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Glossary of Terms

  • Administrative process

    Method by which support orders are established and / or enforced by an agency rather than by courts and judges.

  • Arrearages

    Unpaid child support payments for past periods owed by a parent who is court ordered to pay.

  • Assignment of Support Rights

    A person receiving temporary cash assistance (RIWorks), child care benefits and / or RIte Care agrees to assign his her rights to collect child support to tehOffice of Child Support services, including arrearages, paid or owed by the obligated parent, in exchange for receipt of RIWorks and other benefits.

  • Complaint

    Written document filed in court in which the person initiating the action names the persons, allegations, and relief sought

  • Consent Agreement

    Voluntary written agreement for support and/or health insurance

  • Custodial Parent

    Person with legal custody and with whom the child lives; may be the parent, other relative or someone else and to whom child support is owed.

  • Custody

    Legal determination which establishes with whom a child should live.

  • Default

    Failure of a defendant to file an answer, response, or appeal in a civil case within a certain number of days after having been served with a summons and complaint

  • Default Judgment

    Decision made by the court when the defendant fails to respond.

  • Defendant

    Person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun.

  • Enforcement

    Use of administrative and judicial methods to secure past due support

  • Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)

    A service operated by the Office of Office of Child Support Services in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services to assist the States in locating responsible persons for the purpose of obtaining child support payments; also used in cases of parental kidnapping related to custody and visitation determinations; FPLS obtains employer and home address information from Federal agencies

  • Garnishment

    A legal proceeding whereby a portion of a person's wages or other assets is withheld and applied to payment of child support. Also called wage withholding.

  • Genetic Testing

    DNA analysis of inherited factors of mother, child and alleged father, which can exclude or show a high probability that a particular man fathered a particular child. Sample is obtained through buccal swabs.

  • Guidelines

    A standard method for setting child support obligations based on the income of the parent(s) and other factors as determined by State law. Rhode Island applies an Income Shares Model.

  • Immediate wage withholding

    Automatic deductions by an employer from income which start as soon as the agreement for support is established.

  • Jurisdiction

    Legal authority which a court has over particular persons, certain types of cases and in a defined geographical area

  • Legal father

    An individual, recognized by law as the father.

  • Lien

    A claim upon real or personal property to prevent sale or transfer until the child support past due amount.

  • Long arm statute

    A law, that permits one State to claim personal jurisdiction over someone who lives in another State based upon certain minimum contacts.

  • Rite Care

    Federally funded medical support for low-income families.

  • Medical Support

    Legal provision for insurance coverage, or a cash medical payment.

  • Non-custodial parent

    Parent who does not have legal custody of a child but who has a responsibility for financial support.

  • Obligation

    Amount of money to be paid as child support by the responsible parent and the manner by which it is to be paid.

  • Offset

    Amount of money taken from a parent's State or Federal income tax refund or other federal loan to satisfy a child support past due amount.

  • Order

    Direction of a Magistrate, Judge or properly empowered administrative entity.

  • Paternity judgment

    Legal determination of fatherhood.

  • Plaintiff

    Person who brings an action, complains or sues in a civil case.

  • State Parent Locator Service (SPLS)

    A service operated by the State Child Support Enforcement Agencies to locate non-custodial parents, to establish paternity, and establish and enforce child support obligations.


    Uniform Interstate Family Support Act- a law which provides a mechanism for establishing and enforcing support obligations when the non-custodial parent lives in one State or country and the custodial parent and child(ren) live in another.

  • Visitation/Parenting Time

    The right of a non-custodial parent to visit or spend time with his or her children.

  • Wage-withholding

    Procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wages or income to pay child support. May be voluntary or involuntary. Also referred to as garnishment.