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Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility (NFFR)

If you need this information in another language or in an alternate format, call DCS at the number on the form you received or our Community Relations Unit at 1-800-457-6202.

What is the Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility?

The Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility (NFFR) is a notice that the Division of Child Support (DCS) uses to establish an administrative child support obligation. This page provides information about the Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility. If you received a NFFR and still have questions after reading the information below, contact the Division of Child Support (DCS) at the phone numbers listed on the last page of the notice you received. If you are not sure which DCS office handles your case, call the KIDS line at 1-800-442-KIDS (5437).

How DCS Sets Support Obligations

How does DCS set support obligations?
  • DCS calculates child support obligations under the Washington State Child Support Schedule (WSCSS), found in Chapter 26.19 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
  • If you have received a NFFR, DCS calculated the support obligations based on the WSCSS Worksheets which were attached to the notice.
  • If DCS knew the actual incomes of both parties, we based the support amount on the actual incomes. If DCS did not know the actual incomes of one or both parties, we imputed income as provided in the WSCSS and in the DCS rules under Chapter 388-14A of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC).
How does DCS determine what income of the parents to use?
  • DCS uses the income of the parents of the children whose support is at issue to calculate the basic support obligation. DCS gathers income information from various sources, including the application materials, the parents' employers, and also from automated sources such as the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) and the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH).
  • If DCS does not have actual income information for determining the support calculation, DCS then imputes income in the following priority as set out in RCW 26.19.071 and WAC 388-14A-3205:
    1. Full-time earnings at the current rate of pay.
    2. Full-time earnings at the historical rate of pay based upon reliable information, such as ESD data.
    3. Full-time earnings at a past rate of pay if information is incomplete or sporadic.
    4. Full-time earnings at minimum wage if the parent:
      • Has a recent history of minimum wage earnings,
      • Was recently on public assistance, Disability Lifeline assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or disability,
      • Has recently been released from incarceration, or
      • Is a high school student or recent graduate.
    5. Median net monthly income, based on the Approximate Median Net Monthly Income table, which can be found on page six of the Washington State Child Support Schedule booklet.
What are the limits to the amount of support that can be set?
  • The WSCSS provides several limitations and deviations that may limit the amount of support that can be set in certain situations, such as:
    • When the parents' combined monthly net income is below $1,000, or when the paying parent's monthly net income is below the self support reserve of 125% of the federal poverty guideline for one person, then DCS sets support at the presumptive minimum obligation of $50 per month per child.
    • Except for the presumptive minimum obligation, a parent's support obligation should not reduce his or her monthly net income below the self-support reserve.
    • A parent's support obligation for all biological and legal children may not exceed 45% of his or her monthly net income.
  • In addition, DCS uses a method called the Whole Family Formula (WFF) when the noncustodial parent has other children to support in addition to the children for whom DCS is establishing a support order. The WFF calculates support based on all the children that the noncustodial parent has to support, either in or out of his or her household.
  • For details about why DCS applied a certain limitation or deviation in your case, see the WSCSS Worksheets which were attached to the notice you received.
Is support always calculated as a "per month per child" amount?
  • Although RCW 26.23.050(5)(d) provides that every child support order must state the monthly child support obligation as a sum certain amount, it does not require the support obligation to be stated in a "differentiated" or "per month per child" amount when more than one child is covered by the order.
  • When DCS calculates a support obligation for more than one child, DCS may set the monthly support obligation as an "undifferentiated" amount if one or more of the following are true:
    • The calculation involves a deviation from the standard calculation based on the existence of children from other relationships,
    • The support obligation is limited to not exceed 45% of the noncustodial parent's monthly net income,
    • The support obligation is subject to the self-support reserve limitation, and the monthly support obligation is greater than the presumptive minimum obligation of fifty dollars per month per child,
    • Part III of the worksheets includes health care or day care expenses.

    Note: See WAC 388-14A-3200(4) and 388-14A-4800 through 388-14A-4830.

  • When DCS sets support as an undifferentiated amount, this means that the monthly support amount remains the same as long as at least one child remains covered by the order.

