Collection Actions: Washington State Division of Child Support
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Home page

Division of Child Support

Resolving Collection Actions

DCS uses many different collection tools to enforce child support. If you want DCS to stop taking a particular action, the first step is to contact the officer that enforces your case. Your support enforcement officer has a duty to collect current support and arrears. The manner of collection and the amount of the arrears payment are sometimes negotiable if you work with your support enforcement officer and honor any agreements you make.

There are situations, though, when your officer cannot release a collection action, even if you pay regularly. For example:

  • In most cases, DCS must keep wage withholding in place if we know where you work.
  • If you owe back child support, we must file a lien.

Our goal is for you to support your child by paying your support and providing the medical insurance required by your support order. If your current support is too high, see our section on modifications. If you believe we've taken an action inappropriately, see our section on conference boards.

To learn more about specific collection actions, view the list below.

Income Withholding

Medical Enforcement

Liens

Credit Reporting

Financial Institutions Withholding

License Suspension

Income tax refund intercept program

Administrative offset

Passport Denial


Income Withholding

In most cases, your officer must use income withholding to collect current support and some amount on any back support owed. Often, when a parent owes a large amount of back support, the notice to withhold income we send to an employer takes half a person's wages.

Usually the officer can agree to an amount that you can more reasonably afford, as long as it includes enough to pay current support every month and pays off the back support in a reasonable time. We may require that you sign a waiver to the statute of limitations before we agree to a low repayment amount.

If you owe back support we may take other action to collect support, even if we withhold from your income.

Medical Enforcement

Most child support orders require the parents to provide medical insurance if it's available through their employers or unions. To enforce the medical insurance requirement, DCS sends the noncustodial parent's employer or union a Notice of Enrollment. The Notice tells the employer:

  • To immediately enroll the child in a health plan available to the non-custodial parent.

  • The maximum amount that the medical insurance can cost under the provisions of the support order.

If the medical premium amount exceeds the amount on the Notice, the employer can not enroll the child. The employer has 20 days to return the answer to the notice. When DCS receives information about the medical plan, DCS notifies the custodial parent. If medical insurance is available, it may require the non-custodial parent to enroll in the plan in addition to enrolling the child. DCS cannot require the non-custodial parent to enroll in the plan.

It is best to keep DCS informed of coverage you provide your children. Keeping your child covered when you change jobs, and keeping us informed of the changes, ensures that you get the coverage appropriate to you and your children's circumstances. Be sure to contact your support officer with questions about how we enforce insurance requirements.

Liens

Any time a parent owes back support, we file a lien on all real and personal property. When you buy or sell property, this lien will impede the sale.

If you are buying property and the lien impedes the purchase your officer may be able to work with you to partially release or subrogate the lien so you can complete the purchase. If we make this kind of agreement, we will ask for some payment toward your debt up front and will want a repayment agreement.

If you are selling property we will work with you or your title company to release the lien upon payment of the debt. If you will receive less than the amount of the debt from the sale, your support enforcement officer may negotiate a partial release based upon a reasonable payment agreement.

Sometimes a title search turns up a lien when the debt is paid. Or you may have the same name as someone who owes support. These problems are easy to clear up, often in a day or so. Contact a DCS office right away.

We sometimes file liens on specific property such as a car or boat. Parents with large child support debts who do not work with their support officer may have their vehicle or other property seized and sold. If you received a notice that we filed a lien on some specific property of yours, contact your officer right away to make payment arrangements.

Credit Reporting

DCS automatically reports unpaid child support to several credit reporting companies once the back support reaches $1000. Before we report the first time, we send a notice to the best mailing address we have for you.

Once we have reported your debt we continue to report every sixty days, even when the debt goes down or is paid in full. If you pay according to an agreement we report that to the credit reporting companies.

Financial Institutions Withholding

DCS attaches accounts in financial institution (such as banks) under one of two circumstances:

  • A parent is not paying current support and owes a back support debt.

  • A parent makes small payments toward a back debt but has a sum in a financial institution that indicates a larger payment is appropriate.

Attached funds are frozen for 20 days. During that time you may contact your support officer to:

  • Discuss possible alternatives.

  • Ask for a hearing if the money in your account is exempt from withholding or isn't yours.

  • Ask for a conference board if the attachment creates a financial hardship.

License Suspension

DCS asks licensing agencies to suspend the license of parents who owe at least six months of back support. Hunting, fishing, driver, and professional licenses are all subject to suspension.

To get your license back, you must contact your support officer and reach a reasonable repayment agreement. Once we have an agreement and a good faith payment, we will ask the issuing agency to reinstate your license. Unless your license is suspended for other reasons too, most issuing agencies will reinstate your license in less than a week.

For more information about the License Suspension program, follow these links:

Statistical summary of the program

Legislative Report

Income tax refund intercept program

We automatically report child support debts to the federal government for tax refund offset. If you owe a support debt, even if you make payments according to an agreement, we report to the IRS.

It often takes months between the time you receive a notice that we intercepted your tax refund and the time we receive the check. If you have paid your back support off in the meantime, we will refund the intercepted money to you after we get it.

Administrative offset

When we report to the IRS, we also report most of the same cases for "administrative offset." If the federal government owes you money, they may intercept those payments owed to you and send them to us.

Passport Denial

If you owe more than $2500 the US Department of State will:

  1. Deny your new passport application, or
  2. Deny your request to renew your passport.

To qualify for passport release, you must do one of the following:

  1. Pay your debt in full.
  2. Provide written proof from your employer that you need a passport for employment purposes.
  3. Note: This is not an automatic reason for passport release.

  4. Provide written proof from your commanding officer that you need a passport for military deployment.
  5. Note: This is not an automatic reason for passport release.

  6. Provide written proof on letterhead from a doctor, hospital, or the Red Cross that you need a passport because of an emergency involving an immediate family member. The federal government defines an immediate family member as one of the following:
    • Parent, guardian, or stepparent
    • Child or stepchild
    • Grandparent
    • Sibling or stepsibling
    • Aunt or uncle
    • Spouse

    Note: This is not an automatic reason for passport release.