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Handbook on Child Support Enforcement

Handbook on Child Support Enforcement



  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
 Administration for Children and Families
  Office of Child Support Enforcement
  Washington, D.C.  20447






This Handbook on Child Support Enforcement is a "how-to" guide to help you get the child support payments your children need and deserve. We have written it to help close the gap between children and the millions of dollars owed them by parents who should help support them but do not. 

Far too many children receive support from only one parent. Concern for the well-being of these children and a desire to reduce the costs to taxpayers of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program prompted Congress to create a national Child Support Enforcement Program in 1975. Since that time enforcement remedies have improved steadily. Recent changes which strengthen the Program:

  • It is now unlawful for someone to willfully fail to pay past due support for a child living in another State.
  • States have procedures for easy voluntary acknowledgment of paternity including in-hospital programs.
  • States have procedures to speed paternity establishment for cases in which paternity is contested.
  • States must periodically report information to credit bureaus about parents who owe overdue support.
  • States are required to enforce child support orders as written by another State.
  • Changes in other Federal legislation require health insurers and all employers to comply with medical support provisions of child support orders and to assist in their enforcement.

The Federal Government, with its civilian and military employees, is the nation's largest single employer. A February 1995 Presidential Executive Order establishes the Federal Government as a model employer for child support enforcement. The order "...requires all Federal agencies, including the Uniformed Services, to cooperate fully in efforts to establish paternity and child support orders and to enforce the collection of child and medical support orders whenever such actions may be required."



Are you a parent--divorced, separated or never married--with children to support?
Do you need help to get a child support order?
Do you need help to collect child support payments from the parent who has a legal order to pay?

States must use effective enforcement methods on behalf of families who apply for child support enforcement services. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is run by the State Human Services Department, Attorney General's Office, or Department of Revenue. To learn more about the program or to apply for child support services, call your local CSE office. Check the county listings in your telephone directory to get the telephone number, or call or write to the State CSE Agency listed at the back of this Handbook.

For the most part, child support enforcement problems are handled through local family and domestic courts according to State and local laws and practices. States use administrative procedures* or other legal processes for establishing and enforcing support orders more quickly than is possible with most court proceedings.

In this Handbook, you will find the basic steps to follow to establish paternity and obtain a support order, and to collect the support due, whether you are working with your State or local CSE Program or your own attorney. The Handbook is organized so that you can refer directly to the sections you need.

Your State's Child Support Enforcement Program is available to help you:

  • Find the non-custodial parent: Location
  • Establish legal fatherhood for children: Paternity
  • Establish the legal support order: Obligation
  • Collect child support payments: Enforcement


* Words in italics are defined in the Glossary beginning on page 33.  Problems such as property settlement, visitation and custody are not, by themselves, child support enforcement issues, and by law, the CSE Program cannot extend its services to enforce court orders pertaining to them. Parents must deal with these issues through the local court system with the help of a private attorney. The person you will be working with at your enforcement office may be called a caseworker, investigator, enforcement worker, collection specialist, or child support worker. The term "caseworker" will be used throughout this Handbook. Also, the words "court" or "judge" mean the official agency having the authority in your State to make legally binding decisions.

REMEMBER: The more you know about child support enforcement, the more you take an active role in getting information to your caseworker and ask questions about your case, the more success you will have in obtaining regular and full child support payments for your children.  Also, in today's society, about 85 percent of custodial parents are women and 15 percent of custodial parents are men. As you go through this Handbook, remember that either parent may be the non-custodial parent.

Who can get help?

Any parent or person with custody of a child who needs help to establish a child support or medical support obligation or to collect support payments can apply for child support enforcement services. People who receive assistance under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Medicaid programs or Federally-assisted Foster Care programs automatically receive child support enforcement services.  A father can apply for services to establish paternity and establish a legal relationship with his child.

A non-custodial parent whose case is not in the CSE Program can request services to make payments through the Program. Doing so can ensure that there is a record of payments made.

Where do I apply for help in obtaining child support?

Through your local child support enforcement (CSE) office. The number can be found in your local telephone directory usually under the State/County social ser

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