Do I Need a Lawyer to Establish or Enforce a Child Support Order?

Every state has child support agencies that are set up to help you establish and enforce a child support order.  By filling out a short application and submitting a copy of your support order, if one already exists, you easily can enlist the help of your local child support office.  These offices offer free child support services to people who receive public assistance, such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (“TANF”), Medicaid, or food stamps.  Even if you don’t receive any sort of public assistance, you can still get help with a child support order by paying a fee of approximately $25.00. 

You can also hire a lawyer in private practice to help you establish and/or enforce a child support order.  This can be particularly wise when you not only have child support issues with your ex, but you also are having other problems with your ex that concern your child.  While federal law requires that state and local child support agencies assist you in establishing and/or enforcing a child support order, you need to remember that these agencies deal strictly with child support, and not with any other issues concerning your child for which you might need help.  Issues such as child custody and visitation are extraordinarily important to you, your ex, and most of all, your child, and often must be dealt with through the court system.  For these types of issues, you are well advised to hire a lawyer who specializes in family law matters.

Whether you are working with a private lawyer or a lawyer from a child support agency, he or she will guide you through the often complex process of filing the appropriate paperwork with the court system in order to get a child support order.  A lawyer can help you locate your ex, properly and legally serve your ex with notice that you want a child support order, and document any income that your ex receives.  A lawyer can also help you determine what financial information you need in order to properly calculate a child support obligation for your ex.  Calculating child support is often rather complicated, as well, and can require the use of specialized software programs. 

Once a child support is established, it can be difficult for some parents to enforce it.  If your ex won’t pay his or her child support, your only way to enforce the order is through your local child support office or your court system.  Again, either a private lawyer or a child support office can help you with enforcement of your child support order.  Both types of lawyers can obtain garnishment orders if your ex is employed, or file contempt of court proceedings against your ex for not following the court’s child support order.  Other remedies include intercepting tax refunds, placing holds on passports, and entering liens against vehicles and real estate.  A lawyer is helpful in pursuing any of these enforcement remedies.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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