The Child Support Services Division (CSSD), part of the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG), enforces child support orders. For example, if a noncustodial parent owing child support falls too far behind on payments, CSSD can locate the parent and take direct action to collect past-due support or impose sanctions, without first getting a court order. These actions can include seizing the parent’s assets or funds, or suspending the parent’s driver’s license. Visit the CSSD website for a full list of CSSD’s child support enforcement methods.
If you are a noncustodial parent and CSSD gave you a notice of an enforcement action or took action against you to collect allegedly past-due child support, you may have the right to a hearing at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
The purpose of this page is to help you learn more about CSSD child support enforcement and the OAH hearing process. This page does not give legal advice. You can only get legal advice from a lawyer. If you are trying to find a lawyer, click on the “I need more help” tab below for information on who you can contact.
Also, OAH tries to keep information on this page up to date, but laws and procedures sometimes change. You should refer to CSSD notices, OAH orders, and official sources of laws and rules for the most current information and requirements regarding your case.
What type of child support issues does OAH hear?
OAH is a court of “limited jurisdiction.” This means that OAH only has authority over a disputed issue if there is a law or agreement that specifically gives OAH authority over that issue.
Most of the laws giving OAH jurisdiction over specific types of cases are in the OAH Establishment Act. The portion of the Act dealing with OAH’s jurisdiction is in Title 2, Chapter 18A, Section 2-1831.03 of the D.C. Code.
Specifically, Subsection (b-23) gives OAH jurisdiction over cases involving the following CSSD actions or decisions:
- Attachment and seizure of assets in a financial institution (such as a bank) or any settlements, judgments, or other funds
- Attachment and levy of personal injury and workers’ compensation settlement funds from insurers participating in the Child Support Lien Network
- A proposed denial, refusal to renew, or suspension of a driver’s license or car registration
In short, OAH’s jurisdiction is limited to reviewing specific CSSD child support enforcement actions. These enforcement actions may be related to other legal issues regarding child support that OAH does not have authority to hear or decide. For example, OAH cannot award child support, modify a child support order, or start or terminate wage withholding to satisfy child support. These child support issues are under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Superior Court.
If you have questions or need resources regarding other child support issues, you can contact or visit the D.C. Superior Court’s Family Court Self-Help Center.
When can I request a hearing with OAH?
Federal and D.C. laws and regulations require CSSD to give you written notice of any proposed child support enforcement action. Generally, the notice must at least explain:
- The amount of past-due child support owed,
- The proposed enforcement action to collect that amount, and
- The process and deadlines for challenging CSSD’s proposed action.
If CSSD sent you a notice of the agency’s intent to take enforcement actions against you, read the notice carefully and pay close attention to the explanation of your rights to have the proposed action reviewed. If a proposed action is reviewable by OAH, the notice should explain how and when you can request a hearing with OAH. If it doesn’t, and you believe the issue is under OAH’s jurisdiction, you can go ahead and request a hearing with OAH, and an OAH judge will determine OAH’s authority over the case.
Also, if CSSD has proposed or has taken an enforcement action against you without giving you official written notice, you can request a hearing with OAH.
Along with instructions in the notice, you can also look at CSSD regulations and D.C. laws that explain hearing request deadlines for specific types of enforcement actions:
Attachment and seizure of funds from a financial institution:
CSSD regulations in Title 29, Chapter 81 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR) require the agency to follow a 2-step process to seize funds in a financial institution, such as a bank.
First, CSSD “attaches” the funds, meaning CSSD sends a notice (called a “Writ of Attachment”) to the financial institution requiring it to “freeze” the funds. A freeze prevents you or any other account holder from accessing the funds in the account. CSSD must also send a notice of the attachment to you and any joint account holder. At this stage, you have 15 calendar days from the date of the notice to ask CSSD to review the action.
Second, if CSSD refuses to withdraw the Writ of Attachment after you request a review, or if you do not request a review, CSSD can then seize the funds. CSSD does this by sending an “Order of Condemnation” to the financial institution, which requires it to turn over the funds. CSSD must also send a copy of the Order of Condemnation to you and any joint account holder. At this point, you have 30 calendar days from the date of the Order of Condemnation to request a hearing with OAH.
