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Child Support Terms



The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge.


A written statement of facts made voluntarily under oath, witnessed and signed by a notary public.

Alimony (Also referred to as Spousal Support)

Court-ordered payments to an ex-spouse that is separate and apart from child support payments. It can be temporary or permanent. BCSE will enforce a spousal support order but not obtain or modify an order for spousal support.

Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

The Federal agency in the Department of Human Services (HHS) that houses the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE).

Allocate or Allocation

The process of applying a collection of money to a case or cases; the division of collections between or among different cases, or among various obligations within a support order.

Arrears or Arrearage(s)

The amount of past-due, court-ordered support, owed by the obligor. If the obligor does not pay the full amount of court-ordered support, or does not make payments as ordered, the amounts not paid are arrearages. Interest charged on past-due amounts become part of the arrearage.


Cash, property, investments, and anything else of value to an individual or business are considered assets.



A legal proceeding in which a person requests the federal bankruptcy court to determine whether a person who is significantly in debt has responsibility for some or all of those debts. Child support obligations cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

BCSE (Bureau for Child Support Enforcement)

A list of BCSE services can be found at About Us.


Caretaker (also referred to as CT or Custodial Party (CP) or Obligee)

The person to whom the obligation is owed.

Case ID or Case Identifier

Unique identification number assigned to a case by the BCSE that is helpful to provide when contacting the BCSE.

Central Registry

A clearinghouse maintained by the BCSE office that is responsible for receiving, distributing, and responding to inquiries relating to interstate support cases.

Child Custody/Visitation

The BCSE does not assist with child custody or visitation. Websites that have information that might assist you:

Family Court
WV Bar Association
Legal Aid of West Virginia 

Child Support

The money the court orders the obligor to pay to the obligee to for the support of the child(ren).

Child Support Guidelines

The legal formula used to set the amount of support to be paid which is established by the State legislature.

Complaint (also referred to as Petition)

The formal written document filed in a court setting forth names of the parties, the claim(s) made, and the request for relief sought.


Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)

Federal law that limits the amount that may be withheld from the obligor’s earnings to satisfy a child support obligation(s). States are allowed to set their own limits, provided it does not exceed the Federal limits.

Contempt of Court

Contempt is any deliberate failure of a party to comply with the legal process, including disruption of the court and its proceedings. In child support cases, contempt is the disobedience of a court order. If an obligor is found in contempt for non-payment of support, he/she may end up in jail.


As a condition of public assistance eligibility, the recipient is required to cooperate with the BCSE in identifying and locating the non-custodial parent, establishing paternity, and obtaining child support payments.

Custodial Party (also referred to as CP, Caretaker, Custodial Parent or Obligee)

The person to whom the support obligation is owed.


Date of Collection

The date the payment is received by the BCSE. The date of collection determines the month to which the support payment is applied. Read More

Paternity Affidavit (also referred to as Declaration of Paternity Affidavit)

A Paternity Affidavit is a legal document that is voluntary, signed by both the mother and father, and notarized admitting paternity or responsibility for child support.

Default Order (also referred to as Default or Default Judgment)

Court order or judgment based only on the complaint or petition because of no response or appearance of one or both parties.

Dependent (or Dependant)

In child support terms, a legal dependent means: (1) Minor natural or adopted children who live with the parent; and (2) Natural or adopted children who are totally incapacitated because of physical or emotional disabilities and for whom the parent owes a duty of support.


The paying out of collected support payments.

Disposable Income

The amount of income after taxes and other mandatory or required deductions have been subtracted.


The division of payments collected to the various types of debt within a child support case (i.e., monthly support obligations, arrears, etc.).


A final court order legally ending a marriage.


Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

A process by which money is transmitted electronically from one bank account to another.


In West Virginia, for BCSE purposes, emancipation occurs when a child turns 18 (and is no longer in high school), marries, or is legally declared emancipated by a court.


Methods to obtain payment of a support obligation. Examples include income withholding, seizure of assets, liens, license revocation, denial of U.S. passports and tax refund interception(s).


The process of obtaining a court order to determine legal paternity and/or a child support obligation.


Family Court

West Virginia Family Courts makes legal determinations of divorce, annulments, paternity, issues involving allocation of parental responsibility and family support proceedings, except those incidental to child abuse and neglect proceedings. Family Court also holds final hearings in domestic violence civil proceedings. NOTE: Family Court documents must be filed in the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Family Violence

See Good Cause

Federal Case Registry (FCR)

All child support cases are reported by the BCSE to this federally managed registry.

Federal Tax Refund Offset Program

Program that collects past due child support amounts from obligors by intercepting their Federal Income Tax Refund.

Foster Care

A program that places children who are in need of care with a responsible adult or in a facility. BCSE collects support and pays it to the appropriate person or agency.

Full Faith and Credit

Constitutional requirement that every state honor an order or judgment entered in another state.


Genetic Testing

Scientific testing that determines paternity. A painless cheek swab to obtain material that is sent to a certified laboratory. It can take up to six (6) weeks to obtain the results.

Good Cause (also referred to as Domestic Violence or Family Violence)

Good cause is a legal reason allowing an obligee who is receiving public assistance an exception from cooperating with the BCSE. This determination is made by the public assistance agency, not by the BCSE.


Hardship (also referred to as Affidavit of Hardship)

An Affidavit an obligor can complete to provide information to support a claim of excessive withholding for arrears.



