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Child Support Enforcement FAQs

  1.  Who can get help in obtaining child support?
  2. Any parent or person who has legal custody of a child can get help in locating the child's other (non custodial) parent, establishing a child's paternity (legal fatherhood), establishing a child support order, modifying or upwardly adjusting a child support order, obtaining health insurance for a child, collecting current child support, and enforcing a child support obligation (collecting past due child support/arrears).

    People who receive public assistance through the Family Assistance, Safety Net or Medicaid, or Federally-Assisted Foster Care programs automatically receive child support enforcement services. As a condition of eligibility for these programs, applicants and recipients are expected to cooperate in pursuing the child's other parent for the purpose of collecting child support unless there is reason to believe that doing so would put the custodial parent and/or the child(ren) at risk of domestic violence.

    People not receiving public assistance can receive child support enforcement services by simply applying for such services, and without regard to income.

  3.  Where do I go to get help in obtaining child support?
  4. Every state has a federally mandated child support enforcement program which is known as its IV-D program, and which provides the same types of services. New York State's IV-D/child support enforcement program is state supervised and locally administered through county Departments of Social Services. The IV-D/child support enforcement program works through New York's court system, but is functionally and organizationally separate from it. Child support enforcement workers in county/local district IV-D offices are client and child advocates who guide custodial parents through the court process, where necessary, and provide a wide range of administrative actions not requiring the intervention of the courts to collect and enforce child support obligations.

    Whatever you can provide from the following list of information and documents will help the local social services district child support enforcement unit help you in pursuing child support:

    • name, address and social security number of the non custodial parent;
    • child(ren)'s birth certificate(s);
    • your child support order (if you already have one);
    • your divorce decree or separation agreement(if you have one);
    • name and address of current or recent employer of the non custodial parent;
    • names of friends and relatives of the non custodial parent, and the names of organizations to which the non custodial parent might belong;
    • information on the non custodial parent's income and assets-pay stubs, tax returns, bank account records, investment records, or information on property holdings; and.
    • if paternity is at issue, written statements (letters, notes, and cards) in which the alleged father has said or implied that the child is his.
  5.  What are the costs?
  6. For people who receive public assistance, all child support enforcement services are free of charge. For people not receiving public assistance, most services are free.

    Effective October 1, 2008, federal law requires each state to charge an annual fee of $25 for child support services.

    Note: The fee does not apply to TANF recipients. If you receive or have ever received TANF benefits, you will not be charged this fee. The fee applies only to parents who have never received TANF benefits and who have a case with more than $500 in support collected during the federal fiscal year (October 1-September 30 of the next year). The fee will continue to apply each federal fiscal year.

    For more information about the new service fee, use this link to the New York Office of Child Support Enforcement to visit the "service fee questions and answers" page. If the link above doesn't work type in your browser address bar.

  7.   I don't know where my child's other parent is. Can you help with location?
  8. The child support enforcement program uses computer searches or matches against a large number of New York State, other State, and Federal data banks to locate non custodial parents. These data banks include information about motor vehicles/driver licenses, income tax, unemployment insurance, correctional facilities, utilities, cable television companies, banks, vital statistics, real property, and occupational and professional licenses.

    Also, New York State has a "new hire reporting program" under which all New York State employers must report all newly hired employees to the child support enforcement program within 15 days of hire. This information is used for location and enforcement purposes.

    The most critical piece of information you can supply to help find a non-custodial parent is his/her social security number (SSN). If you do not have the SSN, check hospital records, bank records, insurance policies, credit card records, pay stubs, or income tax returns.

  9.  I'm not married to my child's father. Can I still get child support?
  10. In order for a child to be entitled to child support, paternity-legal fatherhood-for the child must be established. This service is offered through the child support enforcement program. There are two ways paternity can be established:

    • When both parents agree that a man is the only possible father of a child, they can establish paternity for the child by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This form is made available in hospitals, through local social services agencies, and from registrars of vital statistics in every county. The form, when witnessed and filed with the registrar of vital statistics in the district in which the child was born, establishes paternity and the obligation of both parents to provide financial support for the child.
    • A court can establish paternity based on the filing of a petition naming a man as the father of a child. Where the man denies paternity, the court must order the mother, putative (alleged) father and the child to submit to genetic testing. These genetic tests are performed on blood or skin cells in order to either exclude a man as the father of a child or to establish a probability of paternity-a likelihood than the man is the father of a child. Where the probability of paternity is 95% or greater, the man is presumed to be the child's father, and must prove to the court that he is not in order to avoid paternity establishment.

    There are many excellent reasons for parents to legally establish the paternity of their child.