EXAMPLE: DCS is setting support for three children. Assume the order sets the monthly support obligation at $600:

  • If the order clearly states that the support obligation is set at $200 per month per child, DCS calls this a "differentiated" order. When the oldest child emancipates, the monthly support obligation drops to $400 per month.
  • If the order does not provide a specific support obligation for each child or does not contain information or instructions in either the order or the worksheets associated with the order to justify dividing the monthly amount into "per child" amounts for each child covered by the support order, DCS calls this an "undifferentiated" order. Even after the two older children emancipate, the monthly support obligation remains at $600 per month.
What Kinds of Obligations Can DCS Set With a NFFR?

A child support order may include a financial support obligation, a medical support obligation, or both.

  • When DCS establishes an administrative child support obligation, the support order usually contains both a financial support obligation and a medical support obligation. The administrative order sets the medical support obligations for both parents of the children.
    • Financial support is the obligation to make monthly payments towards the cost of food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities for the child or children.
    • Medical support includes the obligation to provide health insurance coverage or to pay a portion of any health care costs.
  • Under certain circumstances, a custodial parent who receives state medical assistance for a child or children may waive establishment of the financial support obligation. DCS will then establish an order for medical support only.
  • If DCS establishes an order for medical support only, either party may also seek to establish a current financial support obligation. That party must apply for full enforcement services and then petition to modify the existing order. DCS may also petition to modify the order when establishment of a current financial support obligation is required by Federal IV-D program rules.
Medical Support Obligations
  • A Medical support obligation includes the following:
    • Health insurance coverage, and
    • Cash medical support (RCW 26.09.105), which consists of:
      • A parent's monthly payment toward the premium paid for coverage by either the other parent or the state, which represents the obligated parent's proportionate share of the premium paid, but not more than twenty-five percent of the obligated parent's basic support obligation; and
      • A parent's proportionate share of uninsured medical expenses.
  • Under appropriate circumstances, the order may excuse one parent from the responsibility to provide health insurance coverage or the monthly payment toward the premium.
  • The order must always require both parents to contribute their proportionate shares of uninsured medical expenses.

Health Insurance Coverage

A parent who is required to provide health insurance coverage (DCS calls this parent the "obligated parent") must notify both DCS and the other parent when coverage terminates.

If an obligated parent fails to enroll the child or children in privately accessible health insurance coverage or coverage available through the parent's employer or union, or if the parent's circumstances change, DCS may enforce the obligated parent's medical support obligations as provided in RCW 26.18.170. DCS may do one of the following, listed in order of priority:

  • Send a National Medical Support Notice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 666(a)(19) to the employer or union requiring the employer or union to enroll the child or children in a health insurance plan as described in RCW 26.18.170(8).
  • Serve a Notice of Support Owed on the obligated parent requiring the parent to pay his or her proportionate share of a monthly premium being paid by the other parent for the child or children, not to exceed 25 percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation.
  • Serve a Notice of Support Owed on the obligated parent requiring the parent to contribute to his or her proportionate share of a monthly premium paid by the state, not to exceed 25 percent of the obligated parent's basic child support obligation, if the child or children receive state-financed medical coverage through the Department of Social and Health Services under Chapter 74.09 RCW for which there is an assignment.

Health Care Costs and Daycare Expenses

Both the noncustodial parent and the custodial parent are responsible for certain costs. DCS may have included one or more of these costs in calculating the current child support obligation. Costs are shared by both parents based on their proportionate share of the basic child support obligation. DCS may serve a Notice of Support Owed to establish the amount a parent owes for costs if these costs were not included in the calculation of the basic financial obligation. These costs may include:

  • Health care costs. Both parents are obligated to pay their share of health care costs based on their proportionate share of income. Health care costs include, but are not limited to, medical, dental, orthodontia, vision, chiropractic, mental health treatment, prescription medications, and other similar costs for care and treatment. They may include uninsured medical expenses, copayments, and deductibles for the child or children. They may include the parent's proportionate share of a medical insurance premium in excess of the amount being enforced by DCS through service of a Notice of Support Owed because the medical premium share is limited to 25 percent of the basic child support obligation.
  • Daycare expenses.

How a Notice Can Become a Final Support Order

The NFFR Can Become a Final Support Order by Operation of Law

Do not ignore the notice you received! It could become a legal order for child support which DCS will enforce.

  • If you or the other party to this case do not file a timely objection, the NFFR will become a final, enforceable administrative child support order. Once the order is final, DCS may enforce the amounts stated in the notice at any time without any further notice to you.
  • If either party files a timely objection, DCS cannot enforce the terms of the notice until a final order as defined in this section is entered. To be timely, you must ask for a hearing or object to the notice within 20 days (60 days if you live outside of Washington).
  • Refer to WAC 388-14A-3110 for more details.

What to do if You Disagree With the Notice You Received

If You Disagree With the Notice

If you disagree with the notice and want to try to change the terms of the notice, you must object and/or ask for a hearing.

  • To object, contact your Support Enforcement Officer (SEO) or complete and return the Objection/Request for Hearing form which was included with the notice.
  • Contact your SEO with your concerns and attempt to resolve the issue. This can include anything from the amount of the proposed child support obligation, the proposed amount of arrears owed, or any other issue addressed in the notice.
  • You must object in a timely manner.
    • The noncustodial parent must object within 20 days of the date the notice was received. If the notice was served outside of Washington, the objection must be made within 60 days of the date received.
    • A custodial parent or physical custodian who disagrees with the notice must object within 20 days of the date the notice was received.
    • If the objection or request for a hearing is received by DCS within the time frames above, it will stay any collection actions until such time as a final administrative order is entered.
  • For more specific information, please refer to pages 4 and 5 of the notice you received.

How to Object or Request a Hearing on the Notice

If you object to the notice and want a hearing, do one of the following within the time limits listed above:

  • Complete the enclosed Objection/Request for Adjudicative Proceeding form. Return the completed form to the DCS address listed on the form.
  • Call the DCS office at the telephone numbers listed on page 9 and ask for a hearing. Use the toll-free telephone number for long distance calls only.

If you object to the notice, DCS may ask you to provide the following documents:

  • The completed Washington State Child Support Schedule worksheets.
  • Copies of your federal tax returns for the past two years.
  • A copy of your most recent pay stub.
  • A completed Statement of Resources and Expenses form (DSHS 18-097).

NOTE: Even if you agree with the terms in this notice, the other party to the case may ask for a hearing. If you or the other party asks for a hearing, you will receive notice of the date, time, and place of the scheduled hearing. If you do not attend and participate in a scheduled hearing, a support order may be issued with no input from you.

What Happens When Nobody Requests a Hearing?

If neither party to the case asks for a hearing:

  • The NFFR will become a final order:
    • 21 days after the noncustodial parent receives the notice if the noncustodial parent received this notice in Washington State, or
    • 61 days after the noncustodial parent receives the notice if the noncustodial parent received this notice outside Washington State.
  • The deviations, credits, and limitations set forth in this notice and the attached Washington State Child Support Schedule worksheets become findings of fact.

What Happens When Someone Makes a Late Request for Hearing? (See RCW 74.20A.055)

If neither party to the case asks for a hearing before the notice becomes a final order, either party may make a late request for hearing after the time limits listed above. A late request for hearing does not stop any enforcement action taken by DCS on the support order.

There are two kinds of late requests for hearing:

  • If DCS receives the late request for hearing within one year of the date of service of the notice, the parent requesting the hearing is not required to show good cause to have a hearing on the merits of the notice.
  • If DCS receives the late request for hearing more than one year after the date of service of the notice, the parent requesting the hearing must show good cause why the hearing request was not timely.

Note: WAC 388-14A-3500 describes good cause for filing a late request for hearing.

Administrative Hearings

What can happen at a hearing on a support establishment notice? (WAC 388-14A-3140)

When a parent requests a hearing on a NFFR, the hearing is limited to resolving the noncustodial parent's current and future support obligation and the accrued support debt, and establishing the medical support obligations of both the noncustodial parent (NCP) and the custodial parent (CP), if the CP is the legal or biological parent of the child.

  • The hearing is not for the purpose of setting a payment schedule on the support debt.
  • The NCP has the burden of proving any defenses to liability. See WAC 388-14A-3370.
  • The NCP or the CP must provide testimony or proof to support their claim that the terms in the NFFR are incorrect.
  • The administrative law judge (ALJ) has authority to enter a support obligation that may be higher or lower than the amounts set forth in the NFFR, including the support debt, current support, and the future support obligation. The ALJ may enter an order that differs from the terms stated in the notice, including different debt periods, if the obligation is supported by credible evidence presented by any party at the hearing, without further notice to any nonappearing party, if the ALJ finds that due process requirements have been met.
  • The ALJ has no authority to determine custody or visitation issues, or to set a payment schedule for the arrears debt.
  • When a party has advised the ALJ that they will participate in the hearing by telephone, the ALJ attempts to contact that party on the record before beginning the proceeding or rules on a motion. The ALJ may not disclose to the other party the telephone number or the location of the party appearing by phone.
  • In certain cases, there is no "custodial parent" because the child or children are in foster care.
  • In certain cases, there can be two NCPs, called "joint NCPs." This happens when a husband and wife, or registered domestic partners, are jointly served a support establishment notice for a common child who is not residing in their home.

What issues can an ALJ consider in a hearing about the amount of child support and other child support responsibilities described in this notice?

In a hearing about your child support obligation an ALJ applies the Washington State Child Support Schedule in calculating your gross income, your net income, and your monthly child support obligation.

You may ask an ALJ to consider some or all of the following information:

  • What deductions, including the amount of income you may be putting aside for your retirement, should be considered in determining your net income.
  • Whether income from overtime or a second job should be included or excluded. The ALJ considers the reason a parent works the overtime or second job in making this decision.
  • Whether or not to impute income to you because you are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
  • Whether there are circumstances which would make it unjust to apply the self-support reserve (low income limitation) in deciding the amount of the child support obligation.
  • Whether it is unfair or presents a hardship to the noncustodial parent to require the presumptive minimum payment of $50.00 per month per child, or why it would be unfair or would present a hardship to the custodial parent if the child support order was less than the presumptive minimum amount.
  • If the obligation for the noncustodial parent's biological and legal children exceeds 45 percent of his or her net income, whether there is "good cause" (a sufficient legal or factual reason) not to apply the 45 percent limitation.
  • Any other fact about either parent's particular situation that makes the noncustodial parent more or less able to provide child support than other people with a similar income and number of children, or that makes the custodial parent require more or less child support than other people with a similar income and number of children.

Defenses to Liability

What legal defenses are available to a noncustodial parent when DCS seeks to establish a support obligation? (WAC 388-14A-3370)

A noncustodial parent (NCP) who objects to a NFFR has the burden of establishing any defenses to liability. Defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Proof of previous payment;
  • Proving the existence of a superior court order, tribal court order, or administrative order that sets the NCP's support obligation or specifically relieves the NCP of a support obligation for the child or children named in the notice;
  • Claiming that the party is not a responsible parent as defined by RCW 74.20A.020(7);
  • Claiming that the amount requested in the notice is inconsistent with the Washington state child support schedule, Chapter 26.19 RCW;
  • Equitable estoppel, subject to WAC 388-14A-6500; or
  • Any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

A dependent child's or a custodial parent's ineligibility to receive public assistance is not a defense to the establishment of a support obligation.

Wrongful Deprivation

An NCP may be excused from providing support for a dependent child if the NCP is the legal custodian of the child and has been wrongfully deprived of physical custody of the child. The NCP may be excused only for any period during which the NCP was wrongfully deprived of custody. The NCP must establish that:

  • A court of competent jurisdiction of any state has entered an order giving legal and physical custody of the child to the NCP;
  • The custody order has not been modified, superseded, or dismissed;
  • The child was taken or enticed from the NCP's physical custody and the NCP has not subsequently assented to deprivation. Proof of enticement requires more than a showing that the child is allowed to live without certain restrictions the NCP would impose; and
  • Within a reasonable time after deprivation, the NCP exerted and continues to exert reasonable efforts to regain physical custody of the child.

