Glossary of Terms
Adjudication: The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge or other decision-maker such as a master, referee, or hearing officer, based on the evidence submitted by the parties.
Administrative Process: The child support enforcement unit’s method of handling child support cases outside of the court system.
Affidavit: A written statement, usually notarized, that is signed under oath or by affirmation.
Alleged father: A man who has been named as the father of a child born out of wedlock, but is not yet legally determined as the child’s father.
Arrearages: The sum of past due support payments owed by the non-custodial parent (NCP) to the custodial party (CP) and/or welfare department. Arrearages usually take the form of a court ordered payment in addition to the regular support payment. Arrearages can be paid as cycle amounts or as a lump sum.
Assignment of Support Rights: The legal procedure by which a person receiving public assistance agrees to turn over to the State or Tribe any right to child support, including arrearages, paid by the non-custodial parent in exchange for receipt of a cash assistance grant and other benefits. States and Tribes can then use a portion of said child support to defray or recoup the public assistance expenditure.
CalWORKS: This is the California welfare program called California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids. It is given to a person or family for living expenses by the State/Federal CalWORKS program (welfare and foster care).
Complaint: A complaint is defined as the formal written document filed in a court or administrative tribunal whereby the person initiating the action sets forth the names of the parties, the allegations, and the request for relief sought. The initial pleading is sometimes called the petition.
Contempt of Court: Failure to show respect for an order of a court.
Continuance: The postponement of a scheduled court hearing to a future date.
Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction (CEJ): The authority that only one tribunal has to modify an order for support.
Controlling Order: The one order that must be used by all States and Tribes for enforcement and modification of child support from the present time forward. In cases involving multiple orders issued prior to the enactment of UIFSA, UIFSA provides rules for determining the controlling order, the one order to be prospectively enforced. UIFSA does not apply to Tribes.
Custodial Party (CP): The term custodial party, or CP is used to denote the person who has custody of a dependent child. This person may be a parent, another relative, or an unrelated legal guardian.
DCSS: Department of Child Support Services
Decision: Making Responsibility: formerly known as custody, this is a mediated written plan on behalf of the children.
Declaration of Paternity: A document signed by both parents stating that they are a child's biological parents. Filing this document with the State establishes the man as the child's legal father.
Default: When an order is entered against a party when that party fails to respond to legal papers or appear at a court or administrative hearing
Dissolution of Marriage: The term California law uses to describe a divorce.
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT): EFT is the process by which money is transmitted electronically from one bank account to another for child support payments.
Emancipation: When a child no longer is legally under the control or supervision of his or her parents, and the parents bear no legal responsibility for financial support. Emancipation laws vary by state. The emancipation of a child is subject to the laws of the state where the court order was established unless otherwise indicated by court order.
Establishment: The entry of an initial order for child support.
Franchise Tax Board (FTB): In California, state regulations require the local child support agencies to refer delinquent child support obligations to the FTB for collection.
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: Scientific analyses of inherited factors (usually by blood or tissue test) of mother, child, and alleged father which can disprove or help prove that a man is the biological father of the child.
Good Cause: A legal reason for which a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipient is excused from cooperating with the child support enforcement process, such as past physical harm by the child’s non-custodial parent. It also includes situations where rape or incest resulted in the conception of the child and situations where the mother is considering placing the child for adoption.
Guidelines: A standard method for setting child support obligations, using a mathematical formula and based on the income of one or both parent(s) and other factors determined by State or Tribal law.
Income Assignment: Withholding Order (IWO): An order that requires an employer to withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the State Disbursement Unit. Sometimes referred to as a wage withholding or garnishment.
•Direct Income Withholding -- A procedure, whereby an income withholding order from one State 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 .
•Immediate Wage Withholding -- An automatic deduction from income that starts as soon as the order for support is established and an income-withholding order/notice is received and implemented by the noncustodial parent’s employer.
Intercept: Intercept is 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-D: The term given to the child support program located in the law in Title IV-D of the federal Social Security Act
Legal Father: A man who is recognized by law as the male parent of a child.
Lien: A claim upon property to prevent sale or transfer until a child support debt is paid.
Monthly Support Obligation (MSO): The amount of money a non-custodial parent or party is required to pay each month for child and/or spousal support.
Motion: an application made to a court or judge for an order, ruling, or the like. Motions are generally made in reference to a pending action and may address a matter in the court’s discretion or concern a point of law.
National Medical Support Notice (NMSN): The form sent to employers from the State child support enforcement agency ordering the employer and its health care plan administrator to enroll a noncustodial parent’s child in health care coverage when such coverage is available through the employer and required as part of a child support order. When properly completed, the NMSN constitutes a Qualified Medical Child Support Order, a document necessary for health care plans to enroll dependents who are not residing with the covered parent. The NMSN is designed to simplify the work of employers and plan administrators by providing uniform documents requesting health care coverage.
