to the obligated parent.

The maximum amount the obligated parent can pay for the children's medical insurance under the provisions of the support order.

If the cost of the medical premium exceeds the amount on the Notice, the employer cannot enroll the child. The employer has 20 business days to respond to DCS and forward Part B of the Notice to the Plan Administrator. When DCS receives information about the medical plan, DCS notifies the other parent.

If medical insurance is available, it may require the obligated parent to enroll in the plan in addition to enrolling the child. Under certain circumstances, DCS can require the obligated parent to enroll in the plan.

  • DCS calculates child support obligations under the Washington State Child Support Schedule (WSCSS), found in Chapter 26.19 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
  • If you have received a NFFR, DCS calculated the support obligations based on the WSCSS Worksheets which were attached to the notice.
  • If DCS knew the actual incomes of both parties, we based the support amount on the actual incomes. If DCS did not know the actual incomes of one or both parties, we imputed income as provided in the WSCSS and in the DCS rules under Chapter 388-14A of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).

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).

When a noncustodial parent has more than one case with DCS, the law tells DCS how to split up a support payment between cases. It's 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 noncustodial 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. DCS must apply these payments first to arrears owed to the state, then arrears owed to the family. DCS may not apply IRS tax intercept payments to current support. This process will change effective with IRS payments received by DCS on or after October 1, 2008.

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.

When DCS is unable to collect unpaid support through the application of its various administrative remedies (for example, wage withholding, liens against real and personal property, bank seizures, license suspension, etc.) it may refer the unpaid child support order to a Prosecuting Attorney for review and possible filing for judicial enforcement. The responsibility for presenting the case in court lies with the Prosecuting Attorney. Therefore, each Prosecuting Attorney's office sets the criteria the case must meet before accepting the referral from DCS or filing the case in court for judicial action. When a Prosecuting Attorney files a case for judicial enforcement, the prosecutor represents the State of Washington, and does not represent either the CP or NCP.


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.

The Division of Child Support is sending a Notice (DCS Form 18-686) to all custodians who have open child support cases who may potentially be affected by this fee. In addition to this letter, DCS is updating forms, its website, and the KIDS phone line to include information about the new fee.


IMPORTANT NOTICE TO CUSTODIANS RECEIVING IV-D CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES:

Beginning October 1, 2007, federal law provides that certain child support cases are subject to a $25 fee each year. Washington law provides that this fee will be paid by the custodial parent. The $25 fee will be withheld from child support payments that are made on the case, but only after $500 in child support has been disbursed to the family between October 1 and September 30 (the federal fiscal year), and only if the custodial parent has never received TANF, Tribal TANF or AFDC on behalf of a child.

If you have questions, or would like additional information about the $25 fee please refer to the following links, or call the KIDS general information line at 1-800-442-KIDS.

  • Within 20 business days after the date of the Notice:
    • Check the appropriate box and send the Employer Response to DCS, or call DCS with the appropriate response.
    • Send Part B, Medical Support Notice to Plan Administrator to the office or labor union who administers the health care plan.
  • If you serve as your own plan administrator, return the Plan Administrator Response to DCS within 40 business days after the date of the Notice.

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

  • An Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support ( "OWI") remains in effect until DCS releases it in writing.
  • Keep the OWI until both of the following happen:
  • The employee no longer works for you. Consider an intermittent employee still employed.
  • You no longer possess any funds payable to the employee.

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

As long as you get TANF or medical assistance, DSHS will contact you about every six months to review your good cause claim. It is very important that you stay aware of your good cause status and that you clearly tell DSHS if you are still afraid or if your circumstances have changed.

If you are still afraid, make sure your worker understands you are afraid and verifies that your good cause claim remains approved. If your worker changes or stops your good cause claim, and you disagree, talk with your worker's supervisor. You may also ask for a fair hearing.

If your circumstances change, or if those of your abuser change, you may decide that it is relatively safe now to collect child support. You can withdraw your good cause claim and DCS can begin collecting support. Talk to your DSHS worker if you want to withdraw your good cause claim.

After you no longer get TANF or medical assistance, DCS will keep your case at Good Cause Level A or Good Cause Level B, and DSHS will never contact you directly to review your good cause status again unless you reopen your TANF or medical assistance case.

When DCS initiates collection action an employer or business has twenty days to answer the Notice of Payroll Deduction or Order to Withhold and Deliver. The employer or business has seven days to send the withheld support to DCS. The law requires DCS to send the Custodial Parent support within two working days after receipt.

When an employer refuses to cooperate with a withholding action, DCS may have to begin noncompliance action against the employer. We start the formal action by sending a Notice of Noncompliance to the employer. This additional legal process can take an additional month or more. For more information refer to the Employer and Income Withholding Information page on the DCS web site.


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

When DCS initiates collection action an employer or business has twenty days to answer the Notice of Payroll Deduction or Order to Withhold and Deliver. The employer or business has seven days to send the withheld support to DCS. The law requires DCS to send you support within two working days after receipt.

For your convenience, DCS can send your payments as direct deposits to your bank account. Click here to download copy of the Direct Deposit 22-078 brochure that includes the authorization form. For more information regarding direct deposit contact our EFT Customer Service Unit at 1-800-468-7422EFT customer service unit contact phone .

When an employer refuses to cooperate with a withholding action, DCS may have to begin noncompliance action against the employer. We start the formal action by sending a Notice of Noncompliance to the employer. This additional legal process can take an additional month or more. For more information refer to the Employer and Income Withholding Information page on the DCS web site.

The length of time depends on several things. Sometimes you can receive a child support payment within the first month after DCS takes collection action. The process can take longer if there is no child support order, the paying parent is on public assistance, has no assets, or lives in another state.