Attachment and levy of personal injury or workers’ compensation settlement funds:
CSSD regulations in Title 29, Chapter 122 of the DCMR require the agency to follow a 2-step process to take possession of personal injury or workers’ compensation settlement funds.
First, if CSSD finds that you have settlement funds that are subject to collection, CSSD may file a lien with the Recorder of Deeds in D.C. A “lien” is a legal claim to a debtor’s property until the debt is paid.
Second, CSSD can then send your insurer a “Notice of Lien” (showing the insurer that CSSD has a claim to an amount of the personal injury or worker’s compensation settlement funds) and instruct the insurer to “levy” the funds and send them to CSSD. “Levy” is the legal seizure of funds to satisfy a debt. CSSD must also send you a copy of the Notice of Lien and a letter with your appeal rights. At this point, you can request that CSSD review the action, or you can file a hearing request with OAH.
You have 15 calendar days from the date of the Notice of Lien to ask CSSD to review the action. You have 65 calendar days from the date of the Notice of Lien to request a hearing with OAH.
If you first ask CSSD to review the action, CSSD must complete the review and give a response within 10 calendar days. So, if CSSD refuses to withdraw the lien, you still have time to request a hearing with OAH. You also have the option to skip the CSSD review and file a hearing request with OAH right away.
Proposed denial, refusal to renew, or suspension of a license or car registration:
D.C. Code Title 46, Chapter 2, Subchapter I, Section 46-225.01(c) requires CSSD to give you 30 days’ written notice before denying, refusing to renew, or suspending your car registration or a driver’s license. After the 30 days, CSSD may then send a notice to the licensing agency requiring the agency to deny or suspend your car registration or driver’s license.
You can request an OAH hearing at any time before the denial or suspension occurs.
Click on “Where can I find laws and regulations that apply to my case?” below for more information about finding relevant laws and regulations for a child support enforcement case.
How do I request a hearing?
Your hearing request must be in writing. To make sure you include all the required information, you can use the CSSD Enforcement Action Appeal form. You must also include with the form any Order of Condemnation or other notice you received from CSSD.
Visit the Filings & Forms page for specific filing instructions.
OAH Rule 2808 has more information about hearing requests.
What are the OAH Rules and where can I find them?
The OAH Rules explain all the steps required to complete the OAH hearing process, from requesting a hearing to appealing a judge’s final decision. You can find the OAH Rules on the Rules & Laws page. You must follow the OAH Rules throughout the process.
All the rules that apply to a child support enforcement case are in Chapter 28. The table of contents for Chapter 28 can help guide you to the information you need.
Where can I find laws and regulations that apply to my case?
D.C. laws and CSSD regulations are often the most relevant sources of legal authority in child support enforcement cases. However, child support enforcement is governed at both the federal and state levels, so federal laws and regulations may apply in some cases. This section gives a brief overview of each level of legal authority. But every case has its own facts and circumstances, so some cases may involve laws and regulations that are not included here.
Federal child support enforcement laws were enacted through Title IV, Part D of the Social Security Act. You can find these federal laws in Title 42, Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part D of the U.S. Code. These laws give authority to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to work with states’ child support agencies to develop and operate child support enforcement programs under federal law. OCSE also makes regulations that states must follow. You can find OCSE regulations in Title 45, Subtitle B, Chapter III of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can also visit the OCSE website for more information about federal laws, regulations, and guidance.
Among other things, federal law requires states to create a state plan, which establishes broad standards for the state’s child support enforcement program. The state plan must also designate an agency to administer the state’s child support enforcement program. The designated agency is often referred to as the “IV-D agency” since it is responsible for administering programs under Title IV, Part D of the Social Security Act. You can find the state plans through the OCSE State Plan System webpage. D.C.’s state plan designates CSSD as the District’s IV-D agency.
At the state level, each state, including D.C., passes its own laws regarding child support enforcement. Also, a state’s IV-D agency makes its own regulations containing specific program requirements. You can find D.C.’s child support enforcement laws in Title 46, Chapter 2, Subchapter I of the D.C. Code. Sections about enforcement issues under OAH’s jurisdiction include:
- Section 46-224 – This section includes laws about the creation of liens against the property of someone owing past-due child support.
