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PA Child Support Program


Child Support Terms

Last modified on: September 17, 2016

This is a short glossary of child support terms for your reference. To use the glossary efficiently, you can click on the letter of the desired term that you would like to find. For example, click on "E" to find out about "EFT". You can always get back to these letters by clicking "Return to top".

This short glossary is not meant to be a comprehensive dictionary; it's aim is to foster a better understanding of child support terminology by our customers, and the public at large.


Glossary of Terms
Sum of child support payments that are due or overdue
Arrears is past due, unpaid child support owed by the Noncustodial Parent. If the parent has arrearages, s/he is said to be "in arrears."
Automated Voice Response - A telephone system that makes frequently requested information available to clients over touch-tone telephones
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The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) within the Department of Human Services (DHS) is the single state agency charged with administering the IV-D program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Bench Warrant
A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a court or judge ordering the apprehension of an offender.
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A collection of people associated with a particular child support order, court hearing, and/or request for IV-D services. This typically includes a Custodial Parent (CP), a dependent(s), a Non-custodial Parent (NCP) and/or a Putative Father (PF). Every child support case has a unique Case Id number and, in addition to names and identifying information about its members, includes information such as CP and NCP wage data, court order details and NCP payment history.
Case ID
Unique identification number assigned to a case.
Centralized Collection Unit
A single, centralized site in each state IV-D agency to which employers can send child support payments they have collected for processing. This centralized payment-processing site is called the state Disbursement Unit (SDU) and is responsible for collecting, distributing, and disbursing child support payments.
Child Support
Financial support paid by a parent to help support a child or children of whom they do not have custody. Child support can be entered voluntarily or ordered by a court or a properly empowered administrative agency, depending on each state’s laws.

Child support can involve cases where:

  • IV-D cases, where the custodial party (CP) is receiving child support services offered by state and local agencies; (such services include locating a non-custodial parent (NCP) or putative father (PF); establishing paternity; establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders; collecting, distributing and disbursing child support payments).
  • IV-A cases, where the CP is receiving public assistance benefits and the case is automatically referred to the state Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Agency so the state can recoup the cost of the benefits from the non-custodial parent (NCP) or defray future costs.
  • IV-E cases, where the child(ren) is being raised not by one of their own parents but in the foster care system by a person, family, or institution and the case is also automatically referred to the CSE to recoup or defray costs of foster care.
  • Non IV-D orders, where the case or legal order is privately entered into and the CSE is not providing locate, enforcement, or collection services (called); often entered into during divorce proceedings.

The support can come in different forms, including:

  • Medical support, where the child(ren) are provided with health coverage, through private insurance from the non-custodial parent (NCP) or public assistance that is reimbursed whole or in part by the NCP, or a combination thereof.
  • Monetary payments, in the form of a one-time payment, installments, or regular automatic withholdings from the NCP’s income, or the offset of state and/or Federal tax refunds and/or administrative payments made to the NCP, such as Federal retirement benefits.
County Assistance Office
The County Assistance Office (CAO) is the office responsible to administer programs for food stamps, medical assistance and cash assistance, under the PA Department of Human Services.
CSE (Child Support Enforcement Agency)
Agency that exists in every state that locates non-custodial parents (NCP’s) or putative fathers (PF), establishes, enforces, and modifies child support, and collects and distributes child support money. Operated by state or local government according to the Child Support Enforcement Program guidelines as set forth in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Also known as a “IV-D Agency”.
CP (Custodial Party)
The person who has primary care, custody, and control of the child(ren).
Custody Order
Legally binding determination that establishes with whom a child shall live. The meaning of different types of custody terms (e.g. Joint Custody, Shared Custody, Split Custody) vary from state to state.
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The judicial decision of a litigated action, usually in “equitable” cases such as divorce (as opposed to cases in law in which judgments are entered).
The person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun.
A child who is under the care of someone else. Most children who are eligible to receive child support must be a dependent. The child ceases to be a dependent when they reach the “age of emancipation” as determined by state law, but depending on the state’s provisions, may remain eligible for child support for a period after they are emancipated.
Direct Income Withholding
A procedure, whereby an income withholding order can be sent directly to the non-custodial parent’s (NCP’s) employer in another state, without the need to use the IV-D Agency or court system in the NCP’s state. This triggers withholding unless the NCP contests, and no pleadings or registration are required. The Act does not restrict who may send an income withholding notice across state lines. Although the sender will ordinarily be a Child Support Agency or the obligee, the obligor or any other person may supply an employer with an income withholding order.
The paying out of collected child support funds
Disposable Income
The portion of an employee’s earnings that remain after the deductions required by law (e.g. taxes) and that is used to determine the amount of an employee’s pay subject to a garnishment, attachment, or child support withholding order.
The allocation of child support collected to the various types of debt within a child support case, as specified in 45 CFR 302.51, (e.g., monthly support obligations, arrears, ordered arrears, etc.).
The recorded entry of the court's action in a legal proceeding.
Domestic Relations Section(DRS)/Domestic Relations Office(DRO).
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EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)
Process by which information regarding an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transaction is transmitted electronically along with the EFT funds transfer.
EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer)
Process by which money is transmitted electronically from one bank account to another.
A child ceases to be a dependent upon reaching the "age of majority" as determined by state law. Depending on the state's provisions, the child may remain eligible for child support for a period after emancipation. The age a person is no longer considered a minor (child) under government laws varies from state to state.
The application of remedies to obtain payment of a child or medical support obligation contained in a child and/or spousal support order. Examples of remedies include garnishment of wages, seizure of assets, liens placed on assets, revocation of license (e.g., drivers, business, medical, etc.), denial of U.S. passports, etc.
An EPPICard is a form of electronic disbursement in which the child support payment is electronically transmitted to the Custodial Party via a debit card.
An E-reminder is an electronic notification by email to a party(ies).
Employer Maintenance Unit (EMU)
The unit within the State Collection and Disbursement Unit (PA SCDU) that verifies and maintains information on employers within the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES). EMU is also responsible for responding to questions from the employers.
The process of proving paternity and/or obtaining a court or administrative order to put a child support obligation in place.
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Family Support Act
Law passed in 1988, with two major mandates: Immediate Wage Withholding, unless courts find that there is good cause not requiring such withholding, or there is a written agreement between both parties requiring an alternative arrangement; and Guidelines for Child Support Award Amounts, which requires state(s) to use guidelines to determine the amount of support for each family, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.
FCR (Federal Case Registry)
A national database of information on individuals in all IV-D cases, and all non IV-D orders entered or modified on or after October 1, 1998. The FCR receives this case information on a daily basis from the state Case Registry (SCR) located in every state, and proactively matches it with previous submissions to the FCR and with employment information contained in the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). Any successful matches are returned to the appropriate state(s) for processing. The FCR and NDNH are both part of the expanded FPLS, which is maintained by OCSE.
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A legal proceeding under which part of a person’s wages and/or assets is withheld for payment of a debt. This term is usually used to specify that an income or wage withholding is involuntary.
Genetic Testing
Analysis of inherited factors to determine legal fatherhood or paternity.
A standard method for setting child support obligations based on the income of the parent(s) and other factors determined by state law. The Family Support Act of 1998 requires states to use guidelines to determine the amount of support for each family, unless they are rebutted by a written finding that applying the guidelines would be inappropriate to the case.
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Immediate Wage Withholding
An automatic deduction from income that starts as soon as the agreement for support is established.
As defined by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), income is any periodic form of payment to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, pension, or retirement program payments and interest. All income (except imputed income; see above) is subject to income withholding for child support, pursuant to a child support order, but is protected by Consumer Credit Protection Act limits, both state and Federal.
Income Withholding
Procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wages or income, as defined in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), to pay a debt such as child support. Income withholding often is incorporated into the child support order and may be voluntary or involuntary. The provision dictates that an employer must withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency (the Centralized Collection Unit or state Disbursement Unit). Sometimes referred to as wage withholding.
A method of securing child support by taking a portion of non-wage payments made to a non-custodial parent. Non-wage payments subject to interception include Federal tax refunds, state tax refunds, unemployment benefits, and disability benefits.
IV-A (“Four-A”)
Reference to the Title IV-A of the Social Security Act covering the Federal-state Public Assistance Program.
IV-D (“Four-D”)
Reference to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which requires that each state can create a program to locate non-custodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce child support obligations, and collect and distribute support payments. All recipients of public assistance (usually TANF) are referred to their state’s IV-D Child Support program. states must also accept applications from families who do not receive public assistance, if requested, to assist in collection of child support. Title IV-D also established the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response system)
Interactive Voice Response system allows callers to receive case specific information and to leave messages for domestic relations workers with a touch tone phone.
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The official decision or finding of a judge or administrative agency hearing officer upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also known as a decree or order and may include the “findings of fact and conclusions of law”.
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A claim upon property to prevent the sale or transfer of that property until a debt is satisfied.
