DC Child Support AttChild Support in Washington DC

Who can File for Child Support in DC?

The DC courts will have jurisdiction over a child support matter if the parent who is the defendant in the child support case, e.g. the non-custodial parent, has substantial ties to Washington, DC. Parties seeking an initial child support order can choose to initiate the case in Washington DC if any of the following conditions are met:

  • the noncustodial parent lives in DC
  • the child was conceived (or may have been conceived) in DC
  • the noncustodial parent used to live with the child in DC
  • the child lives in DC and the actions of the noncustodial parent caused the child to live in DC
  • the noncustodial parent was served in Washington DC with notice of the support case
  • the noncustodial parent consents to the choice of Washington DC as the appropriate venue for the case

When is child support required?
 Both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their minor children, regardless of whether or not they were ever married.  In DC, this duty begins after four months of pregnancy and extends until the "child" is 21 years old, or when he or she is otherwise legally emancipated by a court.  The age of emancipation is designated by statute (state law) and is different in every state. Washington DC is one of only a few states that sets emancipation at the age of 21.  Most other states, including Maryland and Virginia, recognize 18 as the age of emancipation. Child support can be awarded during an initial divorce proceeding or in a separate child support proceeding initiated at later time. Unlike with property division and some other issues related to a divorce, child support claims are not waived when the parties fail to raise them early on.  A custodial parent can initiate a child support claim at any time up until the child turns 21 years old, and can even seek up to 24 months of retroactive child support for the period that he or she was not receiving support from the noncustodial parent. 

How is paternity established in Washington DC?

Before child support can be ordered in D.C., paternity must be established. If a child was during or up to 300 days after the end of a marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child.  The presumption of paternity is rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence that the presumed father is not in fact the father.  If the birth occurs outside of marriage, paternity must be established by an Acknowledgment of Paternity (affidavit from the father admitting paternity), by genetic testing, or by the court. If the presumptive father wishes to challenge paternity , there is a

How much child support will I get/owe?

In the District of Columbia, child support is awarded according to a guideline formula which takes into account both parents' gross income, the amount of financial support each parent provides to other children who are not the subject of the present support order, and work-related day care costs and health insurance costs paid by both parents.  If the child spends more than 65% of the time with the custodial parent, the parties will use the sole custody guideline to determine support.  Otherwise, the shared custody guideline will be used. There is a presumption that the court will award child support in the amount specified by the guidelines unless the parties agree otherwise, or there are unique circumstances that require some deviation from the guidelines.  The following deviation factors could be sufficient to overcome the presumptive child support amount set forth in the guidelines: 

  • the child's needs are exceptional
  • the noncustodial parent's income is substantially less than the custodial parent's income
  • the property settlement between the parents at the time of divorce established resources for the child above the minimum support levels set forth in the guidelines
  • ​the noncustodial parent pays substantial support for other dependents and the guidelines amount could case hardship
  • the noncustodial parent needs a temporary (less than 12 months) reduction in the guidelines amount in order to repay a substantial debt
  • the custodial parent receives child support payments for other children and the custodial parent's household income is substantially greater than the noncustodial parent's income
  • ​some extraordinary factors require deviation

How do I change the child support amount?

If circumstances change in the lives of parents or children who are subject to a child support order, the affected party can file a motion to modify the child support order. The parent who is seeking the modification has the burden to prove that there has been a "substantial and material change in the needs of the child or the ability of the responsible relative to pay." D.C. Code Section 46-204(a). It is important to remember that parties can not modify their child support order on their own. Even if the children who are subject to a support order come to live with the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must continue to pay child support payments to the custodial parent until the court formally vacates the order. 

Can I seek child support from a noncustodial parent who lives out-of-state?

In cases where the noncustodial parent has no significant ties to the District,  there is  a procedure for filing a "interstate case," which will allow a DC-based custodial parent to initiate a child support case against an out-of-state parent. This process involves notifying the Child Support Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General.  CSSD will initiate a case with the state child support enforcement office in the noncustodial parent's state.