Glossary of Terms

Absent Parent: A parent whose address is unknown and is financially responsible for a share of child support.

Affidavit: A statement, in writing, made under oath before a notary.

Alternative Payment Plan: A payment plan that the parent and child support agency agree on that provides a structured way to pay off past-due child support while continuing to pay the current amount due.

Arrears (or Arrearage): Support payments that are unpaid and past-due.

Assignment: Signing over child support payments to the state of Wisconsin as a condition for receiving cash benefits, or signing over medical support payments as a condition of receiving Medicaid benefits.

Child Support: Money paid by a parent for the financial support of a minor child. It may include medical, dental and educational expenses.

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

Complaint: A written document filed in court in which the person who starts the action names the people and allegations involved, and the results wanted.

Contempt: Failure to 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.

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.

Enforcement: Activities to make sure that a court order is obeyed.

Establish: To bring into existence by a legal process.

Initiating State: The state that sends a request to another state for help in establishing or enforcing a child support order.

Judgment: The official decision of the court.

Jurisdiction: The legal authority of a court.

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: The man who is recognized by law as the father of a child.

Legally Obligated: Responsible under law.

Lien: A hold on property. A lien must be satisfied (paid in full) before the property can be sold.

Lien Docket: An electronic list of child support payers with a certain level of child support debt.

Medical Support: Health insurance or payment for medical costs.

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

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

Order to Show Cause: A court order telling a person to appear in court and explain why a certain order should not be entered.

Paternity Establishment: Legal determination of fatherhood.

Petition: A formal written request.

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

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

Plaintiff: A person who brings a legal action or lawsuit, also called the petitioner.

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

Responding State: The state receiving another state’s request for support enforcement services.

Respondent: A person against whom a court action is started.

Shared Time: The child lives with each parent part of the time. Both parents assume all costs in proportion to the number of days he or she cares for the child. The time with each parent may or may not be equal.

Split Placement: A family with two or more children in which one parent has primary physical placement of one or more children and the other parent has primary placement of the other children.

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

Substitute Care: Cases in which the child lives in foster care, a group home or another type of institution. In these cases, both parents may be ordered to pay child support.

Summons: A legal notice and warning given to a person when that person is sued.