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Terms You Should Know
Terms You Should Know
The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge or other decision-maker such as a master, referee, or hearing officer, based on the evidence submitted by the parties.
Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
The agency that houses the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The process of withholding all or part of an administrative (non-tax related) payment that is paid by the federal government to a person or entity that owes an outstanding delinquent non-tax debt to the government, and then applying the funds to reduce or satisfy the debt.
A method by which support orders are made and enforced by an executive agency rather than by courts and judges.
A written statement, usually notarized, that is signed under oath or by affirmation.
Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
Former entitlement program that made public assistance payments on behalf of children who did not have the financial support of one of their parents by reason of death, disability, or continued absence from the home; known in many states as AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Replaced with Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA).
A man named as the father of a child born of unmarried parents who has not been legally determined to be the father. The alleged father is also referred to as the putative father.
Allowable Disposable Income
This is the maximum amount available for child support withholding, calculated by applying a state’s limitations or the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limits to the noncustodial parent’s disposable income.
Past due, unpaid child support owed by the noncustodial parent. If the parent has arrearages, he or she is said to be “in arrears”.
Assignment of Support Rights
The legal procedure by which a person receiving public assistance agrees to turn over to the state or tribe any right to child support, including arrearages, paid by the noncustodial parent in exchange for receipt of a cash assistance grant and other benefits. States and tribes can then use a portion of said child support to defray or recoup the public assistance expenditure.
The man who provided the paternal genes of a child. The biological father is sometimes referred to as the natural father.
Burden of Proof
The duty of a party to produce the greater weight of evidence on a point at issue.
CaseA legal action. Also the group of people associated with a particular child support order, court hearing or request for child support services. This typically includes a custodial party (CP), dependent(s), and a noncustodial parent (NCP) or putative father (PF). In addition to names and identifying information about its members, every child support case has a unique case identification number and includes information such as CP and NCP wage data, court order details, and NCP payment history.
CertificationA document attesting the truth of a fact or statement. Though each state may vary, the court may require some certification on a court filing asserting the accuracy of the information provided.
Child SupportFinancial support paid by parents to help support a child or children of whom they do not have custody or with whom they share custody. Child support can be entered into voluntarily or ordered by a court or a properly empowered administrative agency, depending on state or tribal laws. Child support can involve different types of cases:
- IV-A Case: A case in which a state provides public assistance under the state’s IV-A program, which is funded under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act where the child(ren) have been determined to be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The children’s support rights have been assigned to the state or tribe, and a referral to the child support agency has been made.
- IV-D Case: A case in which a state provides child support services as directed by the state or tribal child support program that is authorized by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. A IV-D case is comprised of:
- a dependent child or children;
- a custodial party who may be a parent, caretaker relative or other custodian, including an entity such as a foster care agency; and
- a noncustodial parent or parents, a mother, a father , or a putative father whose paternity has not been legally established.
- Non-IV-D Case: A case where the order is entered into privately and the CSE agency is not providing locate, enforcement, or collection services; often entered into during divorce proceedings. Non-IV-D cases are for payment processing only.
- IV-D Case: A case in which a state provides child support services as directed by the state or tribal child support program that is authorized by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. A IV-D case is comprised of:
Child Support Enforcement AgencyThe agency that exists in every state or tribe to locate noncustodial parents or putative fathers; establish, enforce, and modify child support orders; and collect and distribute child support money. The agency is operated by state, tribal or local government according to the Child Support Enforcement program guidelines as set forth in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Also known as a “IV-D Agency.”
Child Support Enforcement ProgramThe federal/state/local partnership established under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act to locate parents, establish paternity and child support orders, and collect on those orders.
Child Support OrderThe document that sets: (1) an amount of money that is to be provided by a parent for the support of the parent’s child(ren) and/or (2) the responsibility to provide health insurance or medical support for the child(ren). This amount or responsibility must be established by court order or administrative process, voluntary agreement (in states or tribes where such agreements are filed in the court or agency of the administrative process as an order and are legally enforceable) or other legal process. It may include a judgment for child support arrears.
ComplaintThe formal written document filed in a court which sets forth the names of the parties, the allegations, and the request for relief sought. Sometimes called the initial pleading or petition.
Consent AgreementVoluntary written admission of paternity or responsibility for child support.
Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)Federal law that limits the amount that may be withheld from earnings to satisfy child support obligations and other garnishments. State or tribal law may further limit the amount that can be withheld from a person’s paycheck.
Controlling OrderThe one order that must be used by all states and tribes for enforcement and modification actions going forward. In cases involving multiple orders issued prior to the enactment of UIFSA, UIFSA provides rules for determining the controlling order, the one order to be prospectively enforced. UIFSA does not apply to tribes.
Criminal Non-SupportCriminal charges that can be brought when a noncustodial parent willfully fails to pay child support. There are criminal offenses for failure to support at both the state and federal levels. Federal actions require some interstate activity.
Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) (1992)This Act makes it a federal crime to willfully fail to pay a past-due child support obligation for a child living in another state. The past-due obligation must be either greater than $5,000 or must have remained unpaid for more than one year.
Custodial Parent / Custodial Party (CP)The person who has primary care, custody, and control of the child. Can also be custodial party – a relative or other person with legal custody of the child.
Custody OrderLegally binding determination that establishes with whom a child shall live. The meaning of different types of custody terms (e.g., joint custody, shared custody, split custody) varies from state to state and tribe to tribe.
Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 (DPPA)A federal law that imposes criminal penalties on parents who repeatedly fail to support children living in another state or who flee across state lines to avoid supporting them; the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act established felony violations for the willful failure to pay legal child support obligations in interstate cases.
Debt CheckA program developed by the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service that allows agencies and outside lenders to determine whether applicants for federal loans, loan insurance or loan guarantees owe delinquent child support or non-tax debt to the federal government. Federal agencies are required to deny loans, loan insurance, or loan guarantees to individuals who owe delinquent child support if those debts have been referred to the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) for administrative offset.
DefaultThe failure of a defendant to file an answer or appear in a civil case within the prescribed time after having been properly served with a summons and complaint. The tribunal hearing the case can enter an order based on information presented without any challenge if the responding party does not answer the claim or appear in court as requested. This is called a default order.
Default JudgmentDecision made when the defendant fails to respond.
DefendantThe person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun.
DependentA person who is under the care of a parent, relative or other caretaker and cannot live on his/her own. Most children who are eligible to receive child support must be dependents. The child ceases to be a dependent when he or she reaches the “age of emancipation,” as determined by state or tribal law, but may remain eligible for child support for a period after he or she is emancipated or reaches the “age of majority” depending on the state’s or tribe’s provisions.
DisbursementThe process of money being sent out to the custodial parent once child support has been received; the paying out of collected child support funds.
Direct Income WithholdingA procedure, whereby an income withholding order from one state can be sent directly to the noncustodial parent’s employer in another state , without the need to use the child support agency or court system in the noncustodial parent’s state.
Disposable IncomeThe portion of an employee’s earnings that remains after deductions required by law (taxes, Social Security, FICA) and that is used to determine the amount of an employee’s pay subject to a garnishment, attachment, or child support withholding order. Also, the money due an employee after taxes and other required deductions.
DNA TestingThe analysis of human cells to facilitate the establishment of paternity.
Due ProcessThe principle of fairness in legal proceedings so that a person has a right to know what action is being taken and has an opportunity to be heard.
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)Process by which money is transmitted electronically from one bank account to another.
EnforcementThe application of remedies to obtain payment of a child or medical support obligation contained in a child or spousal support order. Examples of remedies include garnishment of wages, seizure of assets, liens placed on assets, revocation of licenses (e.g., drivers, business, medical), denial of U.S. passports, contempt of court proceedings, etc. The processes that can be used to collect payments from the noncustodial parent or to require compliance with some other provision of the order.
EmancipationA child ceases to be a dependent upon reaching the “age of majority” as determined by state or tribal law; however, depending on the state’s provisions, may remain eligible for child support for a period after emancipation. The age a person is no longer considered a minor (child) under government laws. This law is different from state to state and tribe to tribe.
EstablishmentThe process of determining legal paternity and/or obtaining a court or administrative order to put a child support obligation in place.
Family Violence Indicator (FVI)A designation that resides in the Federal Case Registry placed on a participant in a case or order by a state or tribe that indicates the participant is at risk of child abuse or domestic violence. Used to prevent disclosure of the location of a party or a child believed by the state or tribe to be at risk of family violence.
