Family Law: Child Support Enforcement

Many Washington Court Orders, and all administrative notices, contain immediate wage withholding language authorizing the Division of Child Support to take child support enforcement action even when a parent is not behind in payments. When an employer is known, DCS issues a payroll deduction notice. When there is a past due support debt, DCS also files a lien in the county where the responsible parent resides and/or own property. Previously, employers were required to deduct child support from earnings when a parent was delinquent in his or her support payments. Today, federal laws require support enforcement agencies to initiate wage withholding on the effective date of the child support order to prevent delinquencies from occurring. Parents may now be subject to the attachment of their wages regardless of any support arrears. Sometimes the Order issued by DCS requires the employer to withhold 50 percent of the net wages instead of a fixed dollar amount. This action may be taken when a parent has a history of avoiding the payment of child support, moves from job to job without notifying DCS, or when the debt is in danger of being lost to the Statute of Limitations.

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Another way a support order can be enforced is through a Contempt proceeding. Contempt actions can be filed by an individual or by the County Prosecutor if there is evidence that the obligated parent is willfully refusing to pay support. The Court can then take action to ensure compliance with its Orders, including ordering payment of fines or attorneys fees or imprisonment. If imprisonment is sought as a sanction, the obligor may have the right to a Court-appointed attorney