This topic contains information on the following subjects:
Child Support Services (CSS) can provide program services to any individual who is the custodian of, or is responsible for, a minor child or who is owed child support arrearages under a court order in which ongoing support has ended. Services are available regardless of whether or not the child or the individual who is requesting services is receiving Public Assistance (PA).
Federal Regulation 45CFR 303.2 requires that a request for information and/or an application for services made in person must be honored on the same day that the request is made. For requests made in writing or by telephone, CSS must provide the requested information and/or application within five (5) working days of the request.
A valid application for CSS services consists of a signed Application For Child Support Services (DSS-4451) document, a completed and signed Application Supplemental Data Sheet (DSS-4688), and payment of any appropriate application fee.
CSS must accept an application as filed on the date when all of the following have been received:
When providing an application for services, CSS must include information describing CSS services. Either the NC CSS Handbook "It's For The Children" (DSS-7069), the CSS program services flyer "Child Support Enforcement for North Carolina" (DSS-7082), or other informational literature can be used.
Within twenty (20) calendar days of receiving an application, CSS must open a case by establishing a case record, soliciting and initiating verification of the needed information, and referring the case for further location, if necessary. The signed application must be filed in the case record.
Case participants cannot select the services to be provided for their cases, except in specific situations. See Exceptions to the Provision of Services for more information.
Once a case is opened, the following services shall be provided as determined appropriate by the case manager:
1. LOCATION OF THE NONCUSTODIAL PARENT – The identification of the whereabouts of the residence, employment, and assets of a noncustodial parent (NCP). See the Locate chapter;
2. ESTABLISHMENT OF PATERNITY - The establishment of a parental responsibility if the child does not have a legally responsible father and the establishment of paternity is necessary to establish a support obligation. See the Paternity chapter;
3. ESTABLISHMENT OF SUPPORT OBLIGATION – The establishment of a court order requiring the NCP to provide support for his/her child(ren), including medical insurance coverage. See the Establishment chapter;
4. COLLECTION OF SUPPORT PAYMENTS – The receipt accounting and record keeping of court ordered child support payments to the North Carolina Child Support Centralized Collections (NCCSCC) operation. See the Collections/Receipting/Posting or Distribution/Disbursement chapters; and
5. ENFORCEMENT OF SUPPORT OBLIGATION - The use of as many enforcement remedies as necessary to ensure the NCP's compliance with the court ordered support. See the Enforcement chapter.
All recipients of TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) whose eligibility for financial assistance is based on the absence from the home of one or both parents are required to be referred to the CSS agency and, therefore, are eligible for all CSS services at no cost.
All Non-TANF persons who desire assistance in securing support for a dependent child can apply for and receive CSS program services.
Federal regulations specify that residency in the state or county where a request for CSS services is made is not an eligibility requirement for those services. In North Carolina, an exception exists for individuals who are enrolled members of the Cherokee Tribe. If a tribal member requests CSS services and lives on the tribal reservation, the application for CSS services must be made with Tribal Child Support Enforcement. If a tribal member does not live on the tribal reservation, that individual has the choice of applying for services in his/her county of residence or on the tribal reservation.
Providing services for nonresidents could be difficult or impossible in some instances. For example, a custodial parent (CP) could be required to travel a great distance for a hearing, or proper jurisdiction for legal action might not exist. In these situations, the CSS agency should inform the CP of the potential impact to service delivery and accept the application if the CP decides to proceed.
Once the case is opened, transferring it to a different CSS agency and/or a change of judicial venue could be appropriate, if requested.
The applicant or child for whom CSS services are requested is not required to be a US citizen. The alien status of a non-citizen case participant is not relevant to the provision of CSS services.
