This article will provide guidance on how to file for child support in the District of Columbia. Every child deserves financial assistance from both of their parents for a bright future. By proving paternity, getting a child support court order, and collecting child support payments, the Attorney General’s Office’s Child Support Services Division may assist in getting financial support for the children. 

How Process Service Works

When an individual parent applies for child support services, and the assistance is not forthcoming, the Child Support Services Division can assist in the securing of financial support and encourage parents to pay child support by [A.] seizing tax returns [B.] denying or revoking passports, [C.] seizing lottery winnings, [D.] denying or revoking a DC driver’s license; [E.] placing a lien on property; [F.] notifying the credit reporting companies; or  [G.] freezing and seizing bank accounts


Maintenance and support that is given by one parent to the other or to the person who looks after their children are known as ‘child support.’   A child support order might contain a cash support order, but it may also include additional aid, including paying medical bills or providing healthcare for the children involved. 

In the District of Columbia, a child support case can be established when [A.] a custodial party opens the case or [B.] the case is referred from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families office.  After a case has been established, the process moves to the next phase as the Child Support Services Division works with the custodial party to manage the case, and follow the steps needed to obtain payments from the non-custodial parent.  


If the children spend the majority of their time with one parent, they may be entitled to child support. It is the legal responsibility of both parents to provide for their children. Regardless of whether the parents have joint custody, they can still be eligible to make a child support payment request. Even if both parents spend the same amount of time with the kid, a court may still compel one parent over the other to pay child support. When parents share physical custody, the parent with the higher income may be required to pay child support to the lower-income parent.

Custodial parties residing in DC are usually the ones to open a child support case.  To open a child support case in this manner, it is immaterial where the non-custodial parent lives.  CSSD will take the appropriate measures to seek an order of support from the non-custodial parent if they do not reside in DC, including designating it as an interstate action.

The Central Intake Centre of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is where petitioners may submit a ‘Petition to Establish Paternity and/or for Child Support.’  The Child Support Services Division can also help in initiating a case, which is something that they may be requested to do. The Child Support Services Division can help with a child support case by [A.] establishing paternity; [B.] filing a petition for a child support court order; and [C.] helping the parent collect the child support payment.2

It should be known that when a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  (TANF) or a Medicaid case is opened, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families office will send case information to the child support office to open a child support case. This procedure is undertaken regardless of whether or not paternity has been established.  The custodial party is thereinafter supposed to assign rights when their case is referred from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families office.

The Child Support Services Division will not attempt to collect child support from the non-custodial parent if the custodial parent is on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families if there is ‘good cause’ for the custodial parent not to assist Child Support Services Division in pursuing child support. If the custodial party believes that the non-custodial parent may harm the custodial party or the child, there is a ‘good cause’. To establish ‘good cause,’ the custodial party should appear to the CSSD office and ask for an ‘exemption for good cause’ by demonstrating that the non-custodial parent is a concern.


The District of Columbia Child Support Guidelines is used to determine child support payments. Certain criteria mandated by law must be taken into account by a court when making a decision, including the [A.] gross income of both parents; [B.]  amount of any court-ordered child support paid by either parent for another child; [C.]  cost of the child’s health insurance and extraordinary medical expenses; [D.]  cost of reasonable childcare expenses for the child; [E.]  number of children in the child support case; [F.]  number of other biological or adopted children living in each parent’s home; and [G.] amount of time the child spends with each parent.

The judge in question should further take into account the parent’s capacity to support themselves financially. Parents who owe child support but do not make enough money to maintain their children will have a court determine how much child support they should be ordered to pay. It must be known that the judge will by default assume the capacity of the parent with limited income to pay USD75 per month for child support. However, if either party can persuade the court that the parent with low income cannot afford to pay USD 75 a month in child support, the judge will alter this presumption.


Every three years, either parent may ask the Child Support Services Division to arrange a hearing to have the child support order reviewed and modified if their case is being handled by that division. Both parents will be obliged to provide proof of their current earnings, daycare expenditures, medical bills, and insurance fees. Under the rules, the Child Support Services Division will determine just how much child support is to be paid. The Division or either parent may submit a motion to amend the child support order if the new amount is more than 15% difference from the previous order.