We try to process your application as quickly as possible. A lot depends on how soon we're able to get the information we need to determine if you're eligible. Generally, most food stamp and TANF cash benefits are processed within 30 days. Pregnancy medical is usually processed within 15 working days. Cases where information is needed from doctors, such as disability determinations, can take more than 45 days. You can help us by turning in requested information quickly.

If you get TANF now or received welfare (TANF, Tribal TANF, or AFDC) in the past, you can get services from DCS at no charge.

Starting in October 2007, DCS must charge a fee of $25 on cases where we collect and send out at least $500 of child support during a federal fiscal year for a custodial parent who never got TANF, Tribal TANF, or AFDC for any children (not just the ones currently in your household). The federal fiscal year runs from October first through September 30th. If you have a question about whether your case would be subject to a fee, ask DCS.

If the other parent lives in another state, the other state may charge a fee. You can contact DCS to find out if fees from another state apply in your case.

Child support withholding may not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the employee's net disposable income.

"Disposable income" means gross earnings minus mandatory deductions, that is, those amounts required by law to be withheld, such as taxes.


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

If you object to the notice and want a hearing, do one of the following within the time limits listed above:

  • Complete the enclosed Objection/Request for Adjudicative Proceeding form. Return the completed form to the DCS address listed on the form.
  • Call the DCS office at the telephone numbers listed on page 9 and ask for a hearing. Use the toll-free telephone number for long distance calls only.

If you object to the notice, DCS may ask you to provide the following documents:

  • The completed Washington State Child Support Schedule worksheets.
  • Copies of your federal tax returns for the past two years.
  • A copy of your most recent pay stub.
  • A completed Statement of Resources and Expenses form (DSHS 18-097).

NOTE: Even if you agree with the terms in this notice, the other party to the case may ask for a hearing. If you or the other party asks for a hearing, you will receive notice of the date, time, and place of the scheduled hearing. If you do not attend and participate in a scheduled hearing, a support order may be issued with no input from you.


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).

After the children are enrolled, the plan administrator will notify you to withhold the premium from the employee's earnings.

The $25 fee will be deducted from your child support after the first $500 has been disbursed to you in the federal fiscal year (October 1st through September 30th). There is no need for you to make or send in a fee payment.


IMPORTANT NOTICE TO CUSTODIANS RECEIVING IV-D CHILD SUPPORT SERVICES:

Beginning October 1, 2007, federal law provides that certain child support cases are subject to a $25 fee each year. Washington law provides that this fee will be paid by the custodial parent. The $25 fee will be withheld from child support payments that are made on the case, but only after $500 in child support has been disbursed to the family between October 1 and September 30 (the federal fiscal year), and only if the custodial parent has never received TANF, Tribal TANF or AFDC on behalf of a child.

If you have questions, or would like additional information about the $25 fee please refer to the following links, or call the KIDS general information line at 1-800-442-KIDS.

Physical abuse by one person against another is a crime. It also can force a parent to make difficult decisions about child support. Although the Division of Child Support (DCS) would like to collect the money owed to every family, the safety of the family must come first. The list below offers some options to consider when making decisions about child support in light of family violence.

You can tell the police

Harming another person is against the law. You can call your local police department and file a report. If you have left home and have to go back to retrieve clothes or belongings, you may ask the police to accompany you.

You can apply to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP)

The ACP assists victims of family violence who are relocating to avoid further abuse. It helps participants keep their home, work and/or school address secret by providing a substitute mailing address. ACP will:

  • Give you a substitute mailing address and help you use it.
  • Forward your first class mail from the substitute address to your home.
  • Assist you in getting many state and local agency services without revealing your address.
  • Help you vote or marry without having those records available to the public.

Find out about the ACP by calling 360-753-2972 or 1-800-822-1065, or go to https://www.sos.wa.gov//acp/.

If you receive public assistance, you can get permission not to help collect child support

Generally, when you receive public assistance (either a cash grant or medical), the Division of Child Support opens a child support enforcement case and you are expected to help us establish and/or collect support. However, if you believe that establishing or enforcing child support will put you or the child in danger, you may claim "good cause" not to cooperate. The Community Services Office (CSO) will evaluate your claim and may decide that it is too dangerous even to open a child support case. You may claim Good Cause when you apply for assistance, or any time afterward. The public assistance office may decide that DCS should stop all establishment and enforcement action on your case, or they may decide that it is safe to continue. You have the right to a hearing on this decision. If good cause is granted, your case will be reviewed by the CSO on a regular basis to see if the danger continues.

If you do not receive public assistance, you can stop enforcement of the child support order

Nonassistance custodians can ask DCS to stop working their case. At your request, we will take no action to collect support owed to you. However, if the noncustodial parent owes any back support to Washington State, DCS will continue to collect these arrears. The custodian may request a Conference Board if the collection of arrears by DCS endangers the family. To stop enforcement of your case, contact your Support Enforcement Officer.

Does stopping enforcement mean the debt goes away?

If a child support order exists, the child support debt continues to accrue, even when DCS does not collect. In both public assistance and non assistance cases, asking DCS to stop collecting does not end the other parent's responsibility to pay child support. If a child support order exists, the noncustodial parent still owes that amount each month. Unpaid support is a debt that you may be able to collect later.

You can ask a court to grant a civil order of protection.

A court can order an offender to stay away from you or the children. A person violating a court order is subject to punishment by the court. Some county courts have a Domestic Violence Unit to help you through this process. Some can help you with filing the necessary documents to obtain an order of protection. Others have advocates to help you in court. Learn more about domestic violence from the Washington Violence Against Women Network.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions page.

DSHS has a domestic violence resource web page - Domestic Violence Services