- Section 46-225.01 – This section covers sanctions, including the denial or suspension of a car registration or driver’s license.
- Section 46-226.03 – This section includes actions CSSD may take to enforce child support orders. Specifically, subsection (a)(7) explains CSSD’s authority to attach and seize assets in a financial institution (such as a bank) or certain settlements, judgments, or other funds.
You can find CSSD regulations in Title 29 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR). The following chapters of Title 29 pertain to issues under OAH’s jurisdiction:
- Chapter 81 – This chapter has sections that detail the process CSSD must follow to attach and seize assets in a financial institution. It also explains the process of requesting CSSD review or an OAH hearing regarding this enforcement action.
- Chapter 122 – This chapter has sections that detail the process CSSD must follow to subject certain settlement funds to a lien and to levy the funds. It also explains the process of requesting CSSD review or an OAH hearing regarding this enforcement action.
You can also look at CSSD’s policy statements. An agency’s policies are not laws, but they can help you understand how an agency applies the applicable laws and regulations.
Finally, D.C. law clarifies that CSSD may also pursue methods of child support enforcement allowed under federal law. For example, under federal law, CSSD can collect past-due child support by intercepting an obligor’s federal tax refund. You can find the federal law for this specific type of enforcement in Title 42, Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part D, Section 664 of the U.S. Code. OCSE’s regulations are in Title 45, Subtitle B, Chapter III, Part 303, Section 303.72 of the CFR. This process also involves U.S. Department of the Treasury regulations in Title 31, Subtitle B, Chapter II, Subchapter A, Part 285, Subpart A, Section 285.3 of the CFR.
The language in the laws and regulations is often dense and technical, and understanding lengthy and detailed regulations can be complicated. For further assistance, you can also click on “I need more help” below for additional resources and information about who you can contact for help.
How do I prepare for a hearing?
After you file a hearing request, generally the next step of the process will be explained in a “scheduling order” that OAH will send you by mail, and by email if you provide an email address.
The judge may first schedule a “status hearing,” also called a “status conference.” The purpose of a status hearing is for the judge to meet with the parties to generally talk about the issues in the case and next steps. The scheduling order will explain the purpose of a status hearing, but there often is not much preparation needed for a status hearing.
If needed, the case will then be scheduled for an “evidentiary hearing.” The purpose of the evidentiary hearing is for each side to give “evidence” to support their side of the case. The scheduling order for an evidentiary hearing will have specific instructions, but hearing preparation generally involves each side collecting the information they want the judge to know and planning how to present the information during the hearing.
Information you present during a hearing is called “evidence.” There are two broad categories of evidence:
- Verbal testimony (what you and other witnesses say at the hearing)
- Documents, photographs, or other physical items
For testimony, you can practice telling your side of the story before the hearing. If you have witnesses that will testify on your behalf, you can ask your witnesses to practice their testimony as well. Practicing your testimony can help make sure you and your witnesses don’t accidentally leave out important information and can help you feel more comfortable on the day of the hearing.
If a witness won’t agree to come to a hearing voluntarily, you can ask the judge for a “subpoena.” A subpoena is a court order that requires someone to come to a hearing and testify. Visit the Subpoena Request page, under “Filings & Forms,” for more information about the subpoena process.
Documents, photographs, or other items you plan to use to support your case are called “exhibits.” You should collect all your exhibits before the hearing so that you can file a copy of the exhibit with OAH and “serve” a copy on CSSD by the deadline given in the scheduling order. “Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing a copy of the exhibit to the other party in a case. You can also serve exhibits by email if you and CSSD have agreed in writing to allow service by email. You can find the contact information for the CSSD at the end of the scheduling order, on the page called “Certificate of Service.”
If you know that an agency or a person or organization related to your case has important documents about the facts, but they will not give you copies of the documents, you can ask the judge for a “subpoena” that will require them to do so. Besides requiring someone to testify at hearing, a subpoena can also be used to require someone to share documents. You can also ask the judge to allow “discovery.” Discovery is the formal process of getting information from an opposing party. Discovery generally is not needed or permitted in most OAH hearings, but it may be an option if you have a good reason. Visit the Subpoena Request and Discovery Request pages, under “Filings & Forms,” for more information about these processes.