Any time there has been a significant and material change in circumstances, a parent may also submit a request to alter the child support order. Regardless of whether or not three years have elapsed, this motion may still be brought forward. For example, if the parent’s capacity to pay child support has shifted or the child’s financial need has altered, the circumstances can be considered to have changed.


Paternity and child support orders are established and enforced by the Child Support Services Division’s (CSSD) lawyers. The Child Support Services Division will not charge for its services if the individual is in receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid. In the event someone does not qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid, The Child Support Services Division may charge a five dollar application fee ( wherein the amount is required to be provided by money order or check only, payable to the D.C. Treasurer). Some services will have an additional fee or be deducted from the child support collected. In cases involving paternity and child support, CSSD represents the District of Columbia. In no way does CSSD advocate for particular parents or guardians.

It is necessary for individuals to telephone the requisite number to schedule an appointment or request an application. Then, it is necessary to complete and sign the application. The application must  enclose copies (not originals) of [A.] each child’s birth certificate; [B.] any separation agreements, divorce decrees, custody orders, or acknowledgments of paternity; [C.] any existing child support orders (certified); [D.] Proof of income; [E.] proof of D.C. residency; and [F.] proof of identification (government-issued photo I.D.)

The application packet must be mailed to the Child Support Services Division in the Office of the Attorney General.  Individuals can call or visit the office.  Additionally, it should be known that individuals do not need a lawyer to start a child support case, The relevant papers may be procured at the D.C. Superior Court Family Court Central Intake Center.

Paternity and Child Support Forms:

D.C Child Support Services Division IV-D Application

Answers, Motions, Opposition, Petitions etc.


It is imperative to start a child custody case by filing the pleadings first. Consequently, the petition to Establish Paternity and/or Support must be completed. These documents should be taken to a central intake center in Washington, DC, being the DC Family Court. There is a filing fee of eighty dollars that must be paid via major credit cards, cash, or money order). The petitioner will be notified of a hearing date within forty-five days after filing the case. They will thereinafter get a Notice of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance (NOHODA) from the Central Intake Centre, which will include the date of the hearing.


However, one of the most important parts of child custody would be to provide adequate service of the pleadings. This means that the parent who is receiving the petition must be served with copies of the petition and Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance.  Mostly, personal service would be preferred in these circumstances. Consequently, a majority of petitioners give the petition and Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance to the other parent directly by asking an adult who will not be interested in the case (who specifically is not a party to the case) to do so. This is not something that the petitioner can do on their own. If the petitioner does not have someone to hand the documents over to, it is imperative to consult a District of Columbia Process Service Agency.

Process Service is also done via Substitute Service at Home. Often, petitioners ask a non-party adult to physically deliver the petition and the Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance to another adult who resides at the house of the other parent.  This is not something that the petitioner can do on their own since they are thus barred by law. If the petitioner does not have someone to hand the documents over to, a District of Columbia Process Service who is professionally engaged to do so will be able to serve the documents. Substitute Service can also be done at the individual’s place of Work. An adult who is not involved in the case will be asked to go to the other parent’s place of employment and hand the petition and the Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance personally to another adult who works there.  

While it is not as common, Process Service can also be done via Certified Mail and First-Class Mail. For this, it would be necessary for the petitioner to mail the petition and Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance by certified mail -with the return receipt requested- to the other parent. This is something that the petition can accomplish on their own by going to the post office. After the letter is delivered, the post office will send the individual a return receipt (‘green card’) via mail. They will then send a second copy of the Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance to the other parent by first-class mail on the same day that the petitioner has sent the petition and the Notice Of Hearing and Order Directing Appearance via certified mail to the defendant.

The court will consider service ‘good’ if [A.]  the other parent signs the return receipt; or [B.] another adult who actually lives in the same home or works at the same place of employment as the other parent signs the return receipt.  If no one signs the return receipt, but the copy sent by first-class mail is not returned, service will be considered ‘good’ in a case involving child support, but not in a case involving paternity.

Process Service cannot be considered to be completed without filing an Affidavit of Service. Fundamentally, an Affidavit of Service certifies how the other parent was served in a court case. The filing of the affidavit is to be done at the Family Court Central Intake Center by the petitioner. The adult who served the other parent must complete the affidavit whether personal or substitute service was used. The affidavit must be completed if the other parent was served by certified and first-class mail.