    • A man's name cannot appear on his child's birth certificate unless paternity has been established.
    • A child is entitled to financial support, including child support, social security benefits, veteran's benefits, military allowances, and inheritance, once paternity has been established.
    • A child may be entitled to health insurance through his/her father, as well as his/her mother, once paternity has been established.
    • A child deserves to know who both his/her parents are, including having access to their medical histories.
  11.   How do I get a child support order?
  12. A court can establish a child support order based on the filing of a petition requesting that it do so. The person chargeable with support must be the child's parent through marriage or through the establishment of paternity. Child support orders are generally payable until the child's twenty-first birthday.

    In New York State, the amount of a child support order is determined according to the Child Support Standards Act-the CSSA or child support guidelines. The guidelines work like this:

    • the gross income of each parent is determined and the incomes are combined;
    • the combined parental income is multiplied by the appropriate child support percentage-17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and not less than 35% for five or more children;
    • this figure is the basic child support obligation which is then divided between the parents on a pro-rata basis, according to the amount of their respective incomes;
    • additional amounts to be paid for child care, medical care not covered by health insurance, and educational expenses are determined by the court and added to the basic child support obligation; and,
    • the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay his/her share to the custodial parent.

    The amount of child support calculated in accordance with the guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount. Either parent can offer evidence that this amount is not correct, and the court has the authority to decide the guidelines amount is unjust or inappropriate. If the court orders a different amount than the basic support obligation according to the guidelines, the court must set forth its reasons for doing so in writing. Either party can object to the findings of the court.

    Child support orders obtained through the child support enforcement program are made payable through the local social services district Support Collection Unit (SCU). The SCU passes the first $50 of current child support collected to persons in receipt of Family Assistance and Safety Net, and retains the rest of the child support paid to reimburse assistance granted. All current child support collected on behalf of persons not in receipt of public assistance is passed to them usually within two days of its receipt. If a custodial parent is not currently in receipt of public assistance, but was so in the past, amounts collected beyond the amount of current child support may be used to repay past due support/arrearages owed to the State.

  13.   Can I get health insurance for my child as part of the child support process?
  14. New York State law mandates that all orders of child support must require either parent to extend health insurance available through an employer-at the time the order is issued or at any time in the future-to cover the child(ren). If the non-custodial parent has health insurance available, but does not enroll the child(ren), the child support unit can help enforce this provision of the court order.

  15.   My child support order is too low. How can I get it raised?
  16. The support collection unit can help you increase the obligation amount of your child support order by employing one of the two following methods:

    • Modification: A court can modify a child support order based on the filing of a petition requesting that it do so. The party seeking to modify must demonstrate to the court that there has been a change of circumstances warranting an upward modification since the child support order was issued. The court will then conduct a hearing and issue a new child support order in accordance with the Child Support Standards Act as described in #6, above.
    • Review and Cost of Living Adjustment: For cases receiving services under the IV-D program, the support collection unit is authorized to review the current child support obligation amount and apply a cost of living adjustment (COLA) under certain circumstances. This is an administrative process, and does not require a petition to the court.

    The COLA is based on accumulated changes from year to year in the annual average consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U), as published each year by the United States Department of Labor. The CPI-U is a measure of the average change in prices over time for food, clothing, shelter, fuel, transportation, medical services, and other items which people buy for day-to-day living. A child support order is eligible for a COLA if it is at least two years old and the sum of the percent changes in the CPI-U annual average since the year of the court order is at least 10%.

    For persons receiving public assistance, the COLA will be automatically applied when the child support order is eligible for adjustment. Persons not receiving public assistance will receive notice that their order is eligible for adjustment, but an adjustment will occur only upon a written request from one of the parties to the order.

  17.   I have a child support order, but the other parent doesn't pay. How can I get my order enforced?
  18. One of the principal goals of the child support enforcement program is to ensure that all child support payments are received in full on the date due. The primary enforcement tools of the support collection unit are administrative, and do not require the involvement of the court. Administrative remedies can be used to collect all arrears (past due child support). Where administrative remedies do not prove effective, though, the support collection unit can also petition the court for enforcement. Enforcement tools are described briefly below. Each process is subject to specific legal conditions, the details of which can be provided by social service’s support collection unit.

