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Child Support Enforcement in D.C.

Ending the romantic relationship with your child's parent doesn't mean that your obligation to your child ends. Absent termination of parental rights, a parent is still responsible for parental duties, including financial support of any minor children. Typically, this requirement is addressed with a child support order, with the non-custodial parent paying child support to the custodial parent. However, sometimes the parent doesn't meet the obligation voluntarily and refuses to pay. When this occurs, the custodial parent needs to enforce the child support order.

In the District of Columbia, the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) of the Attorney General's Office is the appropriate agency that will assist parents in getting the support that they're entitled to receive. Prior to enforcing child support payments, there should be an existing order in place with a set amount of child support.

Child Support Enforcement in D.C. Overview

Although it's recommended to consult with an attorney for complex cases, it can be useful to refer to a plain language guide to serve as an introduction to the law. Read the chart below to learn about child support enforcement in D.C.


District of Columbia Code Division II. Judiciary and Judicial Procedure

  • Section 16-916.01 (child support guideline)
  • Section 16-916.02 (child support guideline commission)
  • Section 16-916.03 (child support proceedings)

District of Columbia Code Division VIII. General Laws

Motion for Contempt



Filing a motion for contempt is one way to enforce a child support order. "Contempt" refers to conduct that disrespects or defies the authority of the court. There are two types of contempt: civil and criminal.

Civil Contempt

When the non-custodial parent doesn't comply with instructions in the court order, the court can order them to follow the order. For a showing of civil contempt, the aggrieved parent must show the following:

  • A valid child support order filed with the D.C. family court;
  • The non-custodial parent can pay the child support amount; and
  • The non-custodial parent is in arrears 30 days or more.

The court may order the non-custodial parent:

  • To pay a lump sum amount;
  • Make scheduled payments; or
  • To be incarcerated.

Criminal Contempt

If the non-custodial parent willfully disobeys the court order and all other enforcement tools aren't successful, then the parent could be in criminal contempt. The court could punish the non-custodial parent with the following penalties:

  • Sentence of up to 1 year in jail;
  • Probation; or
  • Payment of a fine.

Court Orders to Collect Child Support Payments

When a court finds a parent in contempt, CSSD has many ways to collect support.

Income Withholding

This requires that the non-custodial parent's employer withholds child support from the parent's paycheck before the parent receives any portion of the wages.


The funds are taken directly from the following:

  • Disability benefits;
  • Worker's compensation income;
  • Federal retirement benefits;
  • Federal reimbursement payments; and
  • Federal travel/relocation reimbursements.


Liens can be placed on the delinquent parent's real or personal property.


The court and CSSD can intercept state or federal tax refunds and lottery prize winnings to be used to pay the child support.

Remedies to Help Parents Collect Child Support

Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM)

Bank accounts belonging to the delinquent parent may be located, frozen, and seized to pay back child support.

Driver's License and Vehicle Registration Suspension

The DMV may revoke the parent's driver's license and/or vehicle registration.

Passport Suspension

The non-custodial parent's passport can be denied, revoked, or blocked for renewal.

Credit Bureau Reporting

When the arrears amount is at least $1,000, CSSD may inform Credit Bureau agencies.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Child Support Enforcement in D.C.: Related Resources

Need Help with Child Support Enforcement in D.C.? Contact an Attorney

If you're a D.C. parent who has trouble enforcing a child support order, don't handle the situation by yourself. Reach out to an experienced child support attorney for expert advice and effective legal representation.

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