Child Support Enforcement Program

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program ensures that parents provide financial support for their children. The CSE Program provides four major services to families: locating noncustodial parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support obligations, and enforcing child support orders.

  • Locating Absent Parents – Child support enforcement officials use local information and resources of the State and Federal Parent Locator services to locate parents who owe child support, or to find parents involved in kidnapping/custody disputes.
  • Establishing Paternity – Legally identifying a child's parent is the first step in obtaining an order for child support when children are born out of wedlock. Establishing paternity can also give a child access to Social Security, pension and retirement benefits, health insurance and information, and interaction with members of both sides of their family. Father, mother and child can be required to submit to genetic tests in order to prove paternity of a child, up until the child's 18th birthday.
  • Establishing Support Obligations – States use guidelines to establish how much a parent should pay in financial support of their child or children. Support agency staff can take child support cases to court, or to an administrative hearing process to establish the order.
  • Enforcing Child Support Orders – A parent who is ordered to pay child support can have their income withheld by their employers. Overdue child support can be collected from federal and state tax returns. Liens can be placed on property, and the property can be sold in order to pay for owed child support. License (drivers, professional, occupational or recreational) can be suspended if the obligated parent is not paying child support as required.

CSE services are provided automatically and free of cost to individuals receiving help under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Child support funds collected on behalf of the family reimburse the state and federal governments for the family's TANF payments; any amount of collected child support that exceeds the TANF support amount is given directly to the family.

CSE services are also available to families not receiving TANF. Child support that is collected for non-TANF families is sent directly to the family. These families must pay an application fee, which cannot exceed $25, for these services. Some States pay the fee themselves through the use of state funds. Some states also charge for the cost of services rendered.

For more information, contact your State CSE program.

Other resources: