Child Support Process: Administrative vs. Judicial

4/20/2017

Child Support Process 

Court HouseStates have discretion in establishing child support orders and can choose to use an administrative or judicial process, or a combination of both. The two processes are similar, the main difference being who sets the order. Child support orders can be established by the courts or by an administrative entity. In the administrative process, the state child support agency, also referred to as the IV-D agency, establishes the support order, usually without a hearing. In the judicial process, the court sets the order.

Many states use a hybrid, or quasi-judicial process, which incorporates some judicial elements mixed with administrative processes. For example, many states may use an administrative forum, such as an attorney general’s office, but may incorporate a judicial element, such as an attorney. The three elements that determine where a process falls on the administrative/judicial continuum are 1) the forum used, 2) presiding officer, and 3) attorney involvement. The forum used simply means where the child support order is processed. Forums can include a courtroom, an administrative office of the court, the offices of an executive branch division such as the office of administrative hearings or attorney general’s office, the IV-D umbrella agency, or the IV-D agency itself. The presiding officer is the person who is in charge of supervising and running the process. Attorney involvement refers to whether or not an attorney represents the IV-D agency during the process.

A state with a highly judicial process is one in which the forum used is a courtroom, the presiding officer is a judge, and the IV-D agency is represented by an attorney. States may be quasi-judicial, which means that the forum used may be a courtroom, but instead of a judge presiding, it may be a hearing officer who oversees the process. It is difficult to categorize states as fully judicial or fully administrative as the process differs depending on the type of order being processed. For example, there may be different processes for contested (challenged) and uncontested orders.

50 State Table: Child Support Process

State

Type of Process

When Is the Process Used

Statutory Citation for
Administative Process

Judicial 

Administrative

Judical

Administrative

Alabama

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Alaska

X

X

When not using the child support agency

When no order has been set. 

Alaska Stat. § 25.27.160

Alaska Stat. § 25.27.165

Arizona

X

 

In all cases where the Dept. of Child Support Enforcement is unable to obtain a stipulated order

N/A

N/A

Arkansas

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

California

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Colorado

X

X

(1) a court order exists which establishes a monthly child support obligation; or (2) The case requires paternity establishment and the case involves a presumed father and one or more alleged father(s); (3) One or both of the parents is under age 18; or (4) A non-custodial party requests a court hearing prior to the scheduled Administrative Negotiation Conference; or (5) Other situations defined by regulation

All other cases unless (1) the county director or designated IV-A staff has made a finding of good cause exemption from referral to the Child Support Enforcement Unity; or (2) the parties cannot agree to certain issues at the Administrative Process Negotiation Conference.

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 26-13.5-101 through 26-13.5-115

Connecticut

X

X

When the noncustodial parent does not agree to the guidelines amount.

When noncustodial parent agrees to the amount of support indicated by the child support guidelines.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-172

Delaware

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

District of Columbia

X

X

Administrative orders require judicial approval.

When both parties can reach agreement, order must be ratified by court.

N/A

Florida

X

X

Foster care cases; change-of-payee cases; Medicaid-only cases where the custodial parent or caretaker relative does not want the Department of Revenue to address child support issues; judicial referrals already in progress; and cases previously dismissed (except for lack of service or record activity). Additionally, if the cases do not meet the criteria for the administrative establishment of support, or if the noncustodial parent makes a timely request for a judicial determination of support.

If paternity has been established, or is presumed by law and there is no existing support order

Fla. Stat. § 409.2563

Fla. Stat. § 120.80(14)(c)

Georgia

X

X

Each circuit determines the best course of action to take.

In those circuits where court time is limited, the administrative process is used.

Ga. Code § 50-13-40

Office of State Administrative Hearings Rules, Chapter 616

Guam

X

X

When parties raise issues that fall outside the Administrative Hearing Officer's jurisdiction.

When the CSED is establishing an order, the action is filed with the Judicial Hearing Division that office will hear all child support matters.

Guam Code § 19-5A-5501 et.seq.

Hawaii

X

X

For paternity cases and Non IV-D cases

Unless the case is a complex case that requires judicial action for IV-D cases, excluding paternity cases.

Hawaii Revised Statutes § 576E.

Idaho

X

 

Always

 

N/A

Illinois

X

X

Any case where the circuit court has taken jurisdiction and there is an order of the court with active terms; any case where one or both parents and/or one or more children in common are the subject of another family law order; any case where one or more of the participants may be a victim of domestic violence; any case where the referral originated in the Title IV-E agency; any case where there is a point of law that may be contentious or difficult; any case where the parents appear to be in significant conflict with each other; any case where paternity is being established for older children; and any other case where a judicial environment is deemed necessary.

Individual case circumstances and the volume of cases determine the process used. Typically used only when the parties are the two parents of a child and are generally in agreement.

Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/10-1 et.seq.

Indiana

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Iowa

X

X

Might be used when paternity is legally established for some, but not all, children.

Most actions are administrative.

Iowa Code Chapter 252C

Iowa Code Chapter 252F

Kansas

X

 

Always

N/A

Kan. Stat. Ann. § 39-7,142

Kentucky

X

X

Always

Kentucky law allows support to be established administratively but judicial is always used

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 205.712

Louisiana

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Maine

X

X

When the court has assumed jurisdiction over the parties and issue.