Also, as you prepare exhibits, keep in mind that OAH is a separate agency from CSSD. This means that OAH does not automatically have copies of CSSD’s notices or records. To use those documents at the hearing, you still need to file copies with OAH.
You should also keep in mind that properly filing and serving an exhibit does not automatically mean that the judge can rely on the information in the exhibit when making a decision. Instead, you need to be prepared to introduce the exhibit during your testimony or a witness’s testimony. In other words, you or a witness will need to describe the item and may need to answer questions about it, so that the judge can be satisfied that the item is relevant to the case and is reliable. After you or a witness describe an exhibit and answer any questions from the judge or the other party, you can then ask the judge to admit the exhibit into evidence. If the judge allows the exhibit into evidence, you can then refer to the item in detail during your testimony, and the judge can rely on the item when making a decision. You need to be prepared for this process for each individual exhibit. It is a good idea to bring a list of all the exhibits you plan to use during the hearing, so you can keep track of what you have talked about and whether the judge has accepted the exhibit into evidence.
Lastly, you should have copies of all exhibits, both your own and the other party’s, when you come to your hearing. Even if your hearing is in person at OAH, OAH generally does not provide copies of the exhibits for the parties. Each party needs to bring their own copies.
Here are some of the common OAH Rules that apply to hearing preparation: Rule 2809 (Filing of Papers); Rule 2811 (How to Serve a Paper); Rule 2812 (Calculating Deadlines); Rule 2813 (Motions Procedure); Rule 2821 (Hearings and Evidence). Other rules may apply, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the OAH Rules’ table of contents so that you know where to go to look for particular requirements. The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How do I send documents or other exhibits I want to use for my case?
All exhibits must be filed with OAH and served on the other party.
You can file exhibits with OAH in person; by mail, email, or fax; or through the OAH E-Filing Portal. Visit the Filings & Forms page for specific filing instructions.
“Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing copies of your exhibits to the other party. If the other party has agreed in writing, you may also send exhibits by email.
Each party must file and serve exhibits by the deadline given in the scheduling order to make sure both sides have opportunity to review all the documents and other items the other side intends to use to support their case.
If you do not know the contact information for the other party, look at the “Certificate of Service” at the end of the scheduling order you receive from OAH. The Certificate of Service lists the contact information for each party.
What can I expect at a hearing?
You should look closely at your scheduling order for information about how your hearing will be held, but most OAH hearings are currently remote and are scheduled to take place by telephone. OAH uses a program called Webex to hold remote hearings, but only a phone is required for anyone to join. Visit the Webex Hearings page for more information about joining a remote hearing by phone.
If you are scheduled for a telephone hearing, you can request a video hearing or an in person hearing, using the Request for Video Conference or In-Person Hearing form. Or, if you are scheduled for an in-person hearing, you can request to join the hearing by phone, using the Request to Participate by Telephone form.
Whether remote or in person, an evidentiary hearing is generally divided into three main parts:
- Opening statements
- Presentations of evidence
- Closing arguments
An opening statement is your chance to give the judge a broad overview of your case and what you intend to prove through your evidence. The opening statement is not testimony and does not count as evidence, however. So, remember to present all of your evidence during the next part of the hearing, even if you talked about it already in your opening statement.
The presentation of evidence is the main part of the hearing. The judge will explain the how the hearing will go before it begins, but the side with the “burden of proof” normally goes first when giving evidence. The side with the burden of proof must prove certain facts in order to win the case.
When it is your turn to present evidence, you can give testimony and talk about the documents or other items you have as evidence, if the judge allowed your exhibits into evidence (see the “How do I prepare for hearing” tab above for more explanation about how exhibits are admitted into evidence). You can also have your witnesses attend and ask them questions to get them to testify on your behalf. Asking questions of your own witnesses is called “direct examination.”
After you or a witness are done giving testimony, the other side can ask questions about the testimony that was given. This is called “cross examination.” Likewise, after the other side’s witnesses give testimony as part of their presentation of evidence, you will have the opportunity to ask them questions. However, neither side is required to ask cross examination questions, and the judge will not assume you agree with the testimony of the other side’s witnesses if you choose not to question them. The judge may also have questions for the parties and witnesses throughout the hearing.
