Glossary of Child Support Terms

The Elk County Domestic Relations Section (D.R.S) is a court office responsible for the location of absent parents and the establishment of paternity, child, and spousal support obligations. It is also responsible for the enforcement of those obligations which are established at the D.R.S.

  • Accrual: Sum of child support payments that are due or overdue

  • Adjudication: The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge or other decision-maker, based on the evidence submitted by the parties.

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF): The agency in the Department of Health and Human Services that houses the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

  • Administrative Offset: Seizure of a tax refund or other Federal payment to satisfy a child support debt.

  • Administrative Procedure: Method by which support orders are made and enforced by an executive agency rather than by courts and judges.

  • Agent of the Child: Person, usually a parent, who has the legal authority to act on behalf of a minor.

  • Arrearage: Unpaid child support for past periods owed by a parent who is obligated to pay.

  • Arrears: Arrears is past due, unpaid child support owed by the Noncustodial Parent. If the parent has arrearages, s/he is said to be "in arrears."

  • Assignment of Support Rights: The legal procedures by which a person receiving public assistance agrees to turn over to the State any right to child support, including arrearages, paid by the obligated parent in exchange for receipt of a cash assistance grant and other benefits. The money is used to defray the public assistance costs.

  • AVR: Automated Voice Response - A telephone system that makes frequently requested information available to clients over touch-tone telephones

  • BCSE: The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) within the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) is the single state agency charged with administering the IV-D program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

  • Bench Warrant: A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a court or judge ordering the apprehension of an offender.

  • Case: A collection of people associated with a particular child support order, court hearing, and/or request for IV-D services. This typically includes a Custodial Parent (CP), a dependent(s), a Non-custodial Parent (NCP) and/or a Putative Father (PF). Every child support case has a unique Case Id number and, in addition to names and identifying information about its members, includes information such as CP and NCP wage data, court order details and NCP payment history.

  • Case ID: Unique identification number assigned to a case.

  • Centralized Collection Unit: A single, centralized site in each state IV-D agency to which employers can send child support payments they have collected for processing. This centralized payment-processing site is called the state Disbursement Unit (SDU) and is responsible for collecting, distributing, and disbursing child support payments.

  • Child Support: Financial support paid by a parent to help support a child or children of whom they do not have custody. Child support can be entered voluntarily or ordered by a court or a properly empowered administrative agency, depending on each state’s laws.

  • Child support can involve cases where:
  1. IV-D cases, where the custodial party (CP) is receiving child support services offered by state and local agencies; (such services include locating a non-custodial parent (NCP) or putative father (PF); establishing paternity; establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders; collecting, distributing and disbursing child support payments).

  2. IV-A cases, where the CP is receiving public assistance benefits and the case is automatically referred to the state Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Agency so the state can recoup the cost of the benefits from the non-custodial parent (NCP) or defray future costs.

  3. IV-E cases, where the child(ren) is being raised not by one of their own parents but in the foster care system by a person, family, or institution and the case is also automatically referred to the CSE to recoup or defray costs of foster care.

  4. Non IV-D orders, where the case or legal order is privately entered into and the CSE is not providing locate, enforcement, or collection services (called); often entered into during divorce proceedings.

  • The support can come in different forms, including:
  1. Medical support, where the child(ren) are provided with health coverage, through private insurance from the non-custodial parent (NCP) or public assistance that is reimbursed whole or in part by the NCP, or a combination thereof.

  2. Monetary payments, in the form of a one-time payment, installments, or regular automatic withholdings from the NCP’s income, or the offset of state and/or Federal tax refunds and/or administrative payments made to the NCP, such as Federal retirement benefits.

  • Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Agency: Agency that exists in the 54 States and territories and several Native American Tribes, established by title IV-D (Four-D) of the Social Security Act, to locate noncustodial parents, establish paternity, and establish and enforce child support orders.

  • Child Support Enforcement Program: The Federal/State/Tribe/local partnership established under title IV-D of the Social Security Act to locate parents, establish paternity, and child support orders and to enforce those orders.

  • Complaint: Written document filed in court in which the person initiating the action names the persons, allegations, and relief sought.

  • Consent Agreement: Voluntary written admission of paternity or responsibility for support.

  • Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA): Federal law that limits the amount that may be withheld from earnings.

  • Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction (CEJ): Doctrine that only one support order can be in effect at any one time and that only one State has jurisdiction to modify the order.

  • County Assistance Office: The County Assistance Office (CAO) is the office responsible to administer programs for food stamps, medical assistance and cash assistance, under the PA Department of Public Welfare.

  • CSE (Child Support Enforcement Agency): Agency that exists in every state that locates non-custodial parents (NCP’s) or putative fathers (PF), establishes, enforces, and modifies child support, and collects and distributes child support money. Operated by state or local government according to the Child Support Enforcement Program guidelines as set forth in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Also known as a “IV-D Agency”.

  • CP (Custodial Parent): The person who has primary care, custody, and control of the child(ren). The person with legal custody and with whom the child(ren) lives. The custodial parent may be a biological parent, other relative, legal guardian, or someone else.

  • Custody Order: Legally binding determination that establishes with whom a child shall live. The meaning of different types of custody terms (e.g. Joint Custody, Shared Custody, Split Custody) vary from state to state.

  • Decree: The judicial decision of a litigated action, usually in “equitable” cases such as divorce (as opposed to cases in law in which judgments are entered).

  • Default: Failure of a defendant to appear, or file an answer or response in a civil case, after having been served with a summons and complaint.

  • Default Judgment: Decision made by the tribunal when the defendant fails to respond.

  • Defendant: A person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun.

  • Dependent: A child who is under the care of someone else. Most children who are eligible to receive child support must be a dependent. The child ceases to be a dependent when they reach the “age of emancipation” as determined by state law, but depending on the state’s provisions, may remain eligible for child support for a period after they are emancipated.

  • Direct Income Withholding: A procedure, whereby an income withholding order can be sent directly to the non-custodial parent’s (NCP’s) employer in another state, without the need to use the IV-D Agency or court system in the NCP’s state. This triggers withholding unless the NCP contests, and no pleadings or registration are required. The Act does not restrict who may send an income withholding notice across state lines. Although the sender will ordinarily be a Child Support Agency or the obligee, the obligor or any other person may supply an employer with an income withholding order.

  • Disbursement: The paying out of collected child support funds

  • Disestablishment: Procedure by which a tribunal can nullify an order or a determination of paternity generally.

  • Disposable Income: The portion of an employee’s earnings that remain after the deductions required by law (e.g. taxes) and that is used to determine the amount of an employee’s pay subject to a garnishment, attachment, or child support withholding order.

  • Distribution: The allocation of child support collected to the various types of debt within a child support case, as specified in 45 CFR 302.51, (e.g., monthly support obligations, arrears, ordered arrears, etc.).

  • Docket: The recorded entry of the court's action in a legal proceeding.

  • DRS/DRO: Domestic Relations Section(DRS)/Domestic Relations Office(DRO).

  • EDI (Electronic Data Interchange): Process by which information regarding an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transaction is transmitted electronically along with the EFT funds transfer.

  • EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer): Process by which money is transmitted electronically from one bank account to another.

  • Emancipation: A child ceases to be a dependent upon reaching the "age of majority" as determined by state law. Depending on the state's provisions, the child may remain eligible for child support for a period after emancipation. The age a person is no longer considered a minor (child) under government laws varies from state to state.

  • Enforcement: The application of remedies to obtain payment of a child or medical support obligation contained in a child and/or spousal support order. Examples of remedies include garnishment of wages, seizure of assets, liens placed on assets, revocation of license (e.g., drivers, business, medical, etc.), denial of U.S. passports, etc.

  • EPPICard: An EPPICard is a form of electronic disbursement in which the child support payment is electronically transmitted to the Custodial Party via a debit card.

  • E-Reminders: An E-reminder is an electronic notification by e-mail to a party(ies).

  • Employer Maintenance Unit (EMU): The unit within the State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PA SCDU) that verifies and maintains information on employers within the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES). EMU is also responsible for responding to questions from the employers.

  • Establishment: The process of proving paternity and/or obtaining a court or administrative order to put a child support obligation in place.