New Hire Registry: All employers are required to report all new or rehired employees to the Employment Development Department (EDD) within 20 days. Matches with the New Hire Registry provide us with early identification when a non-custodial parent becomes employed anywhere in the United States. Once verified, this information is used to establish and enforce wage withholding orders.
Non-custodial Parent(NCP): A non-custodial parent, or NCP, is a person who is responsible for the support of dependent children and who is not living with the family. The NCP is obligated to contribute to the financial support of a child who lives with a custodial party.
Obligation: An amount of money to be paid as child support by the responsible parent and the manner by which it is to be paid is called the child support “Obligation.”
Obligee: A party receiving child support payments.
Obligor: A party ordered to make child support payments
Offset: The process of reducing funds that are paid by the Federal government to an obligor and applying the funds toward the balance of the delinquent debt. Also, the amount of money that is intercepted from an obligor’s State or Federal income tax refund, or from an administrative payment, such as Federal retirement benefits, in order to satisfy a child support debt..
Ombudsperson: An Ombudsperson translated from Swedish means “person of the people.” An Ombudsperson is also called the "People's Counsel." This individual helps resolve issues with child support cases.
Order: A legally binding decision that sets forth the responsibilities of the parties to an action. It can include a determination of parentage and a support obligation, and set forth other rights of the parties. It can be issued by a judge, master or other administrative entity authorized to enter orders. It can also be a consent agreement between the parties that has been ratified by an appropriate official.
Parenting Time: Formerly known as visitation, this is the time parents spend with their children. It is not a part of the overall responsibility of the child support enforcement unit however the percentage of time each parent spends with the minor child(ren) is used as a factor in the calculation of child support.
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 Offset Program (FOP). Under the Passport Denial Program, cases in which an obligor owes child support arrearages that are greater than the Federally mandated threshold and are submitted to the FOP are forwarded to the U.S. Department of State, which flags the obligor’s name and refuses to issue a passport in the event he or she applies for one. After the obligor makes arrangements to satisfy the arrears, States can notify OCSE to request the State Department remove him/her from the program.
Paternity: The legal establishment of fatherhood for a child, either by court determination, administrative process, tribal custom or voluntary acknowledgment. A paternity acknowledgment involves the legal establishment of fatherhood for a child through a voluntary acknowledgment signed by both parents as part of an in-hospital or other acknowledgement service.
Pro se: When a person chooses to act as his or her own attorney in a legal action. When a non-lawyer files his/her own legal papers he/she is expected to write “in pro per” at the bottom of the heading on the first page.
Putative Father (PF): 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.
Registration: The formal filing process by which an order of one jurisdiction is recognized in another jurisdiction. After registration, an action can be taken in a tribunal of the responding jurisdiction as if the order was issued in that jurisdiction. An order may be registered for enforcement, for modification, or both.
Responsive Pleading: A legal paper or set of papers filed in court, which responds to a complaint, petition or motion filed by the other side of the lawsuit.
Review and Adjustment: The federal government requires that states review child support (CS) orders every three years upon request. The review process must be done by one of the following methods: use of the child support guidelines, an automated method, or a cost of living adjustment (COLA). Also, states must conduct reviews more frequently when a substantial change of circumstances happens.
Service of Process: The delivery of copies of legal documents such as summons, complaint, subpoena, order to show cause (order to appear and argue against a proposed order), writs, notice to quit the premises, and certain other documents, usually by personal delivery to the defendant or other person to whom the documents are directed.
State Disbursement Unit (SDU): Required by federal law, the SDU processes 100% of child support payments that used to be handled at the Local Child Support Agencies. It is the single site where all child support payments should be sent and are processed.
Stipulation: An agreement between the parties to an action. All Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) Agency stipulations are submitted to the court. The court accepts the terms of the agreement and makes an order.
Summons and Complaint: A notice to a defendant that an action against him or her has been commenced in the court and that a judgment will be issued against him or her if the complaint is not answered within a certain time.
TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Time-limited public assistance payments made to 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 or tribal IV-D agency in order to establish paternity and child support for their children from the noncustodial parent. This allows the State or Tribe to recoup or defray some of its public assistance expenditures with funds from the noncustodial parent.
Tribunal: The court, administrative agency, or quasi-judicial agency authorized to establish or modify support orders or to determine parentage.
UIFSA: The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the law that governs the establishment, enforcement, and modification of child support in interstate cases, when one parent and the children live in a different state than the other parent.
Visitation: Also known as parenting time, this is the time parents spend with their children. It is not a part of the overall responsibility of the child support enforcement unit however the percentage of time each parent spends with the minor child(ren) is used as a factor in the calculation of child support.