The two main options for a parent in need of child support is either to file a lawsuit seeking child support or sit back and hope the other parent will decide to voluntarily provide support. If you are reading this blog article the second option is likely not going so well. So how do you go about filing a lawsuit for child support? You can file an action for support yourself, hire an attorney, or contact your local Child Support Enforcement Agency ("CSE" or IV-D agency) to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Your tax dollars fund the Child Support Enforcement Agency and there is a nominal fee of $25 to start the initial application and worksheet. Be aware that CSE will not represent you in a custody dispute should one arise as a result of you filing for monetary support.
If you decide to find your local CSE agency they generally will first write a letter to the other side asking them to provide pay-stubs to calculate child support under the NC guidelines in hopes of reaching an agreement without a contested Court hearing. This is both good and bad. The good is sometimes this results in a quick resolution without the need for a contested Court hearing. The bad is this can lead to a delay if the other side refuses to cooperate. If you feel the other side is never going to agree to anything you may wish to hire your own attorney as the North Carolina Court system can be an agonizing and lengthy process.
How long does it take for child support to start?
Even if you file a lawsuit for only child support today it can take months to get in front of a Judge in NC and even longer for wage withholding to begin. First you have to serve the other side by Sheriff or certified mail. That can sometime take days or weeks. Next they have 30 days upon service to file a written answer with the Court. This deadline can be extended for an additional 30 days giving them 60 days before they have to even Answer your Complaint. Next your local trial court administrator has to calendar your case for hearing. Depending on what County your action has been filed this can take months. Finally, after a Judge Orders child support be paid it will take additional time for Raleigh to assign a MPI case number, send a letter to the employer to begin wage withholding, and even more time for the company to begin payroll deductions.
Before you freak out and think there is no point because you will be homeless or starving before you receive a dime never forget the sooner you start the process the sooner you will begin receiving support. You may also apply for Medicaid, food stamps, or other government benefits in the interim as you wait for child support to begin. In addition sometimes simply filing a lawsuit prompts the other parent to begin paying as many fear going before a Judge to explain why they failed to support their child.