Income for support purposes is any payment to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, workers' compensation, disability, pension, or retirement program payments and interest. The majority of the sources of income are subject to income withholding for support payments.

Income Withholding

Procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wages or income.


A method of securing child support by taking a portion of non-wage payments made to an obligor. Non-wage payments subject to interception include, but are not limited to, Federal Income Tax Refunds, State Income Tax Refunds, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits.

Intergovernmental Cases (also referred to as Interstate Cases)

Support cases in which either party involved in the BCSE case lives in a different states, or where two or more states are involved in a case activity, such as enforcement.



A ruling or order of a court affirming a debt for past due child support and can be found in the divorce decree or order.


The legal authority which a court or administrative agency has over particular persons and over certain types of cases.



Legal Custody

Authority of one or both parents, a guardian or other individual, or a facility to make legal decisions regarding health, education and welfare of the child(ren).

Legal Father

A man who is recognized by law as the male parent of a child.


A claim attached to property owned by a debtor as the result of a legal judgment. A lien prevents sale, transferring of title, or refinancing of the property until the debt is satisfied.


The BCSE uses a variety of manual and online resources to locate the residence, work places and assets of a party in a child support case in order to give proper service for court hearings and to enforce the child support orders.


Medical Support

Any amounts collected which represent specific dollar amounts designated in the support order for medical purposes. Medical support can also be ordered and provided by including a child in medical insurance coverage, such as medical insurance from an employer.

Monthly Support Obligation (MSO)

The amount of money an obligor is required to pay per month.


National Directory of New Hires (NDNH)

The national database that contains New Hire (NH) and Quarterly Wage (QW) data from every State and Federal agency which includes the Unemployment Insurance (UI) data and the State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs).

Non-Public Assistance Case

Child support cases where the caretaker, guardian, or legal custodian is not receiving benefits granted from State or Federal programs to aid eligible recipients.



The amount of money the obligor pays as a form of support. An obligation can be in the form of financial support for the child, medical support, or spousal support. An obligation is a recurring, ongoing obligation, not a one-time debt.

Obligee (also referred to as Custodial Parent (CP) or Caretaker (CT))

The person or agency to whom support is owed.

Obligor (also referred to as Absent Parent (AP), Non-Custodial Parent or NCP)

The person who owes the support.

Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)

The Federal agency responsible for the administration of the child support programs.


Amount of money 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 support debt.


Written direction issued by a court requiring someone to do, or not to do, something.

Order of Protection

An order by the court to prevent a party from doing something, typically, harassing another party. Child and spousal support can be set in an Order of Protection. If the party refuses to abide by the order, he/she may be arrested and put in jail.

Order to Show Cause

An order issued by a court requiring the appearance of a person in court at a specific date and time. This appearance is scheduled to explain why the court should not take a particular action in the case. For example, an Order to Show Cause can be issued to an obligor requiring him/her to appear and explain why he/she should not be held in contempt of court for failure to obey an order to pay child support.



Participant in child support case. A party can participate in more than one case.

Passport Denial Program

Non-payment of Child Support Obligation


General Child Support Questions


The legal and/or biological relationship between a father and a child.

Paternity Affidavit (also referred to as Declaration of Paternity Affidavit)

A Paternity Affidavit is a legal document that is voluntary, signed by both the mother and father, and notarized admitting paternity or responsibility for child support.

Paternity Adjudication

A court adjudication process which results in the legal determination of the father of a child. Paternity must be established before child or medical support can be ordered.

Physical Custody

The person or facility with whom the child resides has physical custody. Depending upon arrangements, it may be joint or sole custody.

Public Assistance

Benefits granted from State or Federal programs to aid eligible recipients (eligibility requirements vary between particular programs). Applicants for West Virginia Works (i.e., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)) are automatically referred to the BCSE to identify and locate the non-custodial parent, establish paternity, and/or obtain child support payments.




A person that receives support funds, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and/or Medicaid


Request sent to BCSE from a public assistance agency asking that a child support case be established or enforced.


A fixed amount stated in a judgment that orders the obligor to pay back the government or other party.


Service of Process

The act of providing a complaint or summons to a party involved in a legal action. This is usually done by a process server, a sheriff, or by certified mail.

Spousal Support (also referred to as Alimony)

Court ordered support of a spouse or ex-spouse.


A written notification to all parties involved that an action has been filed against him or her.


A legal document which compels a witness to appear at a court proceeding. Sometimes the process will also direct the witness to brings specific evidence to the court.


Tax Intercept

The process by which a child support agency can intercept federal and/or state income tax refunds to pay arrearages.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Financial support in the form of a cash given to a family with children in need of financial assistance (formerly called AFDC - Aid to Families with Dependent Children). TANF does not include Medicaid, food stamps or WIC benefits.  In West Virginia, TANF is known as West Virginia Works.

Temporary Order

A written decision of a court usually entered immediately following a hearing requiring that someone take an action (like pay child support) which remains in place until a final order is issued.


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)

Laws passed by each state that govern the procedures for the interstate establishment and enforcement of paternity and child support.


Voluntary Payments

Payments received from a non-custodial parent in the absence of a support order. Payments are then forwarded by the BCSE to the family.


Writ of Execution

A court order authorizing the seizure of assets owned by an obligor who owes past due child support. The order usually authorizes the seizure of assets up to the total amount of past due child support owed under the judgment. It is also known as a levy.





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