  • Family Support Act: Law passed in 1988, with two major mandates: Immediate Wage Withholding, unless courts find that there is good cause not requiring such withholding, or there is a written agreement between both parties requiring an alternative arrangement; and Guidelines for Child Support Award Amounts, which requires state(s) to use guidelines to determine the amount of support for each family, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.

  • Family Violence Indicator: A notation in the case documents that information about a family's whereabouts cannot be released without a court order.

  • FCR (Federal Case Registry): A national database of information on individuals in all IV-D cases, and all non IV-D orders entered or modified on or after October 1, 1998. The FCR receives this case information on a daily basis from the state Case Registry (SCR) located in every state, and proactively matches it with previous submissions to the FCR and with employment information contained in the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). Any successful matches are returned to the appropriate state(s) for processing. The FCR and NDNH are both part of the expanded FPLS, which is maintained by OCSE.

  • Federal Income Tax Offset Program: A program under the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement which makes available to State child support enforcement agencies a route for securing the tax refund of parents who have been certified as owing overdue or delinquent child support.

  • Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS): A service operated by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to help State CSE agencies locate parents in order to obtain child support payments; also used in cases of parental kidnapping related to custody and visitation determinations. The FPLS obtains address and employer information.

  • Federally Assisted Foster Care: A program, funded in part by the Federal government, under which a child is raised in a household by someone other than his or her own parent.

  • Financial Institution Data Match (FlDM): A quarterly data match for the purpose of identifying financial accounts belonging to parents that owe past due child support.

  • Finding: A formal determination by a court, or administrative process, that has legal standing.

  • Full Faith and Credit: Doctrine under which a State must honor an order or Judgment entered in another State.

  • Garnishment: A legal proceeding under which part of a person’s wages and/or assets is withheld for payment of a debt. This term is usually used to specify that an income or wage withholding is involuntary.

  • Genetic Testing: Analysis of inherited factors (usually by blood or tissue test) of mother, child, and alleged father which can help to prove or disprove that a particular man fathered a particular child.

  • Good Cause: A reason for not trying to collect support from the father, usually because the father may be a threat to the mother and child(ren).

  • Guidelines: A standard method for setting child support obligations based on the income of the parent(s) and other factors determined by state law. The Family Support Act of 1998 requires states to use guidelines to determine the amount of support for each family, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.

  • Immediate Income Withholding: Automatic deductions from income which start as soon as the agreement for support is established (see wage withholding).

  • Income: As defined by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), income is any periodic form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, pension, or retirement program payments and interest. All income (except imputed income; see above) is subject to income withholding for child support, pursuant to a child support order, but is protected by Consumer Credit Protection Act limits, both state and Federal.

  • Income Withholding: Procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wages or income, as defined in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), to pay a debt such as child support. Income withholding often is incorporated into the child support order and may be voluntary or involuntary. The provision dictates that an employer must withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency (the Centralized Collection Unit or state Disbursement Unit). Sometimes referred to as wage withholding.

  • Intercept: A method of securing child support by taking a portion of non-wage payments made to a non-custodial parent. Non-wage payments subject to interception include Federal tax refunds, state tax refunds, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits.

  • IV-A (“Four-A”): Reference to the Title IV-A of the Social Security Act covering the Federal-state Public Assistance Program.

  • IV-D (“Four-D”): Reference to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which requires that each state can create a program to locate non-custodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce child support obligations, and collect and distribute support payments. All recipients of public assistance (usually TANF) are referred to their state’s IV-D Child Support program. States must also accept applications from families who do not receive public assistance, if requested, to assist in collection of child support. Title IV-D also established the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

  • IVR (Interactive Voice Response system): Interactive Voice Response system allows callers to receive case specific information and to leave messages for domestic relations workers with a touch tone phone.

  • Judgment: The official decision or finding of a judge or administrative agency hearing officer upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also known as a decree or order and may include the “findings of fact and conclusions of law”.

  • Legal Father: A man who is recognized by law as the male parent.

  • Lien: A claim upon property to prevent the sale or transfer of that property until a debt is satisfied.

  • Locate: Process by which a non-custodial parent (NCP) or putative father (PF) is found for the purpose of establishing paternity, establishing and/or enforcing a child support obligation, establishing custody and visitation rights, processing adoption or foster care cases, and investigating parental kidnapping.

