I am worried someone will hurt my children or me. What are my options?

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 http://www.secstate.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