Claiming Credits for Payments Made Before Service of the Notice (WAC 388-14A-3375)

A noncustodial parent may claim credits for direct payments made to the custodial parent, court clerk, support registry, or another state child support agency prior to receiving a notice from the Division of Child Support.

  • DCS may give credit for verifiable proof of payments such as copies of the front and back of cancelled checks or money orders, or receipts showing that the lawful payee or custodian cashed the checks or received the payments, or documentation verifying direct bank deposits. DCS may consult with the custodial parent before allowing credit.
  • DCS may give credit for proof of "in-kind" payments made prior to service of an administrative notice. "In-kind" payments" are for food, clothing, shelter, or medical expenses only.
  • DCS may not give credit for payments intended as gifts.
  • After DCS serves a NFFR requiring the noncustodial parent to pay through the Washington State Support Registry (WSSR), DCS may not give credit for payments to anyone other than WSSR.

Making Payments

If your support order tells you to send payments to the Washington State Support Registry or you received a notice from DCS to send your payments to WSSR, send your payments to the following address:

Washington State Support Registry
PO Box 45868
Olympia, WA 98504-5868
  • To insure accurate processing, please make sure your Social Security Number is clearly noted on your payment.
  • For your convenience, DCS offers Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) options for paying child support. A noncustodial parent can register and make payments using the Division of Child Support Internet Payment Service. To register or view an online demonstration, visit our web site at http://www.childsupportpayment.dshs.wa.gov.
  • Click here to obtain an EFT authorization form. An EFT deduction or Internet Payment cannot replace federally mandated wage withholding. If your case requires DCS to establish wage withholding, we will continue to do so. For more information regarding EFT, please contact our EFT Customer Service Unit at 1-800-468-7422.
  • If you receive a notice from another state to send your support payments to their child support agency, contact the other state. Be sure to tell them if you are currently sending your payments to WSSR. They will tell you where to send your future child support payments.
  • Send payments to WSSR as directed by your support order unless you have received a notice from another child support agency telling you to send payments to them.

How DCS Disburses Payments

The Division of Child Support (DCS) distributes support collections within two (2) days of receipt with limited exceptions. DCS uses a mathematical formula by which DCS distributes payments to cases, current support, and arrears.

  • Current support is paid first. If a payment does not equal the total amount owed for all the noncustodial parent's cases, DCS divides the payment proportionately.
  • Once current support for the month is paid, DCS applies amounts over current support to arrears, or past due support.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax refund intercept payments are an exception to this rule. DCS must apply these payments first to arrears owed to the state, then arrears owed to the family. DCS may not currently apply IRS tax intercept payments to current support.
    • Before 10/1/08, DCS distributed collections received from the IRS to past due support on certified debt only. DCS did not distribute IRS collections to current support.
    • Between 10/1/08 and 6/30/10, DCS distributed collections received from the IRS to current support first and then to past due support on certified cases only.
    • Beginning 7/1/10, DCS distributes collections received from the IRS to past due support on certified debt only. DCS may not distribute IRS collections to current support.

Note: Past due support payments are also proportioned based on a percent of total.

Custodial parents may receive their child support payments in one of two ways:

  • DCS staff determine if the custodial parent authorized a direct deposit for their child support payments. DCS will send the custodial parent a Direct Deposit verification letter if we have all the required bank information.
  • DCS may enroll the custodial parent in the DCS Card program if the CP does not provide a completed direct deposit application.

Enforcement of Support Obligations

What actions can DCS take to enforce a child support order?

