How to Collect Child Support

DCS Will Help You Collect Child Support

The Division of Child Support (DCS) is the state agency that collects child support. DCS collects when

  • A child gets wel­fare payments or is in fos­ter care.
  • You ask the state for help collecting support.

DCS does not typically charge for its services. If you have never gotten TANF or tribal TANF, there is a small yearly fee.

DCS can set the support amount through its own administrative system unless (or until) a court sets support, and DCS will then collect via

  • garnishment of wages
  • garnishment of unemployment benefits
  • garnishment of Labor and Industries pay­me­nts
  • garnishment of some Social Security pay­ments
  • garnishment of bank accounts
  • take in­come tax refunds
  • and, place liens on real and personal prop­erty

The government takes collecting child support seriously. When a parent who can pay does not, DCS can have their driver’s or professional license suspended. A judge can also hold that parent in contempt and send them to jail. However, DCS is NOT able to garnish SSI or welfare payments. The state’s Washington State Support Registry will keep track of payments. Its records are the best way to know if someone has paid or owes support. If the other parent ever pays you directly, tell DCS so their payment records are accurate.

With every support check you get, DCS should send you info about the support it has collected every few months. You can also check your payment history online at If you disagree with DCS’ calculations or how they have distributed support, an attorney can help you resolve this legal issue. The lawyer will represent you at hearing and present documentation showing DCS’ mistake.

How to Help DCS

Your support enforcement officer (SEO) is there to help you collect child support, so help SEO by giving them whatever info can help. For example, if you have a child support court order, such as a divorce decree, give the SEO a copy. Other info that could help includes the other parent’s

  • Most recent address
  • Social Security Number
  • Current employer and rate of pay
  • and, other financial info, such as identification of bank accounts or other assets

Coordination of Public Assistance and Child Support

To get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, you must assign your rights to collect child support to DCS. This entitles DCS to get and keep support that would come to you if you were not getting assistance. DSHS can keep only as much support as the amount of your TANF grant. If the current support obligation is more than your TANF, and DCS collects that support amount for two months in a row, your TANF will stop. You will get support payments instead of TANF as long as DCS can collect that support amount.

If you have never gotten public assistance, you are entitled to everything DCS collects, current or back support. DCS often also collects unpaid back support, called “arrears.” If you have gotten public assistance in the past but are not getting it now, the state can keep the arrears that built up while you got assistance. Arrears that have built up since you last got public assistance belong to you. DCS should pay you before it keeps any arrears that belong to the state. Arrears that built up before you went on public assistance may come to you or go to the state, depending on when they built up and how DCS collects them. Usually, arrears collected by wage withholding go to you. Arrears collected by income tax refund intercept usually go to the state.

Concerns About You or Your Child’s Safety

Normally, in return for welfare payments, you must cooperate with DCS’s efforts to collect child support from the other parent. If this could place you or your child in danger, DCS may excuse you from cooperating (called good cause). If you are concerned for your or your children’s safety, tell your welfare worker you believe you have good cause not to cooperate with support enforcement efforts. Show them any evidence of the reasons you are afraid, such as:

  • medical records
  • protection orders
  • criminal records
  • police reports

If you do not have such records, your sworn statement might be good cause. DCS’ good cause form is here: If the state decides you must cooperate anyway and threatens to lower your grant, you can have a hearing about whether you have good cause not to cooperate. DSHS may also decide you do not have to cooperate BUT they can try to collect child support without danger of harm to you or the children. You can also appeal that decision. You should keep getting your normal amount of assistance until the hearing decision.

Even if you agree to cooperate with DCS, you can have them keep your location from the other parent if you have well-founded safety concerns. If the other parent asks DCS for your child’s address, DCS should tell you and give you the chance to ask for a hearing to keep them from giving it out. You can appear at the hearing by phone from an undisclosed location. DCS has more info about good cause at

Chad Foster is a trusted Washington lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell.

Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.

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