How does the Division of Child Support in Washington collect support from out-of-state parents?

Enforcement of Child Support Across State Lines

Ensuring that child support is reliably collected from parents, irrespective of their location, is a cornerstone of family law enforcement in the United States. The Division of Child Support (DCS) in Washington State is tasked with the responsibility of collecting support payments from all parents, including those residing outside its jurisdiction. This article delves into the mechanisms and legal provisions that enable the DCS to fulfill this duty effectively.

Interstate Cooperation under UIFSA

At the heart of interstate child support enforcement is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which has been adopted by all U.S. states and territories. UIFSA facilitates cooperation between states in enforcing child support orders. When a non-custodial parent lives out-of-state, the DCS can request assistance from the child support agency in the parent's current state of residence to enforce the order.

For example, if a non-custodial parent residing in Oregon owes child support to a child living in Washington, the DCS can work with Oregon's child support enforcement agency to ensure compliance with the Washington order.

Income Withholding Orders

One of the primary tools used by the DCS to collect child support from out-of-state parents is income withholding. An income withholding order requires an employer to deduct child support payments directly from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. These orders are recognized across state lines, meaning an employer in any state is obligated to comply with an order issued in Washington.

Tax Refund Interception and Other Enforcement Measures

In addition to income withholding, other enforcement measures include intercepting federal tax refunds through the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. If an out-of-state parent is due a federal tax refund and owes back child support, the DCS can arrange for their refund to be diverted towards their child support debt.

Other enforcement actions may involve reporting delinquencies to credit bureaus, suspending professional or driver's licenses, or even pursuing criminal charges for failure to pay child support.

Litigation and Contempt Proceedings

In cases where administrative measures are ineffective, litigation may be pursued. The DCS can initiate contempt proceedings against an out-of-state parent who fails to comply with a child support order. This often involves collaboration with legal authorities in the parent's state of residence.

Case Example: Smith v. Doe

To illustrate, consider a hypothetical case where John Smith from Idaho has been ordered by a Washington court to pay child support to Jane Doe for their child residing in Washington. Despite moving out-of-state, Smith remains legally bound by this order. If he becomes delinquent, the DCS can cooperate with Idaho's child support services to enforce payment through measures like wage garnishment or property liens.


The Division of Child Support in Washington utilizes a variety of tools and intergovernmental cooperation under UIFSA to ensure that even out-of-state parents meet their child support obligations. Through income withholding orders, tax refund interceptions, and potential litigation, they safeguard children’s welfare by securing financial contributions from both in-state and out-of-state parents.