Federal Case Registry (FCR)A national database of information on individuals in all IV-D cases and all non-IV-D orders entered or modified on or after October 1, 1998. The FCR receives this case information on a daily basis from the State Case Registry located in every state, and proactively matches it with previous submissions to the FCR and with employment information contained in the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). Any successful matches are returned to the appropriate state(s) for processing. The FCR and the NDNH are both part of the Federal Parent Locator Service maintained by OCSE.
Federal Offset Program (FOP)The program that provides several enforcement tools to collect past-due child support from noncustodial parents, including federal income tax refund and administrative offset, Passport Denial Program, MSFIDM and Debt Check.
Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)A computerized, national location network operated by OCSE. The FPLS obtains address, employer information, and data on child support cases in every state, and then compares the data and returns matches to the appropriate states. This helps state and local child support agencies locate noncustodial parents and putative fathers for the purposes of establishing custody and visitation rights, establishing and enforcing child support obligations, investigating parental kidnapping, and processing adoption or foster care cases. The expanded FPLS includes the Federal Case Registry (FCR) and the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH).
Federal Tax Refund Offset ProgramThe process that collects past-due child support amounts from noncustodial parents through interception of their federal income tax refunds.
FindingA formal determination by a court or administrative process that has legal standing.
Foreign Reciprocating CountryA foreign country with which the United States has signed a bilateral agreement ensuring reciprocity in child support enforcement.
Full Faith and CreditDoctrine under which a state or tribe must honor an order or judgment entered in another state or tribe and enforce it as if it were an order within its own territory, but may not modify the order unless properly petitioned to do so. This principle was specifically applied to child support orders in federal law that took effect in 1994, under the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA). FFCCSOA requires states and federally funded tribal child support agencies to enforce child support orders made by other states or tribes if:
- the issuing state or tribe’s tribunal had subject-matter jurisdiction to hear and resolve the matter and enter an order;
- the issuing state or tribe’s tribunal had personal jurisdiction over the parties; and
- the parties were given reasonable notice and the opportunity to be heard.
GarnishmentA legal proceeding under which part of a person’s wages or assets are withheld for payment of a debt. This term is usually used to specify that an income or wage withholding is involuntary.
Genetic TestingAnalysis of inherited factors to determine legal fatherhood or paternity.
Guidelines – Child SupportA standard method for setting child support obligations, using a mathematical formula and based on the income of one or both parent(s) and other factors determined by state or tribal law. The Family Support Act of 1988 requires states to use guidelines to determine the amount of support for each family, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.
- (Four-D) Refers to Part D of title IV of the Social Security Act. Title IV-D established the child support program.
Imputed IncomeIncome that may be attributed to an individual who refuses to obtain employment, chooses not to work for personal reasons, or chooses to earn less than is typical for someone with the individual’s training, education and skill. An individual cannot be forced to work, but the court or decision-maker can attribute certain income levels to a person based on the person’s education or training, skill, and work history. Some states consider assets, for example, if the obligor is self-employed or owns real estate. This also may be the amount of income the court or administrator determines that an obligor is capable of earning if he or she does not appear at a hearing after proper service. Some will also attribute income to a custodial parent who chooses to remain unemployed.
In-Kind SupportNon-cash support payments, for example, food or clothing, provided to a custodial parent or child in lieu of cash support payments.
IncomeFor child support purposes, any periodic form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, pension, or retirement program payments and interest; remuneration for work performed or any payment made in lieu of remuneration for worked performed, such as social security benefits or retirement pay.
Income WithholdingAn order that requires an employer to withhold support from a noncustodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency (the Centralized Collection Unit, the State Disbursement Unit or tribal child support agency.) Sometimes referred to as a wage withholding or garnishment.
Immediate Wage WithholdingAn automatic deduction from income that starts as soon as the order for support is established and an income withholding order/notice is received and implemented by the noncustodial parent’s employer.
Initiating JurisdictionThe state, tribal or county court, or administrative agency that sends a request for action to another court or agency that can exercise legal authority against a party to an action. In cases where a state is trying to establish an initial child support order on behalf of a resident custodial parent and does not have Long-Arm Jurisdiction (cannot legally claim personal jurisdiction over a person who is not a resident), it must file a Two-State Action under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) guidelines. (Tribes are not subject to UIFSA.)