Unless a court has assumed jurisdiction over the parties and the issue.

Me. Rev. Stat. § 2251-2456

Maryland

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Massachusetts

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Michigan

X

 

UIFSA/URESA registration requests are handled by the Friend of the Court office in obligor's county of residence; interstate income withholding requests are processed by the Friend of the Court office in the county where the obligor's employer is located; support collections made under any type of MI child support order processed by the Friend of the Court office where the order is entered.

UIFSA/URESA petitions are handled by the prosecuting Attorney in respondent's county.

Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.517

Minnesota

X

 

When issues that are outside the scope of the expedited process are addressed, such as: custody, visitation, or contested parentage

N/A

The Minnesota Supreme Court created an expedited child support process to establish, modify and enforce support. Minn. Stat. § 484.702. The rules for the expedited process are promulgated by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Minn. Gen. R. Prac 351-379.

Mississippi

X

 

Always

N/A

Miss. Code Ann. § 43-19-31

Missouri

X

X

A case is generally handled judicially if: 1) the noncustodial parent is a minor; 2) it involves a presumed vs. alleged situation; 3) a presumption or legal finding of paternity cannot be established administratively

When possible. Judicial process is used otherwise.

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 454.470

Montana

X

X

Montana court orders and court orders from other states must be modified by a district court. The final decision and order of the administrative process must be filed with and approved by the applicable Montana court.

If no prior judicial order exists or if there is a prior judicial order authorizing use of administrative process.

Mont. Code § 40-5-201 et.seq.

Mont. Code § 40-5-801 et.seq.

Nebraska

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Nevada

X (quasi)

 

Almost Always

N/A

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125B.080

New Hampshire

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

New Jersey

X

 

If paternity has not been determined before the initial support conference, the Child Welfare Agency/Child Support Unit follows judicial procedures to establish paternity

N/A

N/A

New Mexico

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

New York

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

North Carolina

X

X

When agreement cannot be reached within a reasonable time

When the parties agree to the terms

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 110-133

North Dakota

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Ohio

X

 

Judicial establishment via UIFSA tribunal.

N/A

 

Oklahoma

X

X

When it is more efficient than the administrative process or when administrative process is unavailable for a particular area.

Most offices use the administrative process.

Okla. Stat. tit. 56, § 237 et. seq.

Oregon

X

X

If the order is appealed, or a party requests the case be heard by a judge in a paternity proceeding

Whenever possible

Or. Rev. Stat. §416.415

Or. Rev. Stat. § 416.400 through 416.465

Pennsylvania

X

X

If action is contested

If action is uncontested

Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. tit. 23, § 4305

Puerto Rico

X

X

Non IV-D Cases

IV-D Cases

Act Number 5, of December 30th, 1986, as amended, 8 L.P.R.A. (Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated)

Rhode Island

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

South Carolina

X

X

In contested cases or natural/legal cases.

In most cases.

S.C. Code Ann. § 63-17-710 et.seq.

South Dakota

X

X

Judicial proceedings are used when a request for a hearing on the Notice of Support Debt is submitted in writing or when a referral is made to the IV-D prosecutor to initiate court proceedings to establish a child support order.

Administrative process is used when a Notice of Support Debt is served on the parents and the action is not contested. Application for an order for support is then filed with circuit court.

S.D. Codified Laws §§ 25-7A-5 through 25-7A-7

Tennessee

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Texas

X

X

In cases involving the following: (1) party is a minor and cannot waive services; (2) child is in foster care; (3) both an alleged and presumed father; (4) remedy is not available administratively; (5) family violence alleged; (6) party is not cooperative or cannot effectively participate

In most circumstances, unless one of the exclusions is applicable or unless the custodial parent does not cooperate.

Tex. Fam. Code § 233.001 et.seq.

Utah

X

X

When a prior judicial order exists or the order involves a minor parent. 

When no prior judicial order exists or there is a prior judicial order authorizing use of administrative process.

Utah Code Ann. §§ 62A-11-301 through 62A-11-328

 

Utah Code Ann. § 63G-4

Vermont

X

 

Always

 

N/A

Virgin Islands

X

X

When Divorce Decree and/or property settlement agreement includes a support obligation

For all IV-D cases, but under exceptional circumstances, the administrative hearing officer may refer the case to the judicial branch

V.I. Code tit. 16, § 354

 

V.I. Regs. 16-013-001, § 354-01 through 354-11

Virginia

X

X

Parties involving minor paternal fathers/non-custodial parent, or incarcerated felons; after administrative process has been exhausted.

Administrative is the state's first preference.

Va. Code § 63.2- 1901-1946

Washington

X

X

If paternity must also be established or if an existing superior court order needs to be modified.

When paternity is not an issue and there is no court order either setting or relieving the non-custodial parent of a support obligation for the child.

Wash. Rev. Code § 74.20A.055

West Virginia

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Wisconsin

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

Wyoming

X

 

Always

N/A

N/A

 

 

 

*PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.

SOURCE: This chart is compiled from information in the Intergovernmental Reference Guide (IRG) from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (Questions I1 through I1.3).

About This NCSL Project

NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.

The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.