Commonly Used Child Support Terms

Adjudication: The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge or other decision-maker such as a master, referee, or hearing officer, based on the evidence submitted by the parties.

Affidavit: A written statement, usually notarized, that is signed under oath or by affirmation.

Alleged Father: A person who has been named as the father of a child born out of wedlock, but who has not been legally determined to be the father. Also referred to as putative father.

Arrearage: Past due, unpaid child support owned by the noncustodial parent. If the parent has arrearages, s/he is said to be “in arrears.”

Assignment of Support Rights: The legal procedure by which a person receiving public assistance agrees to turn over to the State or Tribe any right to child support, including arrearages, paid by the noncustodial parent in exchange for receipt of a cash assistance grant and other benefits. States and Tribes can then use a portion of said child support to defray or recoup the public assistance expenditure.

Biological Father: The man who provided the paternal genes of a child. The biological father is sometimes referred to as the natural father.

Child Support: Financial support paid by parents to help support a child or children of whom they do not have custody. Child support can be entered into voluntary or ordered by a court or a properly empowered administrative agency, depending on state or tribal laws. It may include medical and dental and educational expense.

Child Support Order: A legal document, issued by the court, setting the amount to be paid for the support of a child.

Consent Agreement: Voluntary written admission of paternity or responsibility for child support.

Contempt Failure: To not comply with a court order when a person has the ability to do so.

Court-Ordered Payee: The person the court names to receive the child support.

Custodial Parent (CP): The person who has primary care, custody, and control of the child(ren). Can also be custodial party — a relative, or other person with legal custody of the child(ren).

Custody: The authority assigned to one or both parents by the court to make major decisions regarding their children.

Default: A person’s failure to file an answer or appear in a court case within a certain number of days after being served with a summons or complaint.

Default Judgment: Decision made by the court when the person fails to answer or appear.

Defendant: The person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun.

DNA Testing: The analysis of human cells to facilitate the establishment of paternity.

Enforcement: 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 licenses (e.g. drivers, business, medical, etc.), denial of U.S. passports, contempt of court proceedings, etc. The processes that can be used to get payments from the noncustodial parent or to require compliance with some other provision of the order.

Establishment: The process of determining legal paternity and/or obtaining a court order to put a child support obligation in place.

Garnishment: 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.

In-Kind Support: Non-cash support payments, for example, food or clothing, provided to a custodial parent or child in lieu of cash support payments.

Income Withholding: An order that requires an employer to withhold support from a noncustodial parent’s wages and transfer that withholding to the appropriate agency. Sometimes referred as garnishment.

Jurisdiction: The legal authority which a court or administrative agency has over particular persons and over certain types of cases, usually in a defined geographical area. Also, a term used to signify a geographic location such as a State or Tribe with a tribunal that exercises such authority.

KIDS (Kids Information Data System): Wisconsin’s statewide child support computer system.

Kinship Care: Cases in which the child lives with a relative other than the mother or father. This relative receives a cash benefit from the state. In these cases, both parents may be ordered to pay child support.

Legal Father: A man who is recognized by law as the male parent of a child.

Legally-Obligated: Responsible under law.

Medical Support: Health insurance or payment for medical costs.

Modification: An order that changes the terms of an earlier court order.

Motion: An application to a hearing body for an order or a ruling.

MTS – Model Tribal System: Data base used by Tribes that are not on the state systems to manage caseloads and receive and distribute payments.

Noncustodial Parent (NP): The parent who does not have primary care, custody, or control of the child, and who may have an obligation to pay child support. Also referred to as the obligor.

Order: A legally-binding decision that sets forth the responsibilities of the parties to an action. It can include a determination of parentage and a support obligation, and set forth other rights of the parties. It can be issued by a judge, master or other administrative entity authorized to enter orders. It can also be a consent agreement between the parties that has been ratified by an appropriate official.

Paternity Establishment: Legal determination of fatherhood.

Petition: A formal written request.

Petitioner: A person who brings legal action of lawsuit, also called the plaintiff.

Physical Placement: Periods of time a child spends in the care of a parent, frequently called visitation.

Primary Physical Placement: Where the child lives most of the time.

Respondent: The party answering a petition or motion.

Stipulation: A written agreement that must receive court approval to be valid.

Summons: A notice to a defendant that an action against him or her has been commenced in the court and that a judgment will be issued against him or her if the complaint is not answered within a certain time.