Finally, after both sides have presented their evidence, each side can give a closing argument. A closing argument is not required but is your opportunity to summarize your evidence and legal arguments as to why you should win. The closing argument is not evidence, and you generally cannot introduce new exhibits during your closing or talk about information that was not admitted into evidence.
Throughout the process, keep in mind that all evidence and arguments are being given directly to the judge. An evidentiary hearing is not an opportunity for the parties to talk and argue between themselves. So, you should practice your opening statement, presentation of evidence, and closing argument as if you are speaking directly to the judge.
Finally, if you are ever confused as to what’s going on during the hearing, ask the judge to explain.
I do not speak English very well. Can I get an interpreter?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide a free court-certified interpreter at your hearing. You cannot have a friend or family member interpret for you during a hearing.
You may request an interpreter when you file your initial hearing request, or you may request an interpreter at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected]. But please let OAH know as soon as possible that you need an interpreter for your hearing to give OAH time to schedule an interpreter.
If you have not requested an interpreter by the day of your hearing, you should let the judge know that you need an interpreter, and the judge can try to get an interpreter. If the judge cannot find an interpreter right away, the judge will need to reschedule the hearing to give time for OAH to schedule an interpreter for a new hearing date.
OAH will also provide an interpreter if you need to speak with an OAH Customer Service Representative or Resource Center staff, whether visiting in person or calling OAH by phone. Simply ask for an interpreter and identify your language when you visit or call, and OAH staff will contact an interpreter to assist.
I have an impairment that makes it hard for me to attend a hearing. Can I get an accommodation?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide reasonable accommodations to allow you to participate in your hearing. You may request an accommodation when you file a hearing request, or you may request an accommodation at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected].
Please explain the accommodation you need, and OAH staff will be in touch with you to arrange reasonable accommodations for the day of your hearing. OAH may need some time to arrange the accommodations, so please let OAH know as soon as possible what accommodations you will need for your hearing.
What if I need to change my hearing date?
You may ask the judge in writing for a different hearing date, also called a “continuance.”
For this type of request, you must first reach out to the other party to see if they will agree to a different hearing date. The other party doesn’t have to agree, or even respond. But you at least need to make a good faith effort to get the other party’s consent.
You then must file your request with OAH and send a copy of the request to the other party. To make sure you give OAH all the information needed for this type of request, you may use the Request for a Different Hearing Date form.
You should never assume that a request is granted. If your hearing date is approaching and you have not received a written response, contact the OAH Clerk’s Office to see if the judge has acted on your request. If the judge has not acted on the request by your hearing date, then the hearing will be held as originally scheduled and you will be required to attend.
OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
What if I miss my hearing?
If you missed your hearing, and you still want a hearing, you must ask for a new hearing date in writing as soon as possible. Even if the judge sends a Final Order in the other party’s favor before you file your request, the judge can still grant a new hearing and change the final order. However, you must give a good reason for having missed the hearing. To make a request, you may complete the Request for a New Hearing form and file the form with OAH and serve a copy on the other party.
OAH Rule 2828 explains more about this type of request. OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How does a judge make a final decision?
The judge will not make a final decision about your case during or right after a hearing. Rather, the judge will take time after the hearing to carefully consider all the evidence before making a final decision in writing. The judge’s written decision is called a “final order.” The final order will be sent to all parties to the case and will explain the facts of the case as determined by the judge, the laws that apply to the case, and the judge’s legal conclusions based on how the law applies to the facts.
The final order will also explain your appeal rights, in case you disagree with the judge’s decision.
What can I do if I disagree with a judge’s final order?
If you disagree with a final order, you may either:
- ask the OAH judge to reconsider the decision or grant relief from the final order, or
- file an appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Visit the Closed Case Forms page, under “Filings & Forms,” for more information and instructions.
I need more help.
If you cannot find a lawyer or choose to represent yourself, you may talk with someone with the OAH Resource Center for additional help. Please call (202)-442-9094 and press “4” from the main menu, or send an email to [email protected]. The OAH Resource Center cannot give legal advice or be your lawyer, but our staff are happy to answer questions and give general information about child support enforcement and the OAH hearing process.