Washington Child Support Enforcement

A child support order in Washington is a legal obligation. If the non-custodial parent doesn't pay, he or she can be held in contempt and fined or sent to jail. Also, his or her license may be suspended and any professional license. A parent can also have criminal charges brought against them if nonpayment continues for an extended period of time.

Enforcement of Court Ordered Washington Child Support

The official child support enforcement agency for the State of Washington is the Division of Child Support (DCS). The Washington Division of Child Support is required by federal law to provide child support enforcement services free of charge and is funded by the federal government and the State of Washington.

What if the noncustodial parent lives on an Indian Reservation or is employed by a Tribal enterprise or an Indian-owned business located on a reservation or trust land?

DCS works with tribal governments to address those cases. DCS and the State Tribal Relations Unit work together to negotiate agreements and processes with Indian tribes. Some agreements include referring cases to the tribe or tribal court for the establishment or enforcement of child support.

Criminal Prosecution

If the court decides the non-custodial parent could pay some or all of the amount owed, the payer can be held in contempt. Penalties for contempt may include any of the enforcement methods listed here (like suspending a driver’s license), plus fines, jail time, and other penalties. Additionally, the non-paying can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony and face jail or prison time.

Modifying an Order

If a parent is having problems making payments, he or she should contact the court immediately. The parent can always seek to modify their existing support order. This will require going back to court and explaining to the judge why you can’t make your payments. Only a judge can change the amount you owe under a support order.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Washington's child support enforcement laws.

See also Child Support Enforcement FAQs , How Do I Locate a Parent for Child Support, Enforcement and Collection of Back Child Support .

Code Section Chapter 26.18 RCW et seq.
Who is Responsible? Both Parents
Agencies Division of Child Support (DCS)
Remedies Available
  • Attach wages.
  • Attach unemployment compensation.
  • Attach workmen's compensation (Labor & Industries).
  • Attach pensions not protected under federal law.
  • Attach non-earned funds payable to the non-custodial parent.
  • Attach settlements as the result of lawsuits.
  • Attach funds in financial institutions.
  • File liens with county auditors where real or personal property is located.
  • File liens against vehicles or vessels licensed with the Department of Licensing.
  • Seize property held in safety deposit boxes.
  • Seize vehicles or other personal property for sale at public auction.
  • Request the suspension of drivers, professional and recreational licenses.
  • Refer cases for judicial enforcement.
  • Attach federal IRS income tax refunds and other federal payable funds.
  • Non-renewal of U.S. Passports.
  • Report debt to credit reporting agencies.
  • Post names to the DCS Most Wanted.
  • Refer cases to an Indian tribe for establishment or enforcement.
Interest on Missed Child Support Payments 12 percent

Federal Enforcement

If the non-custodial parent moves out of Washington, the support order can still be enforced in any other U.S. state under the Uniform Federal Family Support Act. If you need help locating the other parent, the federal government has a Federal Parent Locator Service .

Child support enforcement laws are complicated. You may wish to contact a family law attorney in your area.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.