Who can get help from the Child Support Services Division (CSSD)?
Any parent who has physical custody of a child and needs assistance in obtaining child support payments may apply for services. A non-custodial parent (non-custodial parent) may apply to have paternity established.
What is the application process?
Persons receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program automatically receive services from the CSSD. Persons not receiving TANF must complete an application form. There is no cost to apply and applications are available at our Regional Child Support Offices, County Department of Social Services Offices and County Clerks of Court Offices. In addition, printable applications are available on our website. Click here to learn more. Applications may also be obtained by calling the CSSD toll-free number 1.800.768.5858 FREE.
Do child support services cost anything?
As part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act passed by Congress, beginning October 1, 2007, all applicants who have never received public assistance (AFDC/TANF) will be charged a $25.00 fee each federal fiscal year (October 1 - September 30) after $500.00 in child support has been collected and paid out. This fee will not be charged until at least $500.00 is collected and paid out. If you have more than one eligible case, the fee will be charged on each case meeting the $500.00 threshold.
How do I get a child support order?
The CSSD will schedule a negotiation conference or court hearing to establish child support. If the parent with physical custody lives in South Carolina, he/she will be required to attend the conference or hearing. If the parent without custody lives out-of-state and a hearing is scheduled out-of-state, the custodial parent will not be required to attend the hearing in another state. However, the custodial parent may be required to attend a conference with the CSSD. Child support (and medical support, if available) will be set in the administrative or court order. An administrative order is enforceable in the same manner as a court order.
How long does it take to obtain a child support order?
When the non-custodial parent is found and served with the notice, it usually takes less than three months. It may take longer if the non-custodial parent lives out-of-state.
How long does it take to find the non-custodial parent?
The non-custodial parent’s address must be verified before a conference or court hearing can be scheduled. If the custodial parent cannot provide a current address, if the non-custodial parent has recently moved, or if the non-custodial parent lives out-of-state, it may take several months to locate him/her. The more information provided in the application, such as non-custodial parent date of birth and social security number, the easier it is to locate the non-custodial parent.
The new state-wide automated computer system will help the process of locating an absent parent. The system will automatically search for addresses and employers of individuals.
How is paternity established?
If the father and mother were not married at the time of the child's birth, an administrative or court order naming the legal father establishes paternity. The alleged father may voluntarily admit that he is the father of the child. In cases where he does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity tests can be scheduled. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father, and the child. The paternity tests will either indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father from paternity. CSSD pays the cost of testing.
How much child support will be ordered?
The amount of child support will be based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines consider the income of both parents and the number of children. Day care and health insurance costs are also considered. A copy of the Guidelines can be found here, or a hard copy can be obtained from the Regional Child Support Offices, or from CSSD by calling 1.800.768.5858 FREE.
How can the amount of child support be increased or decreased?
Both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent have the right to request that the CSSD review the child support order every three years. The review may indicate that an upward or downward modification of child support is warranted.
What happens when there is a support order and the non-custodial parent pays irregularly?
The non-custodial parent is responsible for the total amount of the order. If the total amount is not paid, the CSSD may attempt to collect the child support in the following ways:
- File contempt of court proceedings, which may result in a jail sentence if the non-custodial parent is found in contempt of court.
- Withhold the child support from the non-custodial parent’s wages or unemployment benefits.
- Intercept federal and/or state income tax refunds.
- Garnish worker's compensation benefits.
- Refer the non-custodial parent to credit reporting agencies.
- Revoke the occupational, professional, or driver's license of the non-custodial parent.
How long is the non-custodial parent ordered to pay child support?
Once the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support, the order is effective until the non-custodial parent petitions the court for a dismissal order and the court dismisses the support order. When the child is emancipated, or reaches the age of eighteen (18), the non-custodial parent may petition the court for a dismissal order. However, if the child is still in school or there are other reasons for the court to order child support to continue, the court may do so.
The non-custodial parent lives in another state. Does this matter?
No. States cooperate with each other in establishing and enforcing child support orders. However, when a non-custodial parent lives out-of-state, it may take longer to establish and enforce a child support order.
What about medical and dental insurance?
If either the custodial parent or non-custodial parent can obtain insurance at a reasonable cost, that cost will be included in the calculation of the child support award. The parent providing the insurance coverage will receive a credit on his/her portion of the child support obligation.
If the non-custodial parent pays child support, why does the custodial parent not necessarily receive all or any of the amount paid?
Under current law, the State has the right to recover current and past TANF payments to the custodial parent. If the custodial parent is currently receiving TANF, the State will recover the amount of the TANF payment from the amount paid by the non-custodial parent. If the custodial parent has received TANF in the past but no longer receives a TANF payment, the State may recover any amounts still owed for the past TANF payments, but the custodial parent will receive all child support the non-custodial parent pays up to the current monthly obligation. Only the amount paid over the monthly obligation in a given month is subject to being retained for prior TANF reimbursement.
What do all the acronyms used on this site stand for?
- CP - Custodial Parent
- CPLS - Central Parent Locate Service
- CSSD - Child Support Services Division
- NCP - Non-custodial parent
- Non-TANF - Not receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- TANF - Receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- PACSS - Palmetto Automated Child Support System
- SDU - State Disbursement Unit
What is designation?
Designation is allowed under federal child support regulations and provides that a non-custodial parent (NCP) may specify that a portion of his/her child support payment is to satisfy collection fees before satisfying child support owed for the current month and on arrears. Designation is accomplished by the NCP signing a form (SCCA 429). Without designation, child support collections must be applied toward current month support and arrearage obligations until satisfied before applying any portion of the collections toward the collection fees.
When does it go into effect?