All necessary and appropriate CSS services are provided to Non-Public Assistance (NPA) cases as are provided to Public Assistance (PA) cases, including in-court legal representation. CSS agencies should decline to provide requested services only when legal justification exists; for example, a paternity or support claim is barred by res judicata (the issue of paternity has already been addressed by the court) or representation involving collateral issues such as custody or visitation is needed. Administrative decisions to decline or defer particular actions should be made on the same basis as for PA cases, and the reasons for doing so should be documented in the case record.
Child support services are available to noncustodial parents (NCPs) who want to provide support and/or establish paternity for their child(ren), as long as the provision of services is in the best interest of the child(ren). (NCPs can be either the putative or legal father or the natural mother.) Therefore, when NCPs request such services, they must submit an Application For Child Support Services (DSS-4481) and any appropriate application fee in the same manner as the custodial parent (CP). CSS should also provide the NCP with an Application Supplemental Data Sheet (DSS-4688) to complete.
Putative fathers applying for such services should be advised that they might be required to submit to paternity tests to provide evidence of paternity and that support payments are based on the needs of the child, the ability of the parents to pay support, and the child support guidelines. See the Paternity chapter.
NOTE: When a putative father wishes to apply for child support services and a legal father already is associated with the case, it is not appropriate to provide services. In such situations, paternity is not at issue, and the responsibility for providing support remains with the legal father.
The local CSS caseworker then contacts the CP (even if the CP lives out of state) and explains that the NCP has requested these services,. Action commences on these cases in the same manner as any CSS case. An NCP who requests CSS services is still considered to be the noncustodial parent, so the local CSS agency cannot represent the NCP in an adversarial or traditional "attorney-client" capacity.
If the CP is opposed to CSS intervention in the case and/or refuses to cooperate with the CSS agency, the NCP should be notified to determine if further assistance from CSS is desired. If the NCP elects to continue with the case, the CSS agency should file the appropriate paternity and/or support action with the court. Should the court rule that the action is not in the best interest of the child and disallows the request, the CSS agency must close the case.
NOTE: If the CP contests a case with an existing court order, the CSS agency should not notify the Clerk of Court of CSS involvement in the case until the court has ruled on the matter.
Local CSS agencies are required to continue providing necessary services to all CSS cases (not just collection cases) after the termination of Public Assistance (PA). CSS services must be provided, unless the custodial parent (CP) expressly requests that services not be provided and no amounts are due and owed to the State. Such requests must be documented in the CSS case record.
Provision of services is not contingent upon the CP responding to the CSS agency's offer before the services are provided. The CP is not required to submit a new application, nor is the CP charged an application fee.
Within five (5) working days of notification of the termination of TANF, Medicaid, or IV-E Foster Care, the CSS agency must advise the CP of the conditions for continuation of CSS services. The CP must be advised of services available, fees, and distribution policies. Distribution is the same as with other Non-Public Assistance (NPA) cases. If the CP chooses to terminate services, it must be documented in the case record.
If medical assistance begins or continues after termination of TANF for a case, no notice is required. Upon termination of all PA, a notice of continuation of services must be sent to the CP. ACTS automatically generates the Continuation Of IV-D Services Letter (DSS-4453) each time a “TANF” or “MAO” case changes to “NPA”.
An application fee must be charged in any case that has not previously received CSS services. When a custodial parent (CP) applies for services, CSS caseworkers must determine immediately whether or not the CP has copies of any existing court orders, affidavits of arrearages, or any other necessary documentation before processing the CSS case. If copies are not readily available, caseworkers must contact the other counties or states that issued the order(s) to obtain the necessary copies. Caseworkers should consult the CSS attorney regarding any questions about the validity of an order before taking any action in a CSS case.
If an enforceable judgment exists in a CSS case, action is taken to collect the remaining arrearages. If enforcement is barred by statute of limitations, the CP is told that no further services can be provided. Such situations might include cases in which the ongoing obligation ended more than ten (10) years ago and no sum certain was established, or it has been longer than ten (10) years since a judgment was entered.
