What is the role of the Division of Child Support in Washington?

The Imperative Role of the Division of Child Support in Washington

In the state of Washington, the Division of Child Support (DCS) plays a crucial role in ensuring that children receive the financial support they are entitled to from their parents. This division operates under the larger umbrella of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and is tasked with a myriad of responsibilities that serve to establish, enforce, and modify child support orders.

Establishing Child Support

One of the primary functions of DCS is to establish child support orders. This involves determining the appropriate amount of support a non-custodial parent should pay, based on Washington State's child support guidelines. The guidelines consider factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children, and any special needs or educational expenses that may be required.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

Once a child support order is in place, it is the responsibility of DCS to enforce it. Enforcement actions can include wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, suspension of business or professional licenses, and even reporting non-payment to credit bureaus. In cases where parents reside in different states, DCS works with other state agencies under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to enforce support orders across state lines.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Circumstances change, and DCS recognizes this by providing services to review and modify existing child support orders. Parents can request a review if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or custody arrangements. If warranted, DCS will reevaluate and adjust child support payments accordingly.

Historical Context

The role of DCS has evolved significantly since its inception. In the past, enforcement of child support was more decentralized and less systematic, often resulting in inconsistent and ineffective outcomes. Over time, federal legislation such as the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 provided states with guidelines and funding to improve child support enforcement efforts. Washington's DCS has developed alongside these national trends to become more effective at serving families and children within the state.

Impact on Families

The work of DCS is not just about collecting payments; it's about ensuring children have stable financial support for their well-being and development. By securing reliable child support, DCS helps to reduce poverty among single-parent families and provides children with resources necessary for their upbringing.


The Division of Child Support in Washington is an essential component of the state's commitment to the welfare of children. Through its efforts to establish, enforce, and modify child support orders, it ensures that both parents are contributing to their children's needs and supports the pursuit of a fair and just system for all parties involved.