InterceptA method of securing child support by taking a portion of non-wage payments made to a noncustodial parent. Non-wage payments subject to interception include federal tax refunds, state tax refunds, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits.
InterstateAn action that takes place involving two or more states, typically where the order for support is in one state and one of the parties resides elsewhere. Can also be between two tribes or a state and a tribe; also called interjurisdictional or intergovernmental.
Interstate IV-D CaseA child support case in which the noncustodial parent lives or works in a different state from the custodial parent and child. Unless otherwise specified, the term applies both to one state and two- state interstate cases.
Judgment (a decision)The official decision or finding of a judge or administrative agency hearing officer upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also known as a decree or order. It may include the “findings of fact and conclusions of law.”
Judgment (a document)Arrears and costs that are owed are put into a final judgment against the defendant.
Judgment CreditorA person to which a debt is owed that has been proven in a legal proceeding and that is entitled to use the judicial process to collect the debt.
Judgment DebtorA person against whom a judgment ordering to pay a sum of money has been obtained and remains unsatisfied.
Judicial ProcessThe use of tribunals in determining child support legal obligations, including paternity establishment, order establishment, enforcement, and modifications of orders.
JurisdictionThe legal authority that a court or administrative agency has over particular persons and over certain types of cases, usually in a defined geographical area. Also, a term used to signify a geographic location such as a state or tribe with a tribunal that exercises such authority.
Legal FatherA man who is recognized by law as the male parent of a child.
LevyThe seizure and possible subsequent sale of assets, including personal property, to satisfy a child support debt.
LienA claim upon property to prevent sale or transfer of that property until a debt is satisfied.
LitigationAn action in which a controversy is brought before the court.
LocateProcess by which a party or putative father is found for the purpose of establishing paternity, establishing and/or enforcing a child support obligation, establishing custody and visitation rights, processing adoption or foster care cases, and investigating parental kidnapping.
Locate InformationData used to locate putative fathers, noncustodial parents or custodial parents. May include their Social Security number, date of birth, residential address, and employer.
Long-Arm JurisdictionLegal provision that permits one state or tribe to claim personal jurisdiction over someone who lives in another state or tribe. There must be some meaningful connection between the person and the state, tribe or district that is asserting jurisdiction in order for a court or agency to reach beyond its normal jurisdictional border. Also called Extended Personal Jurisdiction.
Long Arm StatuteA law that permits one state to claim personal jurisdiction over someone who lives in another state.
MotionAn application to the court requesting an order or ruling in favor of the party that is filing the motion. Motions are generally made in reference to a pending action and may address a matter in the court’s discretion or concern a point of law.
Monthly Support Obligation (MSO)The amount of money a noncustodial parent or party is required to pay each month for child and/or spousal support.
Multistate EmployerAn employer that conducts business in two or more states. As with single-state employers, multistate employers are required by law to report all new hires to the State Directory of New Hires (SDNH) operated by their state government. However, unlike single-state employers, a multistate employer may report all of their new hires to the SDNH of only one state in which they do business rather than to each of them.
Multistate Financial Institution (MSFI)A financial institution that conducts business in two or more states.
Multistate Financial Institution Data Match (MSFIDM)Process by which delinquent child support obligors are matched with accounts held in financial institutions doing business in more than one state.
New Hire ReportingProgram under which employers submit data on a new employee within 20 days of hire to the State Directory of New Hires in the state where they do business. Minimum data required includes the employee’s name, address, and Social Security number, and the employer’s name, address, and Federal Employer Identification Number. Some states request additional data. A multistate employer has the option of reporting all new hires to a single state in which they do business. The data is then submitted to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and compared against child support order information contained in the Federal Case Registry for possible enforcement of child support obligations by wage garnishment. New hire data may also be used at the state level by other agencies to detect fraud; for example, to find new hires that have been receiving unemployment insurance or other public benefits for which they may no longer be eligible. Federal agencies report new hire data directly to the NDNH. (Tribal programs can have access to NDNH data by agreement with a state.)
Noncustodial Parent (NCP)The parent who does not have primary care, custody, or control of the child, and who may have an obligation to pay child support. Also referred to as the obligor.
- Is not currently providing services under the state’s Title IV-A, Title IV-D, Title IV-E, or Title XIX programs.
- Has no current application or applicable fee for services paid by either parent.