A child may be born to unmarried parents, or the parents may separate after the birth of the child. In cases like this, it is possible that one parent may abandon the child and dump all the childcare duties and costs on the other parent. Child support laws have been set up to ensure that both parents have some obligation to care for their child and that they meet up with this obligation. Usually, child support involves payment of an agreed sum by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent as a contribution towards raising the child.
Child Support Process
Child Support Services (CSS) in Maine is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Custodial parents in the state can submit online applications for child support through the online portal at https://gateway.maine.gov/dhhs/mecportal/ApplicationLogin.aspx, or they can download an application form from https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/sites/maine.gov.dhhs/files/inline-files/Non-Welfare%20Application.pdf and mail it in for submission. When filling the application, the custodial parent will be requested to fill in details about themselves and the noncustodial parent. The details of the noncustodial parent are particularly important as they may be needed to locate and establish contact with the noncustodial parent. There are also fields to fill in details about the child and whether the child was born in or out of the state. A birth certificate should also be submitted alongside the application.
Child Support Services then uses the information provided to try and locate the noncustodial parent. When the other parent has been located, they are served a notice of the child support case. If the child was born out of wedlock, genetic testing may be ordered to establish the paternity of the child. This is usually done by collecting cheek swab samples from the parents and the child, then carrying out DNA tests on the samples. The tests are highly accurate in determining the paternity of the child. When paternity is established, CSS goes about establishing the child support order. The income of the parents, their custody arrangement (in cases of shared custody), etc. are taken into account when establishing the order.
A $35 application fee is charged at the end of the first year so long as the custodial parent has received up to $550 in child support payments. Custodial parents who are receiving public assistance Like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are exempted from this fee and their child support cases are automatically processed.
Further details can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/child-support-services/custodial-parents.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
All parents who apply for child support services will initially be enrolled in the U.S. Bank Reliacard program and issued debit cards. The Reliacard is a preloaded debit card that child support funds are paid into. The card can be used to make purchases and cash withdrawals just like any regular debit card. The U.S. Bank Reliacard has the advantage of helping separate child support entitlements from other general income and expenses. For more information on the Reliacard, visit http://www.usbankreliacard.com/.
However, after their child support order is established, parents may decide to receive the funds via direct deposits into their bank accounts instead. To get the paperwork to process the direct deposit payment arrangement, call (207) 624-4100.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
Child support payments are not arbitrarily decided, rather, certain important factors are considered before establishing the child support order. Information on the income of both parents, the number of children, the special needs of the child (if any), the health insurance status of the child and who provides health coverage (if applicable), the other dependents or child support obligations of the parents, etc. is required to establish a reasonable order.
If there has been considerable change in the income of the noncustodial parent after the support order was established, the custodial parent can request a review of the child support order to reflect these changes. Details on how to do this can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/child-support-services/request-order-review.
Enforcement of Child Support
The Department of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) under the CSS has several tools that can be deployed to ensure that parents pay up their child support obligations. These are actions that can be taken to coerce compliance and are generally not available to collections agencies. The actions include withholding portions of wages, seizing assets, intercepting tax refunds and lottery winnings, placing liens on property, suspending licenses, revoking, and denying passports, etc.
For more information on these enforcement tools, visit https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/child-support-services/custodial-parents.