Process by which a non-custodial parent (NCP) or putative father (PF) is found for the purpose of establishing paternity, establishing and/or enforcing a child support obligation, establishing custody and visitation rights, processing adoption or foster care cases, and investigating parental kidnapping.
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Medical Support
Form of child support where medical or dental insurance coverage is paid by the non-custodial parent (NCP). Depending on the court order, medical support can be an NCP’s sole financial obligation, or it can be one of several obligations, with child and/or spousal support being the others.
MSO (Monthly Support Obligation)
The amount of money an obligor is required to pay per month.
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National Medical Support Notice
The National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) is a standardized medical child support order that is to be used by county Domestic Relations Sections to enforce medical child support obligations whenever a non-custodial or custodial parent is ordered to provide health care insurance for his/her child(ren) and that party is employed or in active military or reserve military duty. The NMSN gives state's a new tool for enforcement of medical support orders.
New Hire Reporting
Program that requires that all employers report newly hired employees to the state Directory of New Hires (SDNH) in their state. This data is then submitted to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), where it is compared against child support order information contained in the Federal Case Registry (FCR) for possible enforcement of child support obligations by wage garnishment. Some data is also made available to state's to find new hires that have been receiving unemployment insurance or other public benefits for which they may no longer be eligible, helping state's to reduce waste and fraud.
NCP (Non-custodial Parent)
The parent who does not have primary care, custody, or control of the child, and has an obligation to pay child support. Also referred to as the obligor
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Amount of money to be paid as support by a non-custodial parent (NCP). Can take the form of financial support for the child, medical support, or spousal support. An obligation is a recurring, ongoing obligation, not a onetime debt such as an assessment.
The person, state agency, or other institution to which a child support is owed (also referred to as custodial party when the money is owed to the person with primary custody of the child).
The person who is obliged to pay child support (also referred to as the non-custodial parent or NCP).
OCSE (Office of Child Support Enforcement)
The Federal agency responsible for the administration of the Child Support Program. Created by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act in 1975, OCSE is responsible for the development of child support policy; oversight, evaluation, and audits of state child support enforcement programs; and providing technical assistance and training to the state programs. OCSE operates the Federal Parent Locator Service, which includes the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal case Registry (FCR). OCSE is part of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which is within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Direction of a magistrate, judge, or properly empowered administrative officer.
Order/Notice to Withhold Child Support
The form to be used by all state's that standardizes the information used to request income withholding for child support. According to the uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), this form may be sent directly from the initiating state to a non-custodial parent’s employer in another state.
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The acronym for the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System. PACSES is used for all transactions in all 67 local Domestic Relations Sections within the State.
Passport Denial Program
Program created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 that is operated under the auspices of the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. Under the Passport Denial Program, obligors with child support arrearages of at least $2,500 that are submitted to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) for Tax Refund Offset are forwarded to the U.S. Department of state, which “flags” the obligor’s name and refuses to issue a passport in the event they apply for one. After the obligor makes arrangements to satisfy the arrears, state's can decertify them with OCSE, which then requests that the state Department remove them from the program. This program is automatic, meaning that any obligor that is eligible will be submitted to the state Department unless the state submitting the case for Tax Offset specifically excludes them from the Passport Denial Program.
Legal determination of fatherhood. Paternity must be established before child or medical support can be ordered.
Person or organization in whose name child support money is paid.
Person who makes a payment, usually non-custodial parents or someone acting on their behalf, or a custodial party who is repaying a receivable.
PRWORA (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996)
Legislation that provides a number of requirements for employers, public licensing agencies, financial institutions, as well as state and Federal child support agencies, to assist in the location of non-custodial parents and the establishment, enforcement, and collection of child support. This legislation created the New Hire Reporting program and the state and Federal Case Registries. Otherwise known as Welfare Reform.
A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil case.
PF (Putative Father)
The person alleged to be the father of the child but who has not yet been medically or legally declared to be the Legal Father.
PA Child Support Payment Card
A PA child support payment card (EPPICard® or Way2Go Card®) is a form of electronic disbursement in which the child support payment is electronically transmitted to the Custodial Party via a debit card. EPPICard® will be transitioned out by the end of 2022.
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Retro Arrears
Arrearages that accrue from the time of the filing of the complaint until the actual entry of the order.
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Show Cause
A court order directing a person to appear and bring forth any evidence as to why the remedies stated in the order should not be confirmed or executed. A show cause order is usually based on a motion and affidavit asking for relief.
SCDU( state Collection & Disbursement Unit)
The single site in each state where all child support payments are processed. Upon implementation of centralized collections, each state will designate its state Disbursement Unit, or SDU, to which all withheld child support payments should be sent.
Support Order
A judgment, decree, or order, whether temporary, final, or subject to modification, issued by a court or an administrative agency of a competent jurisdiction, for the support and maintenance of a child. This includes a child who has attained the age of majority under the law of the issuing state, or of the parent with whom the child is living. Support orders can incorporate the provision of monetary support, health care, payment of arrearages, or reimbursement of costs and fees, interest and penalties, and other forms of relief.
Support Pass Through (SPT)
A Support Pass-through is a portion of the support paid on behalf of a public assistance recipient that is sent to the recipient in each month where payments were received on time in the previous month from the Noncustodial Parent.
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TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)
Time-limited public assistance payments made to poor families, based on Title IV-A of the Social Security Act. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC-otherwise known as welfare) when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was signed into law in 1996. The program provides parents with job preparation, work, and support services to help them become self-sufficient. Applicants for TANF benefits are automatically referred to their state IV-D agency in order to establish paternity and child support for their children from the non-custodial parent. This allows the state to recoup or defray some of its public assistance expenditures with funds from the non-custodial parent.
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W/A (Wage Attachment)
An involuntary transfer of a portion of an employee’s wage payment to satisfy a debt. In some state's this term is used interchangeably with Wage or Income Withholding, in other state's there are distinctions between an attachment and withholding. The most common term used is Wage and Income Withholding.
Wage Withholding
A procedure by which scheduled deductions are automatically made from wages or income to pay a debt, such as child support. Wage withholding often is incorporated into the child support order and may be voluntary or involuntary. The provision dictates that an employer must withhold support from a non-custodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency (the Centralized Collection Unit or state Disbursement Unit). Also known as income withholding.
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