In our last article, I talked about the process of receiving child support and how long it will take to get child support payments from the other parent of your child. Remember, state laws vary in terms of the requirements of receiving a certain amount of child support your children are entitled to receive. It’s also best to file for child support as soon as you can, so it’s best to know where your local child support agency is.
Part of the process of filing for child support is hiring an attorney and attending a child support hearing. While you aren’t required to have an attorney if you don’t want one to present you in court, it is recommended you have someone with expert knowledge in family law by your side when you sue for child support. Aside from this, here’s what you should expect.
If You Can’t Hire an Attorney, Your Local Child Support Agency Can Find One for You
The court will not provide an attorney for you during your hearing, nor will it provide one for the other parent. The Assistant Attorney General of your area will be present, but this attorney will support neither parent and represents the state.
You aren’t required to have an attorney present during the hearing, but it is strongly recommended. An attorney – especially one well-versed in family law – can determine how much the other parent should be paying for child support. Without a lawyer, you may be tempted to accept an offer that seems generous but is actually way less than the legal amount of child support your child is entitled to.
You can find plenty of attorneys in your state that deal in family law, thought they generally charge $250 per hour. If you cannot afford this, visit your local child support agency. They can point you to attorneys who may take on your case pro-bono or for a lower rate.
Your Child Support Order Will Address All Your Child’s Needs from the Other Parent
Your child support order does not only dictate how much the other parent should pay you. Contrary to popular belief, child support is not limited to single mothers who have never married their child’s father. This also applies to ex-spouses who have gained custody of their children during divorce proceedings and need financial support from their ex.
A child support order confirms paternity (via a paternity test), the amount of child support to be paid, medical support if the child has special needs, custody agreement of the child, and the visitation rights of the parent who doesn’t have full custody.
If There is a Family Violence Situation, the Court Can Modify Proceedings
In case of divorce due to a history of spousal abuse and you require child support but don’t necessarily feel safe around your former spouse, you can inform the court staff to provide you with extra security measures to keep you and your former spouse separate. Some examples include providing security escort while heading to and leaving the courtroom, instructing both parties to arrive and leave at different times, and placing a guard between the two parties at all times.
In some cases, it is even possible to hold a child support hearing with one parent not being present in the room and being represented by an attorney. However, if the hearing escalates to the point that a judge has to make a decision, both parents may have to stand in front of the judge.
Write Down Your Main Points for Child Support
In some cases, you may be required to speak in the hearing. At least a day prior to your hearing, it’s best to sit down with your lawyer, discuss your main points, and draft a statement you can bring with you. Not everyone is skilled at speaking, and you may be nervous to speak in court. Having pointers and a script with you can help you remember what it is you want to say.
Bring All the Necessary Documents Needed
While not all of these documents may be used, it’s best to bring all the documents that you think will be useful to your case. Things like a payslip (or just proof of how much you make), medical records, utility bills, and anything that can help the court determine how much you need to raise your child in a healthy environment.
You Won’t Be Seeing the Judge Unless Necessary
In most courts, you won’t immediately be facing a judge. If you and your child’s other parent are on amicable terms and can easily come to an agreement, you’ll likely only have to face an Assistant Attorney General or a child support officer to hear you out.
The only time you’ll be seeing a judge is when there are certain terms you and the other parent can’t agree on and neither of you will budge. In such cases, a judge will be necessary to hear both parties before determining what to include in the child support order.
Both Parents Must Comply with the Court Order
After the court order is finalized, both parents must comply with it or they can be criminally prosecuted. The stipulations in a court order usually list down what both parents expect the other to do. For example, if the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support, the other parent can file a case against them in court. Or, if the custodial parent refuses to acknowledge the other parent’s visitation rights and prevents them from visiting their children as stipulated in the court order, the non-custodial parent can file a case.
Because of the intricacies of the law included in making a child support court order, it is strongly recommended that you go into the court prepared with the necessary documents, notes to help you with your statement, and an experienced attorney to provide you with legal guidance. By having these, you can ensure that you can fight for the appropriate amount of child support your child deserves from their other parent.