  • Long Arm Statute: A law that permits one State to claim personal jurisdiction over someone who lives in another State.

  • Medicaid Program: Federally funded medical support for low-income families.

  • Medical Support: Form of child support where medical or dental insurance coverage is paid by the non-custodial parent (NCP). Depending on the court order, medical support can be an NCP’s sole financial obligation, or it can be one of several obligations, with child and/or spousal support being the others.

  • MSO (Monthly Support Obligation): The amount of money an obligor is required to pay per month.

  • National Medical Support Notice: The National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) is a standardized medical child support order that is to be used by county Domestic Relations Sections to enforce medical child support obligations whenever a non-custodial or custodial parent is ordered to provide health care insurance for his/her child(ren) and that party is employed or in active military or reserve military duty. The NMSN gives state's a new tool for enforcement of medical support orders.

  • National Directory of New Hires (NDNH): A national repository of employment, unemployment insurance, and quarterly wage information.

  • New Hire Reporting: Program that requires that all employers report newly hired employees to the state Directory of New Hires (SDNH) in their state. This data is then submitted to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), where it is compared against child support order information contained in the Federal Case Registry (FCR) for possible enforcement of child support obligations by wage garnishment. Some data is also made available to state's to find new hires that have been receiving unemployment insurance or other public benefits for which they may no longer be eligible, helping state's to reduce waste and fraud.

  • NCP (Non-custodial Parent): The parent who does not have primary care, custody, or control of the child, and has an obligation to pay child support. Also referred to as the obligor.

  • Obligation: Amount of money to be paid as support by a non-custodial parent (NCP). Can take the form of financial support for the child, medical support, or spousal support. An obligation is a recurring, ongoing obligation, not a onetime debt such as an assessment.

  • Obligee: The person, state agency, or other institution to which a child support is owed (also referred to as custodial party when the money is owed to the person with primary custody of the child).

  • Obligor: The person who is obliged to pay child support (also referred to as the non-custodial parent or NCP).

  • OCSE (Office of Child Support Enforcement): The Federal agency responsible for the administration of the Child Support Program. Created by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act in 1975, OCSE is responsible for the development of child support policy; oversight, evaluation, and audits of state child support enforcement programs; and providing technical assistance and training to the state programs. OCSE operates the Federal Parent Locator Service, which includes the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal case Registry (FCR). OCSE is part of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which is within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

  • Offset: Amount of money taken from a parent's State or Federal income tax refund to satisfy a child support debt.

  • Order: Direction of a magistrate, judge, or properly empowered administrative officer.

  • Order/Notice to Withhold Child Support: The form to be used by all states that standardizes the information used to request income withholding for child support. According to the uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), this form may be sent directly from the initiating state to a non-custodial parent’s employer in another state.

  • PACSES: The acronym for the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System. PACSES is used for all transactions in all 67 local Domestic Relations Sections within the State.

  • Parentage: The legal mother-child relationship and/or father-child relationship as determined by the State.

  • Passport Denial Program: Program created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 that is operated under the auspices of the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. Under the Passport Denial Program, obligors with child support arrearages of at least $2,500 that are submitted to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) for Tax Refund Offset are forwarded to the U.S. Department of state, which “flags” the obligor’s name and refuses to issue a passport in the event they apply for one. After the obligor makes arrangements to satisfy the arrears, states can decertify them with OCSE, which then requests that the state Department remove them from the program. This program is automatic, meaning that any obligor that is eligible will be submitted to the state Department unless the state submitting the case for Tax Offset specifically excludes them from the Passport Denial Program.

  • Paternity: Legal determination of fatherhood. Paternity must be established before child or medical support can be ordered.

  • Payee: Person or organization in whose name child support money is paid.

  • Payor: Person who makes a payment, usually non-custodial parents or someone acting on their behalf, or a custodial party who is repaying a receivable.

  • PRWORA (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996): Legislation that provides a number of requirements for employers, public licensing agencies, financial institutions, as well as state and Federal child support agencies, to assist in the location of non-custodial parents and the establishment, enforcement, and collection of child support. This legislation created the New Hire Reporting program and the state and Federal Case Registries. Otherwise known as Welfare Reform.

  • Plaintiff: A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil case.

  • PF (Putative Father): The person alleged to be the father of the child but who has not yet been medically or legally declared to be the Legal Father.

  • Presumption of Paternity: A rule of law under which evidence of a man's paternity (e.g., voluntary acknowledgment, genetic test results) creates a presumption that the man is the father of a child. A rebuttable presumption can be overcome by evidence that the man is not the father, but it shifts the burden of proof to the father to disprove paternity.

  • Probability of paternity: is the probability that the alleged father is the biological father of the child as indicated by genetic test results.

  • Pro Se: When a party represents themselves in a legal matter.

  • Public Assistance: Money granted from the State/Federal government to a person or family for living expenses; eligibility is based on need.

  • Retro Arrears: Arrearages that accrue from the time of the filing of the complaint until the actual entry of the order.

  • Show Cause: A court order directing a person to appear and bring forth any evidence as to why the remedies stated in the order should not be confirmed or executed. A show cause order is usually based on a motion and affidavit asking for relief.

  • SCDU (State Collection & Disbursement Unit): The single site in each state where all child support payments are processed. Upon implementation of centralized collections, each state will designate its state Disbursement Unit, or SDU, to which all withheld child support payments should be sent.

  • State Parent Locator Service (SPLS): A service operated by the State child support enforcement agencies to locate noncustodial parents to establish paternity, and establish and enforce child support obligations.

  • State Workforce Agencies (SWAs): Agencies that provide Quarterly Wage and Unemployment Insurance Compensation data to the NDNH.

  • Statute of Limitations: The period during which someone can be held liable for an action or a debt; statutes of limitations for collecting child support vary from State to State.

  • Stay: An order by a court that suspends all or some of the proceedings in a case.

  • Support Order: A judgment, decree, or order, whether temporary, final, or subject to modification, issued by a court or an administrative agency of a competent jurisdiction, for the support and maintenance of a child. This includes a child who has attained the age of majority under the law of the issuing state, or of the parent with whom the child is living. Support orders can incorporate the provision of monetary support, health care, payment of arrearages, or reimbursement of costs and fees, interest and penalties, and other forms of relief.

  • Support Pass Through (SPT): A Support Pass-through is a portion of the support paid on behalf of a public assistance recipient that is sent to the recipient in each month where payments were received on time in the previous month from the Noncustodial Parent.

  • TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families): Time-limited public assistance payments made to poor families, based on Title IV-A of the Social Security Act. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC-otherwise known as welfare) when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was signed into law in 1996. The program provides parents with job preparation, work, and support services to help them become self-sufficient. Applicants for TANF benefits are automatically referred to their state IV-D agency in order to establish paternity and child support for their children from the non-custodial parent. This allows the state to recoup or defray some of its public assistance expenditures with funds from the non-custodial parent.

  • Tribal Organizations: Organizations run by Native American Tribes.

  • Tribunal: A court, administrative agency or quasi-judicial entity authorized to establish, enforce, or modify support orders or to determine parentage.

  • Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UlFSA), and Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA): Laws enacted at the State level which provide mechanisms for establishing and enforcing support obligations when the noncustodial parent lives in one State and the custodial parent and the children live in another.

  • Visitation: The right of a noncustodial parent to visit or spend time with his or her children.

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: An acknowledgment by a man, or both parents, that the man is the father of a child, usually provided in writing on an affidavit or form.

  • W/A (Wage Attachment): An involuntary transfer of a portion of an employee’s wage payment to satisfy a debt. In some states this term is used interchangeably with Wage or Income Withholding, in other states there are distinctions between an attachment and withholding. The most common term used is Wage and Income Withholding.

  • Wage Withholding: A procedure by which scheduled deductions are automatically made from wages or income to pay a debt, such as child support. Wage withholding often is incorporated into the child support order and may be voluntary or involuntary. The provision dictates that an employer must withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency (the Centralized Collection Unit or state Disbursement Unit). Also known as income withholding.


Elk County Courthouse
250 Main Street
P.O. Box 448
Ridgway, PA 15853

Elk County Courthouse Annex
300 Center Street
P.O. Box 448
Ridgway, PA 15853