Ask the Lawyer; Child Support

01 Sep Ask the Lawyer; Child Support

I recently answered the following question from one of the Nashville PRIDE’s readers in my “Ask the Lawyer” column and thought that others might benefit from the information…

 

My boyfriend and I recently broke up.  We had lived together and have a 6 month old baby.  While we were together, we shared all of the bills and expenses.  With him moving out, I’m afraid that he may not live up to his responsibilities. What is the process for filing for child support, and what documents to you need?

 

First off, I’m so sorry to hear this. This must be a stressful time for you. Please know that, fortunately, the child support process is pretty easy (well, relatively easy to get the order for support, but maybe not so easy to collect). There is very little guesswork in a child support award, as it is determined by Tennessee law based purely on mathematics and the number of days each of you has with your child.

 

In order to apply for support, you will need to visit the Twentieth Judicial District’s (Davidson County) Child Support Office in Metro Center at 44 Vantage Way, Suite 300, Nashville, TN 37228, (office) 615-726-0530, (fax) 615-515-6701, (email) judicialdistrict20.dhs@tn.gov. The application to establish support is fairly involved. It is wisest to print it at home here http://www.state.tn.us/humanserv/forms/HS-2912.pdf, then fill it out and take it with you. The Department of Human Services gives the following explanation at the top of the form, quoted verbatim below:

 

INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • You must notify us immediately if you move or change your telephone number.
  • Your cooperation is required.
  • You must return any money sent to you in error.
  • You must notify us in writing if you wish to cancel services.

 

WE CAN ATTEMPT TO

  • Locate a parent whose whereabouts are unknown,
  • Establish paternity for a child,
  • Establish and enforce court orders for child support payments, unpaid medical bills, and/or medical insurance,
  • Review and modify child support orders, and
  • Collect child support arrears using a variety of enforcement methods, including intercepting federal income tax refunds.

 

WE CANNOT

  • Guarantee that our attempts to establish or enforce child support will be successful,
  • Handle matters that are not related to child support such as divorce, visitation or custody disputes, or
  • Give your case priority over any other cases we have.

 

AFTER WE RECEIVE YOUR COMPLETED APPLICATION, WE WILL

  • Review your case,
  • Decide the proper action to take on your case, and
  • Make every effort to provide the needed service.

 

IN ADDITION

  • We will contact you if we need additional information from you, and to inform you of appointments and court hearing dates.
  • Your signature on the application form indicates your agreement that the agency may file a legal action in your case and may close your case if you do not cooperate.
  • Our attorneys represent the State of Tennessee. They will help provide you with child support services, but they do not represent you or any other individual.
  • Case information will be given out only for child support purposes.
  • All child support payments will be processed through the State Disbursement Unit in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

In addition to the application, bring the following documents and information to the child support office with you:

 

  1. Full name, address, phone number, date of birth, and physical description (or preferably photograph) of the person from whom you are seeking support.
  2. Social security numbers of all parties—yours, the person from whom you are seeking child support, and the child.
  3. Child’s birth certificate.
  4. List of all legal actions related to child support and/or paternity and certified copies of orders (if you have not established paternity yet, then the child support office can assist you with that as well).
  5. Payment records if the person from whom you are seeking support has made payments to you in the past – even if the payments were not pursuant to a court order.
  6. Date and place of marriage, divorce, or separation.
  7. Name and address of the current or most recent employer of the person from whom you are seeking support, and his or her income if known.
  8. Names of friends and relatives of the person from whom you are seeking support, and organizations to which he or she belongs.
  9. Any asset information about the party from whom you are seeking support – for instance, the value of cars, boats, homes, other sources of income, etc.
  10. Whether you have contacted an attorney regarding support and/or paternity (reading this column does not count, as I am not giving you legal advice).
  11. Whether you receive or have ever received Families First (or AFDC), TennCare, Medicaid, or any other government assistance.
  12. The kind of medical plan that the party from whom you are seeking support has and the policy number. Your medical plan and policy number, and the cost of adding the child onto your plan.

 

**Note: it would be nearly impossible to have every piece of information listed above. Don’t let that stop you from seeking support – just go to the child support office with whatever information you are able to find out. But, make a good faith effort to collect all of the information listed above.

 

Once you submit your application, the child support office has attorneys who will file a petition and handle the petition in court (juvenile court hears petitions when the parents were not married, and Circuit court hears petitions when the parents were married at one time). But, it is important for you to remember that those attorneys represent the State of Tennessee – they do not represent you. So, if you think that something is inaccurate regarding the child support office’s calculation, then you might want to hire your own attorney. Or, if you are a parent who is served with a petition seeking support, then you might want to hire an attorney to make sure that the support award established is accurate under the law. As an aside, I have litigated against a number of the child support attorneys in the courtroom – I find them to be incredibly fair, even when I am on the other side. They have huge caseloads, but it is my experience that they are kind people who will do their best to figure out what the lawful child support figure is in your case.

 

Rachel owns and runs the Law Office of Rachel Thomas PLC, located at 114 30th Avenue South, where she focuses on representing persons accused of committing crimes as well as those dealing with family law issues (divorce or child support/custody). You can find additional legal information on Rachel’s website’s News/Blog page (www.rachelthomaslaw.com). Her contact information is rachelthomas@rachelthomaslaw.com or (615) 645-9596.

 

This information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Reading this post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Attorney Rachel Thomas. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.