Family Courts have been presenting NCPs Designation Forms for signature since about 2004. SCCS 4529 forms go into effect upon signature by the NCP.
Does the NCP have to sign a separate form each time a payment is made?
No, the NCP only has to sign a designation form one time for each of his/her cases.
Does the NCP have to sign a separate form for each child support case?
Yes, the NCP must sign a separate designation form for each of his/her child support cases.
Will the state-wide computer system relieve the NCP of the obligation of paying this fee?
If all ordered support and fees are not paid, the family court may schedule a contempt hearing.
What role do employers play?
Employers play a vital role in ensuring the financial security of families by participating in the child support process. To underscore the importance in employer participation, State and Federal Laws have been enacted to guarantee that employers participate in the process. By complying with the basic requirements explained below, employers are fulfilling their role as corporate citizen and contributing to the welfare of the community.
Since requirements regarding employers' participation in the child support process vary from state to state, we can only provide this information for employers operating in South Carolina. Other states' requirements are similar, but employers in other states should contact the child support agency in their state for detailed requirements.
Are all child support orders enforceable through income withholding?
All child support orders issued or modified after January 3, 1994 are subject to immediate income withholding. In addition, all Title IV-D cases in which an order is issued or modified after October 31, 1990 are subject to immediate income withholding. All child support orders in which a delinquency occurs are subject to immediate income withholding no matter when the order was issued or modified.
How do employers know they are required to withhold income?
An employer must honor a notice to withhold from any of the following:
- the South Carolina Department of Social Services (as counties are converted to the new federally mandated child support system)
- a Clerk of Court in any of the 46 counties in South Carolina
- a Child Support Enforcement Agency in another state
- a court in another state
If an employer receives a notice from any other source, they may wish to consult their attorney to find out if they are required to honor the request.
What kinds of income are subject to withholding?
All wages, salaries, commissions, vacation pay, bonuses, compensation as an independent contractor, workers' compensation, disability payments, annuity and retirement benefits, payments made pursuant to a retirement plan and interest are subject to withholding for child support.
Bonuses: CSSD suggests withholding 50% of the disposable* bonus and/or severance pay, or the total case arrears, whichever is less. (*Disposable income is the net income after mandatory deductions such as: state, federal, local taxes; Social Security taxes; statutory pension contributions; and Medicare taxes).
For tribal orders, you may not withhold more than the amounts allowed under the law of the issuing tribe.
When must an employer begin withholding child support payments from the employee's income?
An employer must begin withholding the amount(s) indicated on the notice to withhold no later than the pay period immediately following the pay period in which the notice was received.
When must an employer send the child support payments?
An employer must pay any amounts withheld within seven (7) working days from the date the income is withheld.
Pay Period Conversion
One monthly period equals:
- 4.33 weekly periods
- 2 semi-monthly periods
- 2.17 bi-weekly periods
- 0.5 bi-monthly periods
- 0.333 quarterly periods
- 0.167 semi-annual periods
What if an employer's pay period is different than the frequency on the notice to withhold?
An employer is not required to change the employee's pay period to match the frequency on the notice to withhold. If the employee's regularly scheduled pay period is not the same as the frequency on the notice to withhold, the employer should withhold an amount each pay period which over the period of one month would equal one month's support obligation, plus any fees or costs.
May an employer charge a fee for withholding child support payments from the employee's income?
Yes. For each instance of withholding of income the employer may charge a fee of up to $3.00. This fee is in addition to the amount withheld pursuant to the notice to withhold.
What are the penalties for not withholding?
If an employer willfully fails to withhold income pursuant to a notice to withhold, the employer can be required to pay the full amount of child support they failed to withhold.
Are employers required to comply with withholding notices from other states?
Yes. Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act all employers are required to honor income withholding orders from other states. Payments should be sent to the registry or court indicated on the notice sent by that state.
What should an employer do if an employee already has income withholdings from their paycheck?
Federal and State Laws require withholdings for child support to take priority over ALL other income withholdings. An employer must withhold the full amount indicated on the notice to withhold unless this amount exceeds 50 percent of the employee's net disposable income. The notice to withhold should explain how to calculate net disposable income.
What should an employer do if an employee has multiple child support income withholdings?
The employer must comply with ALL notices to withhold by withholding the amounts designated on the notices to the extent possible, without exceeding 50 percent of the employee's net disposable income. The notice to withhold should explain how to calculate net disposable income. If the total amount to withhold exceeds this 50 percent threshold, the employer should allocate the withholdings for each notice so that the total amount withheld does not exceed this 50 percent threshold. The employer must also notify the entities issuing the notices in writing as to its reason for failing to fully comply. Amounts withheld for current obligations have priority over withholding for arrearages. In no case shall the allocation for multiple orders result in the failure to comply with one of the notices.
If an employer has multiple employees with income withholdings, can the employer combine all the child support into one check?
Yes, if the income withholdings are to be sent to the same court or registry. When withholdings are combined in a single check, the employer must include a list of employees for which income was withheld and exactly how much was withheld for each employee.
When can an employer stop income withholding?
An employer cannot terminate income withholding for current child support obligations or arrearage amounts unless they are told to do so by the issuer of the notice to withhold.
What should an employer do if the employee no longer works for them?
Within 20 days after an employee leaves employment, the employer must send a copy of the notice to withhold to the issuer and must notify the issuer in writing of the date employment was terminated, the date of the final paycheck, the last known address for the employee, and the employee's new employer, if known.
Are employers required to report the availability of health insurance?
Yes. Upon receipt of a notice to withhold child support obligations from an employee's income, the employer must report to the issuer of the notice if health insurance is available to the employee for the benefit of the child(ren) for which income is being withheld.