Child Support Assistance
Below we list frequently asked questions and answers with regards to child support. If you still have questions or issues about child support, we recommend you contact your state child support office.
Who do I contact if I know the location of a non-paying parent?
If you know where a non-paying parent is living, you may be able to submit information anonymously through your state's child support website or through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's website.
How to get help with parenting time or enforcing visitation so I can see my children?
States administer the Access and Visitation Program to help noncustodial parents see their children. Services vary by state, but may include mediation, counseling, education, development of parenting plans, supervised visitation, safe exchange services, and development of guidelines for visitation and alternative custody arrangements.
In addition to the Access and Visitation Program, many states and local governments have resources and procedures for helping parents with parenting time. Check with the Access and Visitation Program contact in your state for more information.
Is there a money limit that can be taken from my paycheck for child support?
Yes. The amount that can be withheld from your wages is limited by the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act. Here are the limits:
- 50% of disposable income if an obligated parent has a second family
- 60% if there is no second family
These limits are each increased by 5 percent (to 55% and 65%) if payments are in arrears (past-due) for a period equal to 12 weeks or more. State law may further limit the amount that can be taken from your paycheck.
Visit the Intergovernmental Reference Guide, select your state on the map, and look under "Income Withholding" to find information about your state's income withholding limits and procedures.
How is the amount of my child support order set?
All states have official child support guidelines. The guidelines are used to calculate how much a parent should contribute to financially support his or her child. State agencies and courts must use the guidelines unless they are shown to be inappropriate in a particular case.
Most state guidelines consider, at a minimum, the needs of the child, other dependents, and the ability of the parents to pay. Federal law requires every child support order to address how parents will provide for their child's health care needs. To learn more about medical support, take a look at the Child Support Handbook.
Some states use an income-shares model, which means the guidelines are based on the total income of both parents. Other states use a percentage model that calculates the child support amount only on the income of the noncustodial parent. The percentage model assumes that the custodial parent is contributing toward the child's needs by providing care, food, clothing, and shelter.
Visit the Intergovernmental Reference Guide, select your state on the map, and look under "Support Details" to find information about child support guidelines in your state. The Child Support Handbook also has information on guidelines and establishing a child support order.
How much do the child support services cost?
Some agencies have an application fee, usually no more than $25. In some instances this fee can be waived. Check with your local tribal or state agency for details.
What is the status of my child support case?
If you need to find out the status of your case or have a question about your case, contact your state or tribal child support agency. The federal office of child support enforcement does not have direct access to case information.
What documents do I need to bring to the child support office?
Bring as much of the following information as possible. This will help the child support office locate the parent, establish paternity, and establish and enforce your child support order.
- Information about the noncustodial parent
- Name, address and Social Security number
- Name and address of current or recent employer
- Names of friends and relatives, names of organizations to which he or she might belong
- Information about his or her income and assets - pay slips, tax returns, bank accounts, investments or property holdings
- Physical description, or photograph, if possible
- Birth certificates of children
- If paternity is an issue, written statements (letters or notes) in which the alleged father has said or implied that he is the father of the child
- Your child support order, divorce decree, or separation agreement if you have one
- Records of any child support received in the past
- Information about your income and assets
- Information about expenses, such as your child's health care, daycare, or special needs
Is there an application fee?
People receiving assistance under Medicaid, Foster Care, or cash assistance programs do not have to pay for child support services. For all others, a fee of up to $25 is charged, although some states absorb all or part of the fee or collect payment from the noncustodial parent.
Can I establish paternity even though the father of my child lives in another state?
Yes, you can pursue a paternity establishment action even if your child's father lives in another state. Your state may be able to claim jurisdiction and establish paternity if the father has lived in your state, the child was conceived in your state, or there is another basis for your state to have authority over the case.
Otherwise your state can petition the jurisdiction in which your child's father lives to establish paternity under their laws. Often, genetic tests will be ordered to help prove paternity. Ask your caseworker for specific information about the laws in your state and the state where the other parent lives.
How can I access payment information on my child support account?
Contact your child support office for payment information. They can provide you with information about:
- Making a child support payment (online, by phone, or in person)
- Accessing payment history or payment records
- Setting up recurring payments
- Electronic payment options for making or receiving payments
Some state websites allow you to access your payment information online; the federal website does not. To find the website for your state, click here.
How can I file a complaint about my local child support office?
Each state has a formal complaint process to address customer service issues. Ask your state child support agency for help. The state child support website can provide additional information about its specific process for filing a complaint. Some states have complaint forms available online.
If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve a case problem at your local child support office, contact the federal OCSE office using this form.