Normally, if a non-custodial parent defaults on child support payments, the Division of Child Support can take action to collect, such as withholding the parent’s income. But what if the parent does not have a job, loses his job, or owes back child support?

You, and your child, are owed child support payments even if the non-custodial parent does not have a job. In order collect child support from an unemployed father (or mother), DCS will take other collection actions in lieu of wages, including:

  • Unemployment benefits – DCS can take possession of up to half of a parent’s unemployment benefits and redirect the funds to the Washington State Support Registry (WSSR) for the custodial parent’s use. If half of the amount of your benefits is not enough to cover the amount due, the unemployed parent is still responsible for the difference.
  • Bank balances – DCS may collect any funds held in the unemployed parent’s bank account, or property held in safety deposit boxes, as well as taking possession of any cash settlements from lawsuits that the parent has won.
  • Unearned benefits – DCS may take any income provided by workers’ compensation, pensions (that are not protected by federal law), and any other non-earned funds such as cash gifts and give them to the custodial parent.

Even if DCS collects funds from the non-custodial parent on your child’s behalf, it is likely that the amount will not be enough to provide for your family. Most courts allow the custodial parent a “basic support” schedule, which is the minimum amount a non-custodial parent must pay. However, there are often additional expenses not laid out on the schedule, such as the child’s educational costs, traveling costs to visit family members, and unforeseen medical costs—getting payment for these after a schedule has been set can be tricky.

Want to know exactly how much child support you are owed, or if you can increase the amount of your current benefits? Click the link on this page to download our FREE booklet, The Savvy Woman's Guide to Divorce in Washington.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington