Frequently Asked Questions

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

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.

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

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

In some cases, you have the right to ask for an administrative hearing (adjudicative proceeding) if you disagree with an action taken by DCS. The papers you get will tell you if you can ask for a hearing. You should ask for a hearing right away, since there is a limited time to do so.

You may ask to speak with a lead worker or supervisor if you are unable to resolve things with the worker handling your case.

Conference Board

You may ask for a Conference Board if you disagree with any action taken by DCS. You must first try to resolve the disagreement with staff at the DCS office nearest you. A Conference Board is an informal way to resolve disputes related to how DCS works your case. Sometimes a Conference Board can also provide relief from the effects of collection action or from a support debt. A Conference Board may review the records on your case or may hold a meeting in person or by phone if more information is needed. A Conference Board decision is issued in writing.

A Brochure about Conference Boards is available.

Child Support is money which an absent parent is ordered to pay on a regular basis to help support the cost of raising his or her child.

Administrative Support Order Establishment

DCS will establish support administratively using the Washington State Child Support Schedule when any of the following are true:

  1. New! July 2012 - Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility
  2. There is no court order or administrative support order in any jurisdiction.
  3. The court order is silent about the non-custodial parent paying support.
  4. The court order does not set support as a fixed amount, but the amount is determinable.
  5. The non-custodial father has a valid acknowledgement of paternity on file with a state.

Learn more about how DCS establishes administrative orders. If you think that current child support on your administrative order should change because circumstances have changed, contact DCS. A modification may be appropriate.

Learn more about administrative order modification.

Full Enforcement or Collection Services

DCS enforces all current and back support accrued under a valid child support order.

DCS includes support ordered spousal support and child-care costs only in conjunction with current support.

DCS only collects interest on back support when reduced to a judgment.

Enforcement includes wage withholding, other income withholding, medical enforcement, IRS tax refund attachment, or interstate referral. Services may include license revocation, personal property seizure, or referral for contempt or federal criminal non-support.

Families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Children or Medicaid automatically receive full-collection services.

Locate Services

DCS provides services to custodial parents who are unable to locate the non-custodial responsible parent for the purposes of collecting child support. DCS will ask other states for help in locating the non-custodial parent. When the non-custodial parent is located, you will be sent an application for services. The non-custodial parent's address may not be released to you without consent.

Medical Enforcement

In addition to current child support, DCS may enforce medical support requirements for an obligated parent to provide insurance available through the obligated parent's employer or union. Only a person receiving Medicaid can ask DCS to enforce medical support only. If you have medical coverage (not Medicaid) for the child, you may ask DCS to enforce only child support. Learn more about medical enforcement.

Paternity Establishment

DCS provides services to determine the father of a child. The child must be under the age of eighteen. 
Read more about parentage establishment.

Payment Processing Services Only (PSO)

If your support order states that payments must be made to the Washington State Support Registry, DCS processes and disburses payments to the payee on the order. When payments are late or past due, DCS takes no enforcement action on your case. When you move, you must give the State Registry your new address.

Post-secondary Educational Support

DCS will provide services for children with court orders for post-secondary educational support. The student must be enrolled in an accredited academic or vocational school, be in a regular course of study, and be in good academic standing. DCS will enforce educational support only if payable to the parent or to the child.

DCS will provide current support services until the child emancipates, leaves the custodian's household, or goes to live with the non-custodial parent. DCS will continue to collect support arrears unless the parties reconcile.

If you want DCS to stop non-assistance services when support is still payable, you must send DCS a letter. DCS must provide payment processing services if the support order makes support payable through the Washington State Support Registry.

When DCS is unable to locate the non-custodial parent or the non-custodial parent's assets for three consecutive years, DCS may close your case. You will be notified if DCS intends to close your case. You have the right to appeal the closure.

Families who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Children or Medicaid automatically receive DCS services. You qualify to receive DCS non-assistance services if you are not currently receiving services from another state and any one of the following statements applies to you:

  1. I am a parent who has custody of a minor child.
  2. I am a lawful custodian of a minor child.
  3. I am a former custodian who is owed child support that accrued under a support order.
  4. I am the father of the child and want to establish the paternity of my child.
  5. I am the non-custodial parent of a child and want to pay support.
  6. I am due court ordered post-secondary educational support for a child in school.

If both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent live outside Washington, the non-custodial parent must have some tie to Washington State, such as, a Washington support order, a Washington-based employer, or assets located in Washington. If there is no tie to Washington, apply for services in the state where where one of the parents live.