Frequently Asked Questions

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

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.

  • When the employee is already enrolled, enroll the children in the same plan as the employee.
  • When the employee is not enrolled and there are multiple plans within the premium limit shown on the Notice that would cover the children, DCS will select the plan. Provide DCS the following information about each plan: description of the coverage, additional cost the employee would have to pay to cover the children and whether there is a limited service area for the plan.

Chapters 26.18, 26.23, and 74.20A RCW allow DCS to take collection actions even if the noncustodial parent is not behind in support payments. DCS may take the following actions, under the laws of the state of Washington or other states, at any time without further notice to the noncustodial parent:

  • To collect current support and past-due support, DCS may send the noncustodial parent's employer or other person or organizations holding assets for or income due to the noncustodial parent an Income Withholding for Support or Order to Withhold and Deliver.
  • To collect past-due support, DCS may also:
    • File liens against, seize, and sell part or all of the noncustodial parent's real estate, vehicles, or other real or personal property.
    • Turn the case over to a private collection agency.
    • Ask licensing authorities to suspend or not renew the noncustodial parent's driver's, hunting, fishing, recreational, professional, business, and occupational licenses.
    • Attach the noncustodial parent's bank accounts.
    • Refer the case to a Prosecuting Attorney for contempt proceedings.
    • Refer the case to a U.S. Attorney for criminal non-support.
    • Refer the case to the federal government to intercept any income tax refund or other payment owed to the noncustodial parent by the government, and to revoke or not issue or renew a U.S. passport.
    • Refer the case to credit reporting agencies.
    • Take other withholding actions as needed.
  • To enforce health insurance obligations, DCS may send a National Medical Support Notice to the obligated parent's employer or union. This notice requires the employer or union to enroll the child or children in an available health insurance plan and withhold the premiums from the parent's pay.
    • If the child or children listed on page 1 have Indian Health Services (IHS) available to them, that care satisfies health insurance requirements.
    • Even if the child or children are eligible for IHS, the obligated parent must still enroll the child or children in accessible insurance if it is provided by his or her employer at no cost.

NOTE: DCS recognizes Indian tribal sovereignty. If the parent is an employee of an Indian tribe, tribally-owned business, or Indian-owned business on a reservation, DCS may not serve the notices mentioned above. If the tribe has a process to do so, DCS will ask the tribal court to enforce this notice.

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).

A parent who is required to provide health insurance coverage (DCS calls this parent the "obligated parent") must notify both DCS and the other parent when coverage terminates.

If an obligated parent fails to enroll the child or children in privately accessible health insurance coverage or coverage available through the parent's employer or union, or if the parent's circumstances change, DCS may enforce the obligated parent's medical support obligations as provided in RCW 26.18.170. DCS may do one of the following, listed in order of priority:

  • Send a National Medical Support Notice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 666(a)(19) to the employer or union requiring the employer or union to enroll the child or children in a health insurance plan as described in RCW 26.18.170(8).
  • Serve a Notice of Support Owed on the obligated parent requiring the parent to pay his or her proportionate share of a monthly premium being paid by the other parent for the child or children, not to exceed 25 percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation.
  • Serve a Notice of Support Owed on the obligated parent requiring the parent to contribute to his or her proportionate share of a monthly premium paid by the state, not to exceed 25 percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation, if the child or children receive state-financed medical coverage through the Department of Social and Health Services under Chapter 74.09 RCW for which there is an assignment.

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).