Child Support Case Closure
Federal Regulations that Allow Child Support Case Closure by Washington State
When Can DCS Close Child Support Cases?
A federal regulation, 45 CFR 303.11, establishes a list of reasons state child support enforcement agencies are allowed to close child support cases. WAC 388-14A-2081 implements 45 CFR 303.11 for Washington, listing reasons why Washington's Division of Child Support may close open child support cases. There are fifteen reasons listed, some of which include:
is no current support order, and the support debt owed by the noncustodial
parent (NCP) is less than five hundred dollars, or cannot be enforced under
- The NCP cannot pay child support
“for the duration of the child’s minority” because they are institutionalized
in a psychiatric facility, incarcerated with no chance for parole, or
have a “medically-verified total and permanent disability with no evidence of ability
to provide support.” This provision also requires that DCS find that the NCP
has “no income or assets available for collection.”
- DCS is unable to contact the
recipient of support or applicant and has unsuccessfully attempted to do so for
- Paternity cannot be established;
- The NCP has been “wrongfully deprived” of custody of the child;
- Collection of child support may pose a risk to the child or CP.
Is DCS Required to Close Cases That Meet Federal Case Closure Criteria?
No. DCS has discretion to close cases that meet the criteria laid out in 45 CFR 303.11, but DCS may also choose not to close these cases.
"...Case closure regulations are designed to give a State the option to close cases, if certain conditions are met, and to provide a State flexibility to manage its caseload." Department of Health and Human Services, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 2014
If the state wants to close a case, however, one of the federal criteria must be met.
Does Closing a Case Affect the Underlying Child Support Order?
No. Closing a case doesn't affect the legal status or enforceability of any existing order. The order still exists and could later be reopened. Case closure just means that DCS will stop attempting to collect on the case while it is closed.
"The child support order, including any payment or installment of support such as arrearages due under the order, remains in effect and legally binding.” Department of Health and Human Services, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 2014
If a case is closed by DCS, a judicial order can still be modified by the court. Debt can be forgiven by the custodial parent or the Division of Child Support, and the custodial parent could file a civil suit to recover arrearages.
- 45 CFR 303.11, Federal Case Closure Criteria
- WAC 388-14A-2081, "Under what circumstances can DCS close a case when the application for services was made directly to DCS?"
- Department of Health and Human Services Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, "Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs," 17 November 2014
- Memorandum, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement, "Closing Cases when the Noncustodial Parents Receives SSI Benefits and is Unable to Pay Child Support"
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