The statute of limitations for judgments (NCGS 1-47) bars the collection of child support payments that came due more than ten (10) years before any action for collection was taken.
An individual who was formerly the custodian of a minor child and entitled by a court order to receive child support can request CSS services to collect child support and any accompanying spousal support payments that were due, but not paid, before the termination of the order. Due to the 10-year statute of limitations, it is important that the validity of the debt be determined by reviewing the amount of time that has elapsed since the payments were due and any subsequent court orders for collection of the arrearages.
In an active case containing Non-Public Assistance (NPA) arrearages, local CSS agencies should take action to establish a judgment for the amount owed at the time when the ongoing obligation ends.
To reopen a CSS case, a new Application For CSS Services (DSS-4451) must be completed and the application fee paid. A new Application Supplemental Data Sheet (DSS-4688) should be completed to provide CSS with updated case and participant data. All assigned MPI numbers and CSS case (IV-D) numbers remain the same as in the former case.
The court file should be reviewed for any activity that might have occurred after CSS involvement in the case ended. If a judgment setting the amount of arrearages has been obtained within the past ten (10) years, action to collect the remaining debt should be taken before the statute of limitations expires. If child support payments have been due within the past ten (10) years, but no sum certain has been established, calculate the actual arrearages that accrued during the eligible period of time. The CSS attorney should be consulted regarding any questions about the validity of an order.
All appropriate remedies should be utilized to collect the past due amount so long as a valid judgment exists. It is important that a mechanism to track the 10-year life of a judgment be established to guard against expiration before the debt is fully repaid.
NOTE: Obtaining a judgment for a sum certain does not constitute a lien on the noncustodial parent’s (NCP’s) property. If the use of a lien is determined to be an appropriate enforcement tool, the Clerk of Court must perfect the judgment.
Caseworkers should advise CPs in NPA cases of the need to cooperate with their local CSS agencies in order to receive effective child support services. If a CP’s cooperation is essential for the provision of the needed service, failure to cooperate can be grounds for termination of the case.
If a terminated case is encumbered, enforcement action must continue until such time as all arrearages owed to the state are paid in full. If the CP decides to cooperate with the CSS agency and the case is reopened within six (6) months of its termination, the CP must NOT be charged a subsequent application fee for services. However, if the CP reapplies for services more than six (6) months after the date of termination, the CP must be charged a subsequent appropriate application fee.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is a federally recognized Indian Tribe and, as such, is a sovereign nation. The Tribal lands, known as the "Qualla Boundary", are located in Jackson, Graham, Swain, Haywood, and Cherokee counties in North Carolina. County lines remain effective within the Qualla Boundary. Qualla Boundary residents are also residents of the county where their property lies.
Being a sovereign nation, the Tribe operates under its own form of government. In matters involving the collection of child support, the Tribe operates under the federal regulations of implementation and operation of the Tribal Child Support Enforcement program and has formally adopted North Carolina laws, including the use of the Child Support Guidelines. The tribal child support program is handled by Tribal Child Support Enforcement (TCSE) office in Cherokee, NC.
An Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI) Enrolled Member custodial parent (CP) can apply for services anywhere within NC. Residency within a particular county is not a requirement to receive services within that county. However, situations can exist when it is more advantageous for the Tribal Child Support Enforcement (TCSE) Office to be involved in these cases.
Knowing the correct path to take when establishing and enforcing child support orders involving EBCI noncustodial parents (NCPs) requires verification of the NCP's tribal enrollment status, address, and if an order exists, where the order was established.
If the CP applies for services with a county CSS office and the EBCI NCP lives on the reservation, the case should be referred to the TCSE office to establish paternity (if at issue) and support. Local CSS workers are required to contact TCSE office to confirm the NCP's EBCI status. The TCSE office has access to EBCI enrollment documentation and can verify whether the NCP is an enrolled member in the Cherokee Tribe.
