Basic information about child support in D.C.
What is child support?
Child support is support paid by one parent to another parent or person caring for the child.1 A child support order may include an order for financial support but could also include other assistance such as paying medical expenses or providing health insurance for the child.2
1 D.C. Code § 16–916
2 D.C. Code § 46-205(5), (6)
Who can file for child support?
You can seek child support if the child is living with you most of the time. Both parents have a legal obligation to support their child.1 If you share custody with the other parent, you can still request child support. If you and the other parent both have the child in your care an equal amount of time, a judge may still issue a child support order. In some shared physical custody situations, the parent who earns more money may have to pay child support to the other parent.2
1 D.C. Code § 16–901(8), D.C. Child Support Services Division website
2 D.C. Code § 16-916.01(q)(1), (q)(2)
How do I file for child support?
You can file a “Petition to Establish Paternity and/or for Child Support” with the Central Intake Center at the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.1 You also have the option of requesting that the Child Support Services Division assist you with starting a case. The Child Support Services Division can help with a child support case by:
- establishing paternity;
- filing a petition for a child support court order; and
- collecting child support payment.2
You can start an application by going to the Child Support Services Division website.
How will a judge decide a child support award? How much child support can I get?
Child support payments are calculated according to the District of Columbia Child Support Guidelines, available on the D.C. Child Support Services Division website. The law includes certain factors that a judge must consider in the calculation, including the:
- gross income of both parents;
- amount of any court-ordered child support paid by either parent for another child;
- cost of the child’s health insurance and extraordinary medical expenses;
- cost of reasonable childcare expenses for the child;
- number of children in the child support case;
- number of other biological or adopted children living in each parent’s home; and
- amount of time the child spends with each parent.1
A judge must also consider a parent’s ability to provide for his/her own financial support. If a parent with a legal duty to pay support does not have enough income to also support himself/herself, then the judge will decide what is the reasonable amount of child support that parent can pay.2 The judge will assume that the parent with limited income can pay $75 a month towards child support, but that amount can change if either parent convinces the judge otherwise.3
For more information on how to get your child support order enforced once you have an order in place, you can go to the D.C. Child Support Services Division website.
1 D.C. Code § 16–916.01
2 D.C. Code § 16–916.01(g)(2)
3 D.C. Code § 16–916.01(g)(3)(A)
Can a child support order be changed?
If your case is being handled by the Child Support Services Division, every three years either parent can request that the Child Support Services Division schedule a hearing to have the child support order reviewed and changed. Both parents will be asked to provide evidence of their current income, childcare expenses, medical expenses, and insurance costs. The Child Support Services Division will calculate the child support amount under the guidelines. If the amount is different from the original order by 15% or more, the Division or either parent can file a motion to modify the child support order.1
A parent also has the option to file a motion to modify the child support order any time there has been a substantial and material change of circumstances. This motion can be filed even if three years has not passed. A change in circumstances could include things like a change in the parent’s ability to pay support or the financial needs of the child have changed.2