    Administrative Enforcement

    • Income Execution-All orders of child support issued in New York State are required to provide for immediate wage withholding. This is accomplished under the IV-D program by the issuance of an income execution to the employer of a child support payer, requiring that employer to deduct the child support obligation amount plus an additional amount to reduce arrears (if any) and forward the money directly to the support collection unit. Income executions can also be issued to other income sources including, but not limited to Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Workers' Compensation, Social Security Disability, and pension plans.
    • Income Tax Refund Offset-Where a child support payer owes past due support/arrears, the support collection unit can intercept state or federal income tax refunds due to that payer and apply it to the repayment of the past due support/arrears.
    • Lottery Prize Offset-Where a child support payer owes past due support/arrears, the support collection unit can intercept any Lottery prize in excess of $600 won by that payer and apply it to the repayment of the past due support/arrears.
    • Driving Privilege Suspension-Where a child support payer owes past due support/arrears and is not paying child support through an income execution, the support collection unit can direct the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend that payer's driving privileges.
    • Property Execution-The support collection unit can seize the liquid assets (e.g., bank accounts) of child support payers who owe past due support/arrears, and apply the proceeds to the repayment of past due support/arrears.
    • Liens-The support collection unit can place liens against the real or personal property of child support payers who owe past due support/arrears. A lien will prevent the sale or transfer of the property until the past due support/arrears are repaid. In addition, Suffolk County Local Law 15 – 2000 gives the county child support agency the authority to immobilize the motor vehicles of non compliant child support obligors by "booting" the vehicle to force payment of the support order.
    • Referral to the Tax Department-Certain hard-to-collect cases are referred to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF). DTF is authorized to employ all methods available for the collection of past due taxes to the collection of past due child support. This method is particularly useful against self-employed persons who own businesses.
    • Credit Bureau Reporting-Where a child support payer owes past due support/arrears, the support collection unit will report those arrears as a bad debt to all major consumer credit reporting agencies. This action is likely to negatively effect the ability of the child support payer to obtain credit.
    • In Suffolk County the Department of Citizens Affairs can refuse to renew the occupational license of individuals not paying child support ordered to be paid through the Suffolk County Child Support Enforcement Bureau.

    Court Enforcement

    • After a hearing and upon a finding that a child support payer has violated an order of support, the court must enter a money judgment for the amount of the arrears.
    • After a hearing and upon a finding that a child support payer has violated an order of support, the court may
      • suspend the payer's business, professional or occupational licenses,
      • suspend the payer's recreational licenses, and/or
      • require the payer to post an undertaking (an amount of money paid in advance against which future child support payments can be drawn).
    • After a hearing and upon a finding that a child support payer has willfully violated an order of support (was financially able to meet the obligation, but intentionally failed to do so), the court may order the payer to pay the counsel fees of the other party.
    • After a hearing and upon a finding that a child support payer has willfully violated an order of support, the court may
      • commit the payer to jail for up to six months, or
      • place the payer on probation.
  19.   How can I get child support when the other parent lives in another state?
  20. The most difficult child support cases to pursue are those in which the parent obligated to pay support lives in one state and the custodial parent and child(ren) live in another. All states, however, are required to pursue all child support enforcement program functions for out-of-state cases in the same way they do for in-state cases. All states must cooperate with each other in these matters. The recently enacted Uniform Interstate Family Support Act-UIFSA-governs interstate child support case processing. Particularly significant are the provisions of UIFSA that ensure there is only one valid child support order and permit direct wage withholding from the child support payer's employer in another state. In addition, the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 makes it a federal crime to willfully fail to pay support for a child living in another state. These cases are prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office.

  21.   I am the non-custodial parent. I have to pay child support, but I can no longer pay what the court ordered because of a change in my circumstances, what should I do?
  22. The Suffolk County Child Support Enforcement Bureau cannot change the amount of your court order. If your circumstances change, you should petition the court asking that the support magistrate or judge modify your order. In Suffolk County, the Intake Unit of the Probation Department helps non-custodial parents file petitions to modify orders of the Family Court. Make sure that you have your court docket number, the Child support case number and proof of the change in circumstances when you contact them. Visit the Probation Department web page for the telephone number, hours, directions and other information. You can also hire an attorney to prepare a petition for you. If the court does change the order, CSEB will make appropriate changes when the court sends us a copy.

  23.   I am the custodial parent and I do not receive public assistance. After the non custodial parent makes a payment how do I get the money that is paid by the non custodial parent?
  24. When the court orders support to be paid thru the child support program all payments must be made to the central support collection unit at this address:

    NY State Child Support Processing Center
    P O Box 15363
    Albany NY 12212-5363

    Payments are disbursed when due to the custodial parent by two methods:

    Direct Deposit to the custodial parent’s bank account (click here for more information). Direct Deposit is a secure and reliable way to receive payments that are made to your child support case.

    If you do not enroll in the Direct Deposit program, you will automatically be enrolled in the NYS DCSE’s Debit Card program (called the EPPI Card) and will receive payments that are made on that debit card. Get more information about the EPPI Card.

  25.   I am the non custodial parent who pays child support. Where do I make my payments?
  26. All payments must be made to the central support collection unit at this address:

    NY State Child Support Processing Center
    P O Box 15363
    Albany NY 12212-5363

    To ensure correct application your child support account number must be on the payment.

    If you have other questions about your case, if you have a question or if you need information, please call the Child Support Customer Service Helpline at 1-888-208-4485 but remember you can only speak to a representative during telephone hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 AM thru 7:00 PM. If you come to our office on Wednesday, you must have a prior appointment.

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901