Prior to referring the case to the TCSE office, local CSS offices are responsible for requesting copies of affidavits of parentage and/or birth certificates. Addresses for both parties should be confirmed and any other case clean-up finalized prior to the referral to the TCSE office. The North Carolina case is coded as an interstate initiating case.
If the CP applies for services with a county CSS and the EBCI NCP lives on the reservation, CSS workers must determine which jurisdiction established the court order to determine the procedures to apply for enforcement of the order.
Tribal Order -
If the order was established by the Tribal Court, the case should be referred to the TCSE office for enforcement. CSS workers should contact the Tribal Clerk of Court to verify the existence of the Tribal order. CSS workers also would contact the TCSE office to confirm the NCP's EBCI status. The North Carolina case is coded as an interstate initiating case.
North Carolina or Other State's Order –
If the order was established by local NC CSS or by another state, it should be registered for enforcement with the TCSE office. Local CSS workers are responsible for contacting the TCSE office to confirm the NCP's EBCI status.
Addresses for both parties should be confirmed and any other case clean-up finalized prior to the transfer. Certified copies of the court order and certified pay records must be requested from the other state or the appropriate NC Clerk of Court office to forward to the TCSE office. The North Carolina case is coded as an interstate initiating case.
The Tribal Court recommends the registration process as the procedure to enforce NC court orders or an order of another state for an ECBI NCP living on the reservation. Because the Tribal Court is sovereign, the typical rules involving transfer of cases and orders do not apply automatically. The Tribal Court has determined that the NC order should be registered for enforcement with the Tribal Court but that a change of venue of the NC order to the Tribal Court is not appropriate. The Tribal Child Support Enforcement office has final authority in determining if the request for registration is appropriate or not.
If an EBCI CP requests services from the TCSE office and the NCP is not an EBCI member or is not living on the reservation, a request for services must be made to the NCP's county of residence. Since these requests do not go through the NC Central Registry, local CSS workers would create an interstate responding case. Local CSS workers would acknowledge receipt of the request, request any additional information, and begin to provide services.
Twice yearly, EBCI members receive payments resulting from the Cherokee Reservation's casino profits. The casino on the Cherokee Reservation is owned by the tribe but operated by Harrah's Entertainment. Half of the money that the tribe receives from the casino profits pays for government services and infrastructure, while the other half is divided into equal payments (per capita payments) for each tribal member. Payments to members under the age of eighteen (18) are maintained in trust accounts, while adults receive a check. The per capita amount is subject to change, and the checks are mailed out in June and December each year.
Since these payments are guaranteed to EBCI members as long as the casino turns a profit, this source of income is used in determining and enforcing child support obligations. The EBCI allows the garnishment of the EBCI NCP's per capita distribution for payment on arrearages for CSS cases and, in certain cases, for future obligations as well.
The garnishment of per capita payments received by EBCI NCPs for the purpose of child support collections is accomplished through a cooperative process between the TCSE office and the Tribal Court. Since the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation, a NC order or other state's orders must be registered for enforcement with the TCSE office for EBCI NCPs who reside on the reservation.
The Tribal Court, upon proper application, can accept orders from other jurisdictions for the purpose of per capita garnishment only. In those scenarios, neither the CP nor the ECBI NCP resides on the reservation. Since the ECBI is not bound by the provisions of UIFSA, the ECBI would consider this to be a limited service.
Local CSS workers are required to contact TCSE office to confirm the NCP's ECBI status. The TCSE office has access to EBCI enrollment documentation and can verify whether the NCP is an enrolled member in the Cherokee Tribe.
To request the Per Capita garnishment, the NC or other state's order must be registered with the Tribal Court. The case would remain with the requesting county as an instate case.
After the TCSE worker registers the order, the per capita income can be garnished based on the certified arrearages from the county CSS office. Once the request is honored and the per capita is garnished, the TCSE worker would close the case. It would be up to the CSS agency to request that the TCSE office to garnish any additional per capita payments. Each request for garnishment must be made by March 1 for June distribution and September 1 for December distribution.
