The Support Process: Important Information
Everyone involved in a support action needs to understand how the process works in order to make informed decisions about whether and how to pursue support.
Benefits of Receiving Support
- Support payments may increase the family’s total income;
- A support order may include health care coverage or payments towards medical expenses, as well as payments towards child care expenses;
- When paternity is established for any children of unmarried parents, a legal relationship will be established that may result in any children being eligible for future benefits from the other parent, such as an inheritance, veteran’s benefits, social security benefits, or life insurance.
The Support Process
- The parent with custody of the child, also called the custodial parent, or the caretaker will be asked to provide information to help locate the noncustodial parent(s). If the parents are not married, paternity must be established;
- A spouse will be asked to provide information to locate the other spouse;
- It is necessary to contact the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) to determine if the noncustodial parent or spouse will be ordered to pay support and, if so, how much;
- Every adult in the support action will receive court papers, with the addresses of each party;
- Every adult involved in the support action will be required to attend conferences and hearings;
- These requirements may present safety risks.
Addressing Safety Risks
Pursuing support may present safety risks for some individuals or families. The support process provides the following:
- If domestic violence is reported, the DRS can place a Family Violence Indicator (FVI) on the file so that addresses and other confidential information will not be given out or printed on any papers that are sent to others;
- The DRS or Family Court may provide safeguards if domestic violence is reported. Each county has different safety options and procedures available;
- Individuals applying for or receiving cash assistance (TANF) may be excused from the requirement to pursue support based on domestic violence or other good cause.
Victims or potential victims of domestic violence may include: children, custodial parents, noncustodial parents, caretakers, and spouses. Any individual with safety concerns should try to talk to the Domestic Relations Section (DRS) or Family Court staff at least 1 week before a scheduled conference or hearing.
To process support, the DRS needs information about all adult and child parties to the support action. The parent(s), caretaker, and/or spouse need to provide as much of the following as possible:
- Current address, dates of birth, and social security numbers;
- Children’s social security numbers, dates of birth, and birth certificates;
- Name and address of the health insurance companies;
- Name and address of employers and most recent paystubs and tax return;
- Dates of marriage, separation, and/or divorce and copies of any divorce documents if the parents are or were married.
Ask the DRS or Family Court staff for help! Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Everyone who applies for or receives cash assistance (TANF) is required to establish paternity and pursue support. If domestic or family violence or other circumstances makes complying with these requirements inappropriate or dangerous, the TANF applicant/recipient may be excused based on good cause.
What is considered Good Cause for not filing for support?
Domestic Violence - Good Cause is granted when establishing paternity or pursuing support would:
- Make it more difficult for an individual or family member to escape domestic violence;
- Place an individual or family member at risk of further domestic violence; or
- Unfairly penalize an individual who is at risk of further domestic violence.
Rape, Incest or Adoption – Good Cause is granted when:
- The child was conceived as a result of rape or incest;
- Legal proceedings for adoption of the child are pending before a court or the parent is working with an agency that is helping the mother to decide whether or not the child should be placed for adoption and the discussions have not progressed for more than 3 months.
How and when a TANF client can request Good Cause.
Good Cause can be requested at any time. When DRS is told that someone wants to request Good Cause they will not take any action on establishing paternity or support. Applicants/recipients will be referred to the County Assistance Office (CAO) for help in filling out the domestic violence verification form (PA 1747) or providing verification in cases of rape, incest, or adoption. The CAO will decide whether or not to grant Good Cause and will give written notice of this decision. An adverse decision may be appealed by the individual claiming good cause.
Ask the CAO or DRS staff for help! Don’t be afraid to ask questions!