CSSD seeks to work with parents who are ordered to pay support and with their employers to ensure that the support obligation is met in a timely and consistent manner. This is the best way to provide children with the support that they deserve. However, when these efforts do not result in full or consistent support payments, the law also permits CSSD to use many resources to collect support. CSSD welcomes parent questions about enforcement tools and how they apply to individual cases.
Enforcement Tools -- Generally
Income (Wage) Withholding
When a parent is ordered to pay support, income (or wage) withholding is a typical way for a parent to submit support payments. Income withholding requires the parent's employer to take the child support amount from the parent's pay. Withholding occurs before the parent receives any portion of the wages. All new or modified orders must include an order to withhold income.
Disability Income Withholding
Child support amounts may be withheld from the disability income of the parent who is ordered to pay support.
Federal Tax Intercept
The law requires federal tax refunds to be intercepted to meet back child support when the parent owing support has an outstanding balance. In cases involving TANF or foster care arrears balances, federal tax intercept is allowed when the unpaid amount reaches $150 or more; intercept is allowed for unpaid support of $500 or more in other cases.
State Tax Intercept
When a parent who owes support is to receive a DC tax refund, the law allows an intercept of that refund to meet the unpaid support amount.
Cases with an arrears amount of at least $599 will be submitted to the DC Lottery Board for an intercept of the winnings of a parent who is ordered to pay support.
Worker’s Compensation Intercept
Worker’s compensation income may be intercepted and used to repay child support.
Administrative offset gives CSSD the authority to intercept certain types of federal payments when a parent owes child support arrears of at least $25. The Department of Treasury will deduct 25% from the following types of federal payments:
- Federal retirement benefits
- Federal reimbursement payments
- Federal travel/relocation reimbursements
Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM)
With the FIDM process, a parent who is ordered to pay support may have bank and other financial accounts located, frozen, and seized to pay back child support amounts.
Driver’s License/Vehicle Registration Suspension
CSSD may submit case information to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or revoke the driver's license and/or vehicle registration of a parent who has been ordered to pay child support but who fails to do so.
Passport Denial or Suspension
Cases with an arrears amount of at least $2,500 will be submitted to the U.S. State Department to have the passport denied, revoked, or blocked for renewal for the owing parent. Arrangements may be permitted in certain emergency travel situations.
If a parent owns real or personal property in the District of Columbia and fails to make child support payments, a lien may be placed on that property. In those instances, if the property is sold, the lien must be paid before the parent can receive proceeds from the sale.
Credit Bureau Reporting
The law allows CSSD to report information about child support arrears to credit bureau agencies so that the failure to comply with the court order will be listed on the parent's credit history.
When a parent who was ordered to pay support fails to do so, CSSD may file a motion asking the court to find that parent in contempt of court. A civil contempt finding may result in a parent being ordered to pay a lump-sum amount, make scheduled payments, or be jailed.
In cases in which a parent willfully disobeys the court's order to pay support, and other enforcement tools have been unsuccessful, CSSD may file a motion asking the court to hold that parent in criminal contempt of court. If the court agrees with CSSD, the parent ordered to pay support may be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail, placed on probation, or fined.