CSS must contact the TCSE office for guidance with Per Capita only requests, as this would be a one-time administrative service provided by the TCSE office.
Federally-subsidized health care services to tribal members, such as those available through Indian Health Service (IHS), meet the definition of satisfactory health insurance if it is available to the CP and the family is not on Medicaid. The CSS agency must document in the case record the availability of IHS services to the CP and children if the decision is made not to petition the court for inclusion of health insurance in the support order.
For those EBCI NCPs whose children are on Medicaid or reside outside the service area, IHS services are not to be considered a viable alternative to health insurance coverage, and other coverage should be sought for those cases.
The following are the exceptions to the provision of the full range CSS services for a case:
1. If a proper application is made for Locate Only services, assistance in locating the noncustodial parent (NCP) is the only service that can be provided.
2. If a case referral is made for a child who only receives medical public assistance (Medicaid), the custodial parent (CP) can elect to receive either medical support services only or the full range of CSS services.
3. If the CP and child in a Non-Public Assistance (NPA) case have health insurance coverage, the CP can elect to not receive medical support services.
4. A request for services to establish paternity ONLY cannot be honored. CSS provides services for paternity establishment when a father’s legal responsibility must be determined to establish that father’s support obligation for the child(ren).
5. If a CP who resides in a foreign country requests services and the custody of the child is in dispute or in violation of State law and/or the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, CSS is not obligated to honor the request, It is not a CSS function to provide services in this situation. This includes situations when a parent has abducted the child or refused to return the child from abroad while a parent who is living in the United States maintains legal custody under State law. No federal mandate to provide services exists, even when a reciprocity agreement exists with the other country where the child is located.
6. If a child resides in a facility (such as a group home), no governmental agency is involved in the child's placement, and no governmental funds are being paid to the home/facility. CSS should NOT initiate a case with the home/facility (or its representative) as the CP. Any existing case with a parent or other individual as the CP can remain open as long as the CP desires CSS services. Unless a court order requires CSS involvement, the issue of payment to the home/facility is a matter between the CP and the home/facility.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that in federally-assisted programs for the provision of health or welfare services, discrimination in the selection or eligibility of individuals to receive the service, and segregation or other discriminatory practices in the manner of providing them are prohibited.
The North Carolina Division of Social Services (NC DSS) is charged with the responsibility for assuring that no person be excluded from participation in or be denied benefits under any program or activity receiving federal financial participation on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, or political beliefs. Programs and activities administered directly by NC DSS and those administered by the county DSS are included under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In accordance with Civil Rights legislation, no staff member of the NC Child Support Services (CSS) Section, in the provision of services or other benefits shall, on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, or political beliefs:
1. Deny an individual any service or other benefits provided by the agency;
2. Provide to an individual any service or other benefits which are different or are provided in a different manner from that provided others;
3. Subject an individual to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to his receipt of any service or other benefits;
4. Restrict an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving service or other benefits;
5. Treat an individual differently from others in determining whether he satisfies any eligibility or other requirements or conditions which individuals must meet in order to receive service or other benefits;
6. Deny any individual an opportunity to participate in a program through the provision of services or otherwise afford him an opportunity to do so in a manner which is different from that afforded others under the programs;
7. Make distinction in relation to use of physical facilities, intake and application procedures, caseload assignments, determination of eligibility, the amount and types of aid, service or other benefits under the program, and the use thereof.
Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin (including failure to provide access to services to people with limited English proficiency), sex, religion, age, disability or political beliefs have the right to file a complaint that the agency acted in violation of Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964.
Information about regulations against discrimination and how to file a complaint can be obtained by writing to:
Division of Social Services
Civil Rights Coordinator
325 N. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-2401
Complaints must be filed within one hundred-eighty (180) days from the date of the alleged discrimination.