Chapters 26.18, 26.23, and 74.20A RCW allow DCS to take collection actions even if the noncustodial parent is not behind in support payments. DCS may take the following actions, under the laws of the state of Washington or other states, at any time without further notice to the noncustodial parent:

  • To collect current support and past-due support, DCS may send the noncustodial parent's employer or other person or organizations holding assets for or income due to the noncustodial parent an Income Withholding for Support or Order to Withhold and Deliver.
  • To collect past-due support, DCS may also:
    • File liens against, seize, and sell part or all of the noncustodial parent's real estate, vehicles, or other real or personal property.
    • Turn the case over to a private collection agency.
    • Ask licensing authorities to suspend or not renew the noncustodial parent's driver's, hunting, fishing, recreational, professional, business, and occupational licenses.
    • Attach the noncustodial parent's bank accounts.
    • Refer the case to a Prosecuting Attorney for contempt proceedings.
    • Refer the case to a U.S. Attorney for criminal non-support.
    • Refer the case to the federal government to intercept any income tax refund or other payment owed to the noncustodial parent by the government, and to revoke or not issue or renew a U.S. passport.
    • Post the noncustodial parent's picture to the DCS Most Wanted Internet site.
    • Refer the case to credit reporting agencies.
    • Take other withholding actions as needed.
  • To enforce health insurance obligations, DCS may send a National Medical Support Notice to the obligated parent's employer or union. This notice requires the employer or union to enroll the child or children in an available health insurance plan and withhold the premiums from the parent's pay.
    • If the child or children listed on page 1 have Indian Health Services (IHS) available to them, that care satisfies health insurance requirements.
    • Even if the child or children are eligible for IHS, the obligated parent must still enroll the child or children in accessible insurance if it is provided by his or her employer at no cost.

NOTE: DCS recognizes Indian tribal sovereignty. If the parent is an employee of an Indian tribe, tribally-owned business, or Indian-owned business on a reservation, DCS may not serve the notices mentioned above. If the tribe has a process to do so, DCS will ask the tribal court to enforce this notice.

Duration of an Administrative Support Order

Once a final administrative child support order is entered, the current child support and health insurance and medical requirements continue each month until one of the following occurs:
  • A state or tribal court order supersedes the order.
  • The order is modified under WAC 388-14A-3925. The noncustodial parent, custodial parent, physical custodian, or DCS may petition for modification of a child support order.
  • The later of a child's 18th birthday or graduation from a secondary school program or the same level of vocational or technical training, if the child is a full-time student and has not reached age nineteen (19). If the child will not graduate by his or her 19th birthday, child support stops at the end of the month containing the child's 19th birthday.
  • A child is emancipated, marries, or becomes a member of the United States armed forces.
  • A child or the noncustodial parent dies.
  • The parties to the order marry or remarry each other, as provided in WAC 388-14A-3100(3).

Modification of an Administrative Support Order

Either DCS, the noncustodial parent, or the custodial parent may petition to modify an administrative support order.

What Should I Do if I Want a Court to Set My Child Support Order?

All parties to the case have the right to file a petition in a state court or a tribal court (if eligible). The parties may do so at any time. If you file a petition in a court, you must serve notice of the action on the Prosecuting Attorney's office in the county where you file and on the other party to your child support case. You also must tell DCS of your action.

  • Proceeding in a court does not stop the notice from becoming a final order unless you get a court order that stops the DCS action.
  • Even if you want a court to set your support amount, you should still request a hearing on this notice within the required time limit.

The DCS Conference Board

DCS uses an informal proceeding called a conference board to resolve customer complaints or grievances.

  • If you feel aggrieved by a DCS action or dissatisfied with an employee, first contact your support enforcement officer (SEO).
  • If you can't resolve the issue, you can request a conference board.

For more information, see the rules governing conference boards in WAC 388-14A-6400 and following. In addition, DCS has a brochure entitled Child Support Conference Boards. You can get the brochure from your DCS office or download it from the internet at http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/Publications/22-386.pdf.

If You Have Questions

If you still have questions, contact your support enforcement officer at the phone number listed on the last page of the notice you received. If you are not sure which office handles your case, call the KIDS line at 1-800-442-KIDS (5437).