Frequently Asked Questions

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

If you believe that helping child support services may hurt you or your children, you can claim that you have a good reason, also known as "good cause" not to cooperate. You use this "good cause" process to explain why you fear cooperating with DCS may be dangerous. For additional information on this subject, click here

Under federal law, everyone who gets TANF or medical assistance automatically gets child support services and must help the Division of Child Support (DCS) provide those services. DSHS calls this "cooperation."

Your cooperation is needed to:

  • Establish paternity - help identify the father of your child or children.
  • Establish child support orders - give DCS any information you have about where the other parent lives and works, and about their income and assets.
  • Modify child support orders - complete paperwork and provide your income information so DCS can review your current order for needed changes.
  • Enforce child support orders - give DCS any information you have about the other parent, including information about employment, vehicles, assets, and bank accounts.

No. DCS does not represent either parent in a child support action, whether the action takes place in a court or administrative hearing.

You have the right to have an attorney represent you in court or an administrative hearing, if you are able to get one.

For an administrative hearing, you may have anyone you choose represent you.

In either place, you can represent yourself.

If you fear for your safety if you appear for a court or administrative hearing, talk with a DCS official about participating by telephone for the hearing, or being in a separate room from your abuser.

By the time you open a case with DCS, you may already be involved in a divorce or a paternity action in court. If the court has not yet filed a child support order, DCS can usually establish an administrative child support order.

This can get child support started while you are waiting for the court case to be completed or if you believe that your abuser is using the court system to further abuse or harass you by filing lots of legal papers and prolonging the matter.

When the court enters a child support order, it replaces the administrative order. However, while the court action is pending, DCS can enforce its own administrative child support order.

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.

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.

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.

This section applies to you only if you have never legally named the father of your child or children."Establishing paternity" is the formal term for using the court system to name the legal father or for using the Acknowledgment of Paternity process to name the legal father.

There are some good reasons to establish paternity:

  • If the father dies or becomes disabled, your children may be eligible for Social Security or other dependent benefits,
  • The children may be able to inherit from the father or the father's family, and
  • Your children may have access to a more complete medical history.

If you are a domestic violence victim, the down side of establishing paternity is that it could open you and your children up to contact with the abuser. If you fear contact would be dangerous to you and your child, then you may want to be excused from the requirement to establish paternity. To do this when you get TANF or medical assistance, you must claim "good cause not to cooperate."

Be aware that the law allows the biological father of a child to claim paternity and ask the court to order paternity testing to see if he is, in fact, the father. You may want to consult an attorney to discuss your options. You can call the Northwest Justice Center's Coordinated Legal Education and Referral (CLEAR) line at 1-888-201-1014 for information.