The complaint should be mailed to:
For more information about LEP (Limited English Proficiency) complaint
procedures, see LEP complaint procedures.
In compliance with requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all divisions and institutions within the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) must develop plans to ensure that services are accessible to individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). These plans must address each of the following elements:
LEP individuals not born in the United States who elect to receive services in a language other than English must be provided with oral language assistance in their preferred language during both personal and telephone interactions. Notice of the right to receive language assistance at no cost must be posted in each office.
When the needs assessment indicates that at least five percent (5%) of the population to be served communicates primarily in a language other than English, further steps must be taken to ensure that written materials containing vital program information also can be provided in the preferred language. NC DHHS has determined that the Spanish-speaking population meets this threshold. Therefore, written information and services must be provided in Spanish to those who need them.
NC CSS policies and procedures comply with all provisions of the Division of Social Services (DSS) Title VI compliance plan. To ensure that information and services about child support are adequately accessible to the LEP community, CSS offers the following assistance:
Each CSS agency must make information on the right to receive language assistance services available in reception and other appropriate areas of the office.
LEP individuals are to be offered interpreters at no cost to the customer. All CSS offices have identified available resources for interpreters to serve agency customers whose primary language is other than English. Whenever possible agency staff (CSS, DSS or other government programs) should be used to provide interpretation services. Private agency or telephone services can be used when staff assistance is not available. Use of family members, particularly children under the age of eighteen (18), should be used only as a last resort. Documentation of this service must be entered in the case record and include the name and position or relationship of the interpreter.
If interpreter services are provided by other than agency employees, a Language Services Agreement (DSS-10001) must be completed by the caseworker conducting the interview and filed in the case record.
When opening new cases, CSS must give each custodial parent (CP) and noncustodial parent (NCP) the opportunity to state his/her preferred language. The selected language preference must be documented. If a language preference is not known at the time that participant data is entered initially for a CP, child, or NCP, the language preference should be documented as English. At the first opportunity, CSS confirms with the CP or NCP whether a different language is preferred. CSS also records the participant's acceptance or refusal of LEP services.
Language preferences received in Public Assistance (PA) referrals do not replace the existing data in ACTS automatically. CSS workers should review the received participant demographic data to determine how it should be used.
To meet Title VI requirements, CSS might need to identify an LEP individual before making contact with a participant.
CSS should make arrangements for an interpreter or other appropriate services prior to working with an LEP individual whenever possible. Caseworkers should always document the method used to provide bilingual services (EX: agency interpreter, family member, translated documents, etc.)
Customers who feel that they have received unfair treatment due to a limited proficiency in English can file a complaint that the agency acted in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
NC DHHS Language Access Complaint forms must be made available in the office reception areas.
For more information on how to file a complaint, see Civil Rights complaint procedures.
At least once a year, each CSS employee must complete training on the requirements for the provision of LEP services. Viewing the "Limited English Proficiency Video" or other training is adequate to meet this requirement.
All staff also are required to complete annual training on Cultural Awareness, which is currently being developed.
After completing their training, workers must record their activities on the “Initial/Annual Requirements Certification” form, which is filed in their personnel record.
Whenever translated information is provided to an individual, CSS should record this action in the case record. All appropriate documents should be provided in English to Spanish-speaking LEP case participants. When a document is also available in Spanish, it is recommended that both versions be given to the customer. This practice is designed to provide information in the native language of an individual and aid him/her in understanding English through comparison of the two documents.
A number of vital and/or frequently used ACTS documents are available in Spanish. Certain documents that are automatically generated by ACTS are printed in Spanish if the participant’s language preference has been recorded in ACTS. Spanish language versions of frequently used ACTS documents are available for CSS caseworkers to manually generate.
Both Spanish and English versions of the paternity video, "It Takes Two" are available to CSS agencies and birthing hospitals. Additional documents and information also are available in Spanish.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.