Additionally, when the petition is to attend their hearing, they must bring proof of their income, health insurance expenses for the child, child care expenses, any extra expenses for the child, and any information about the other parent’s income that they may possess.

Internationally, parents’ obligations to give child support and their children’s entitlement to it have been acknowledged. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by all UN member countries in 1992 is one such binding convention, although the United States is the only member nation that has not formally ratified it.  The Convention states that providing for the raising and development of children is a shared duty of both parents as well as a basic human right for children. It also says that the main obligation to provide for these aspects lies with the parents in the first place. The  New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, which was drafted and approved under United Nations auspices in 1956, is another United Nations treaty and judgment relating to child support enforcement.

Children’s rights in the United States, mandate that each state create and publish a presumptively (but still rebuttable) guideline, and review it at least once every four years.


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1. D.C. Code § 16–916. Maintenance of spouse [or domestic partner] and minor children; maintenance of former spouse [or domestic partner]; maintenance of minor children; enforcement.

Whenever a spouse or domestic partner shall fail or refuse to maintain his or her needy spouse, domestic partner, minor children, or both, although able to do so, or whenever any parent shall fail or refuse to maintain his or her children by marriage since dissolved, although able to do so, the court, upon proper application and upon a showing of the genuine need of a spouse or domestic partner, may decree, pendent lite and permanently, that such spouse or domestic partner shall pay reasonable sums periodically for the support of such needy spouse or domestic partner and of the children, or such children, as the case may be, and the court may decree that he or she pay suit money, including counsel fees, pendent lite and permanently, to enable the plaintiff to conduct the case

2. D.C. Code § 46-205(5), (6)

(5) Terms providing for the payment of the child’s medical expenses, whether or not health insurance is available to pay for those expenses, which shall include a provision directing the obligor and obligee to notify the IV-D agency and the Court of the following:

(6) Notice that if the obligor is required under the support order to provide health insurance coverage for a child, the obligor’s employer will, upon receipt of notice of the health insurance coverage provision, enroll the child in health insurance coverage and deduct the premiums from the obligor’s earnings in accordance with §§ 1-307.41, 1-307.42, and subchapter II of this chapter;

3. D.C. Code § 16–901(8),  

4. D.C. Code § 16-916.01(q)(1), (q)(2)

5. D.C. Code § 16–916.01

6. D.C. Code § 16–916.01(g)(2)

(g-1) (2) If the judicial officer determines that the parent to whom support is owed can meet his or her subsistence needs, the judicial officer shall order the parent with a legal duty to pay support to pay what he or she would otherwise be required to pay pursuant to this section.

7. D.C. Code § 16–916.01(g)(3)

If the judicial officer determines that the parent to whom support is owed cannot meet his or her subsistence needs and the parent with a legal duty to pay support has an adjusted gross income below the self-support reserve under subsection (g) of this section, the judicial officer shall determine whether, for the support and maintenance of the child, the parent with a legal duty to pay support should pay more than he or she would otherwise be required to pay pursuant to subsection (g)(3) of this section.

8D.C. Code § 16–916.01(r)(2)

Every 3 years, in cases being enforced under Title IV, part D of the Social Security Act, approved January 4, 1975 (88 Stat. 2351; 42 U.S.C. § 651 et seq.), the IV-D agency shall notify both parents of the right to a review, and, if appropriate, a modification of the support order under the guideline. The IV-D agency shall conduct the review in all cases where there is an assignment of support rights pursuant to § 4-205.19, and at the request of either parent in all other cases. If the IV-D agency conducts a review, the IV-D agency shall inform both parents if a modification is warranted under the guideline, and shall petition for a modification of the support order when there is an assignment of support rights or if requested by a parent

9. D.C. Code § 16–916.01(r)(8)

If a motion to modify a support order pursuant to this section is accompanied by an affidavit that sets forth sufficient facts and guideline calculations and is accompanied by proof of service upon the respondent, the judicial officer may enter an order modifying the support order in accordance with the guideline unless a party requests a hearing within 30 days of service of the motion for modification. No support order shall be modified without a hearing if a hearing is timely requested

10. Individuals may call 202-442-9900 or go to the website at to download an application

11. Child Support Services Division in
Office of the Attorney General
441 4th Street NW, Suite 550 North
Washington DC 20001

12. The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

13. Individuals can get the legal papers (pleadings) required at

14. 45 CFR 302.56


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