Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Is there a limit to the amount of money 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 percent of disposable income if an obligated parent has a second family
    • 60 percent 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.

  • My income has changed, can my order be revised?

    Either parent may ask for a review of the order to make sure it is still accurate. Child support offices will review a child support order at least every three years, or when there is a significant change of circumstances, if either parent requests such a review. Some states have a procedure for an automatic update.

    Ask your caseworker for information about reviewing and, if appropriate, modifying your child support order. As part of the review, the caseworker will verify the current income of the noncustodial parent. States can adjust a child support order up or down according to child support guidelines, a cost of living adjustment, or automated methods determined by the state.

    Contact your local child support office for more information.

  • When the noncustodial parent is not paying, who can help me collect money?

    Your child support office will enforce an order. Contact your tribal or state agency to find out what methods are available.

  • How do I apply for child support services?

    You can apply through your local, state or tribal child support agency.

    Usually, applying to your local child support office is most convenient, but you can apply at another location if you prefer. The telephone numbers for state and tribal child support agencies are listed on the child support contact map.  The state agency will refer you to the appropriate local child support office where you can apply for child support services.

  • 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.

  • If either parent loses a job or is earning more money, will child support automatically be changed?

    No, the child support amount will not change automatically; however, either parent can request a review and adjustment of their child support order.  A child support obligation must be reviewed, and adjusted if appropriate, at least every 36 months, or sooner if there has been a substantial change in circumstances such as reduced income of the obligated parent.

    Check with your caseworker to see if your child support obligation is in line with state guidelines, and ask how to request a review.

    Some courts and child support offices partner with employment programs and other agencies to provide employment services to noncustodial parents who are struggling to make ends meet and support their children.  Again, contact your local child support office.

    To contact your local office, click on your state on the child support contact map to find your state or tribal website.  Your state or tribal website provides contact information for your local child support office.

  • What is income withholding?

    Income withholding is a process that deducts child support payments automatically from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck, like taxes. When a child support order is established, the child support agency sends an income withholding notice to the noncustodial parent’s employer. The notice explains how often and how much to withhold. The employer withholds the child support payment and sends it to the child support agency. The child support agency records the payment and sends the money to the custodial parent.

    Since January 1994, child support orders require income withholding unless both parents and the courts agree on another payment method.

  • 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.

  • How can I contact my local child support office?

    Select your state on the map for contact information.

  • 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.


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