After opening a case to receive child support, the process of managing the case begins. As each step in the process is completed, the case moves toward the ultimate goal: getting financial and/or medical support for the child(ren). It is important for the custodian of the child(ren) to remain involved throughout the process to ensure that CSSD has the information necessary to keep the case moving forward.
Typical Case Activity
When the whereabouts of a parent who should be paying child support are not known, CSSD will use various methods to try to find that person.
CSSD has the right to search for parents by using resources such as:
- Department of Motor Vehicles records
- Tax records
- Employment records
- Public benefits records
If a parent who is responsible for paying support cannot be located in the District of Columbia, CSSD will use other resources, including the Federal Parent Locator Service, in an attempt to find the person and proceed with child support case activity.
Because only a child's parents have a legal obligation to provide support, a critical first step in every case is determining parentage. There are several ways that parentage can be established for a child. The establishment of parentage is required before the case can move forward for the entry of a support order and for the payment of support.
Calculating Child Support
Child support in the District of Columbia is calculated using an exact formula set by DC law. The DC Guideline Calculator can be used to estimate the child support amount in each case.
Establishing an Order
In the District of Columbia, the process of setting child support requires a hearing in DC Superior Court. CSSD personnel work with the child support service recipient to prepare a petition and present it to the court during the hearing. Medical support also is a part of each petition, as required by federal and DC law. Based on the evidence presented, the court enters an order that establishes the support obligation for the parent(s).
Both parents will receive notice of the upcoming hearing.
- If CSSD is helping the child's primary custodian, either the court or the CSSD Litigation Unit will contact the that person by telephone, email, or postal mail regarding the upcoming hearing so that participation is possible.
- A formal notice of hearing and order directing appearance (NOHODA) is prepared for the other parent (known as the respondent) in the case. CSSD's Service of Process Unit or the Metropolitan Police Department will attempt to deliver the NOHODA to provide that parent with instructions about appearing in court for the hearing. Note that failure to appear in court, after being properly served, may result in issuance of a bench warrant against the parent.
Enforcing an Order
After an order has been established, CSSD will begin enforcing it. CSSD seeks to work with the parent ordered to pay support so that payments are made in a timely and consistent manner. However, when payments are not made timely, there are several enforcement methods that can be used to collect the ordered support.
As payments are made, child support is sent to the child(ren)'s primary custodian as set out in DC law and CSSD procedures. If the family receives TANF, see the $150 Pass-Through section below for more information about the portion of support payments that may be sent to the family.
Modifying an Order
Because situations change over time, the law allows child support orders to be reconsidered. Every 3 years, or when there has been a substantial and material change of circumstances, a parent may contact CSSD and request the start of the review and adjustment process. CSSD will review the new circumstances and, if appropriate, file a motion in court to modify the child support order.
Additional Information for the Child's Primary Custodian
For families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, District of Columbia law allows up to $150 of the child support payment(s) made each month to "pass through" directly to the family.
Change in Custody
The child(ren) may live with one parent at the beginning of a child support case, but the care arrangement may change. When custody changes occur, parents or caregivers may have questions about the impact of the change on child support. CSSD seeks to work with the parent(s) and caregiver(s) to secure the needed support for the child(ren).
Domestic violence is one of the most dangerous and potentially fatal problems in our society. Domestic violence affects all communities, regardless of race, class, gender, age, or sexual orientation. There is, however, help available to people at risk for domestic violence. The best weapon is knowledge, so know your rights.