What is the Child Support Services program?
Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is a national program established by Congress in 1975 to ensure that both parents are responsible for the support of their children to the best of their ability. This program, known in North Carolina as Child Support Services (CSS), provides CSS Services to the custodians of minor children regardless of income level.
CSS agents help locate noncustodial parents (NCPs), establish the paternity of the child(ren) and petition the court to order child support payments. Once a court order has been established incoming child support payments are receipted at NC Child Support Centralized Collections (NCCSCC), which manages the collection and disbursement of all ordered child support payments in the state. To enforce child support orders CSS agents can initiate legal action against the NCP, withhold support payments from the NCP’s wages and intercept the NCP’s tax refunds.
Learn more about the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program.
Anyone with a child support case can get information using the web or telephone.
eChild Support: Custodial and noncustodial parents may use this tool to quickly obtain information about their case and payment information.
Customer Service: 1-800-992-9457. The customer service center assists callers 24 hours a day with an automated voice response system as well as personalized assistance between 7:30am and 5:30pm.
Roles and Responsibilities of the CSS Agency
- Gather all available information from individuals and other agencies. Evaluate their cases and determine the support activities to be pursued.
- Contract with attorneys to represent cases in civil court actions. These attorneys represent the CSS agency and not the individual custodial parent (CP) in a case.
- Work with all parties in a case providing information or explanation of case activities when appropriate.
- Keep the information that they receive confidential. Only information that is public record can be divulged. NC law requires CSS to list the Social Security numbers of all parties who are involved in a child support case on documents that establish paternity and support.
- Abide by federal regulations and state laws when handling child support cases. Automation has increased the speed and accuracy of information gathering, taking actions and disbursing support payments for children.
- Continue providing the necessary services to all cases after public assistance is terminated unless the CP requests that services not be provided and no amounts are due and owed to the state.
North Carolina CSS Organization
The Governor of North Carolina has designated the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as the CSS agency. NC General Statutes 110-128 through 110-142.2 authorize DHHS to supervise the child support program. DHHS has designated the Division of Social Services (DSS) to be responsible for this program. The Child Support Services (CSS) Section exists within DSS.
Some counties have placed their CSS program under the authority of the county DSS, some counties have placed it under Revenue or the County Attorney and other counties have elected to offer services by contracting with private companies. There are currently 100 Child Support Offices. 74 are under the authority of the county DSS, eight are under the authority of Revenue or the county manager and 18 are under contract with private companies and one tribal office. Regardless of who operates the local CSS office the same regulation, laws and state policies apply.
A staff of CSS regional program representatives is responsible for providing consultation and program assistance to all local programs.
Brief History of the CSS Program
In 1935 Congress enacted the Social Security Act to ease financial problems that had arisen during the Great Depression. Title IV-A of the Social Security Act established a public assistance program that offered financial assistance to families due to death of the father.
In response to increasing numbers of applications for assistance due to parental abandonment, the first actual child support legislation was enacted in 1950. This legislation required welfare agencies to report all applications for assistance due to abandonment by a parent to law enforcement agencies.
In 1975, Title IV-D was added to the Social Security Act to establish a nationwide Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program, with the purpose of recouping money paid out to welfare recipients when at least one parent was absent from the home and did not provide support. N.C. General Statutes 110-128 through 110-142.2 established North Carolina’s CSE (now CSS) program. These federal and state laws set forth the requirements for the program.
Additional legislation has been enacted over the years to expand the scope of the CSS program.
In 1981 amendments to the Omnibus Reconciliation Act established the interception of federal (IRS) tax refunds as a means of collecting overdue child support (also known as “arrearages”) and authorized the withholding of unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) to pay child support obligations.
In 1984, Child Support amendments were added to the Social Security Act. Some of these amendments authorized mandatory income withholding when arrearages accrued, the interception of state tax refunds as a means of collecting child support payments and the provision of CSS services to families that do not receive Public Assistance.
In 1988, the Family Support Act included child support provisions that established mandatory guidelines for determining child support obligation amounts and time frames for providing CSS services. States were also required to develop automated collection and payment tracking systems.
In 1994, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) allowed the mother and natural father to voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of a child born outside of marriage while at the birthing hospital. OBRA also required CSS to pursue health insurance coverage for children when establishing a support order.
In 1996, a major overhaul was made to the welfare system in the U.S. The Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), commonly referred to as “Welfare Reform”, completely changed Public Assistance from an entitlement program to a temporary financial assistance program with opportunities for recipients to become self-supporting. Child support became more crucial to families that could no longer stay on welfare for extended periods of time. Some important components of Welfare Reform included:
A requirement that states create a centralized collection operation to process child support payments.
A requirement that states create a central repository of employment information for newly hired employees. In North Carolina, this has resulted in the creation of the N.C. New Hire Directory (NHD). This employment information is transmitted to the National Directory of New Hires and is used to aid in the establishment and enforcement of child support orders. States were also required to notify employers within two (2) business days when their new employees were subject to income withholding.
An Expanded Federal Parent Locator Service (EFPLS) that provides CSS agencies with location, income, asset and employment information for noncustodial parents. States were required to maintain a state case registry with records of their child support cases. These records are submitted to the Federal Case Registry, which is a component of EFPLS.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which provides for the establishment, registration and enforcement of child support orders when another state is involved.
Financial institution data match (FIDM), which allows CSS to secure information from financial institutions to aid in the enforcement of child support orders.
The revocation of driver, business/occupational and recreational licenses as an enforcement remedy when noncustodial parents are delinquent in their child support payments. (North Carolina began using this remedy before Welfare Reform.)
The denial of passports as an enforcement remedy when noncustodial parents are delinquent in their child support payments and their arrearages are more than $2,500.
In 2012, the CSE program’s name was changed to Child Support Services (CSS).
The ACTS System
The NC CSS program uses a statewide computer system called ACTS (Automated Collection and Tracking System) to assist in the performance of its duties. This system receives and shares data with more than 30 state, federal and private agencies.
ACTS supports the functions needed to perform CSS activities at the local and state level including case management, financial management, document and report generation and supervisory functions.
CSS caseworkers use ACTS to add and update cases, enter and modify court order data after a hearing, review payment and collection activities, perform enforcement activities such as income withholding, assets attachment and tax intercepts, document their activities in the case record online and interact with CSS agencies in other states.