ORS automatically opens a child support case when a child is part of an application for Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance. (In Utah, Cash Assistance may also be called TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or FEP. Medical Assistance is commonly called Medicaid.)

The parent, relative, or legal caretaker who applies for these benefits does not choose to start the child support process. The law requires ORS to start it.

In Utah, the child support process does not start when someone applies for SNAP, WIC, Child Care, and many other programs. Other states have different rules.

Child Support and the Repayment of Public Assistance

When a child receives Cash Assistance, the support is “assigned” to the state in exchange for the financial assistance.  This means that ORS can try to collect the support to help pay back the Cash Assistance that the child has received.

Noncustodial parents do not have to pay back everything that Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance has paid for the child’s benefits. Instead, they have to pay the specific, legally determined amount of child support that they owe for the time that the child receives those benefits.

If the children stop getting Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance and the child support case stays open, then the custodial parent begins to receive payments made toward current support.

Child Support Debt and Public Assistance Child Support Cases

Child support debt builds up when a noncustodial parent misses a payment. That can happen whether the child support is paid to the custodial parent or to the state for Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance. 

Some child support cases are only ever paid to one party: either the state or the custodial parent. In those cases, debt is only built up to one of those two parties.

Other child support cases have been paid to the state at one time and to the custodial parent at another. 

In those cases, debt can build up to either party. Payments toward that debt may then go to the custodial parent, the state, or both.

Contact us to understand how it would work for your particular case.

Good Cause

If you are a parent, relative, or legal guardian who is applying for Cash Assistance or Medical Assistance, you have to work with us cooperatively.

If you are worried that working with child support may lead you or the child to suffer physical or emotional harm, you have the right to claim that you have a good cause for not cooperating.

You make a good cause claim to the Department of Workforce Services, not ORS. The Department of Workforce Services will decide whether to approve or deny your claim.

The Department of Workforce Services will tell ORS that you have made that request. Eventually, they will also tell us whether your claim has been approved or denied. Until they tell us, we will take no action on your open child support case. 

However, you are still required to help us complete your child support application with all the information available to you. By itself a good cause claim does not allow you to submit an incomplete application.