(Child Support Division): an Exposé
The inefficiencies of a bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, out-of-control, mismanaged, poorly-run bureaucracy. An inside look, from a former employee.
The Attorney General handles certain kinds of cases, all of which involve child support - either establishing an order or enforcing an order:
- Motion for Enforcement
- Motion to Enforce and Modify
- Motion to Modify
- Motion to Reduce the Unpaid Child Support Amount to a Judgment and to Modify
- A motion to establish a child support order for a married woman who is separated from her husband, and he isn't providing support for the children. This is NOT a divorce action. The AG won't help you get a divorce.
And they further classify your case by whether or not the custodial parent (usually Mom) has ever received AFDC. You're either an AFDC ("P.A.," or Public Assistance) case, or you're Non-AFDC.
Each lawyer employed by the AG is responsible for approximately 5,000 case files. An office that has 20,000 files will have four lawyers, plus a staff of about 28 non-lawyers. They divide the work based on the alphabet based on the Dad's last name A-F, G-N, O-T, U-Z, for instance. The quality of the service you receive may depend on whose "alpha" you fall into.
1. You start your case with the AG by putting in an application. There is no charge to you for their "services," ever.
2. They open a file, and verify the address of the Dad (the fellow whom you want to pay child support). This takes a week or two.
3. Next, a non-lawyer (Child Support Officer, or "CSO") prepares the appropriate pleading to be filed with the Court. Figure at least another week.
4. Then your file goes to one of the lawyers' offices, where it sits for at least another two weeks. Recently, in one office, an attorney had files sitting in his office with unsigned pleadings in them for over six months. Only a lawyer can sign pleadings.
5. Next, the file with the signed pleading (petition for paternity, motion to enforce, motion to modify) goes to an "Administrative Technician" (a clerk) who has to make copies before the pleading is filed with the Court. Figure a minimum of another three days.
6. And then the pleading is actually taken to the District Clerk's office and filed. The District Clerk HATES doing work for the AG. Why? Because (a) the AG gets a discount on its filing fees, and (b) the AG generates a ton of extra work for the (underpaid) District Clerk personnel.
7. This is why the next phase the District Clerk opening up a new file in their office, and issuing the citation for service on the Dad can take another month or two. Remember, the District Clerk folks are COUNTY employees; the AG folks are STATE employees. Neither has any control whatsoever over the other.
8. A citation is issued and sent to the Constables for service. About six weeks after THAT, you'll have your first hearing.
Finally, You're In Court !
9. The AG handles their Court dockets on a "cattle call" basis. They have, in the past, had dockets of over 100 cases ... all set for the same time on the same day! You (Mom) will receive a letter telling you to come to Court, without regard to whether or not the Dad has even been served. Dad, if you haven't been served, and you get one of these letters, you do NOT have to go to Court ... unless you just want to. Mom, you might drive downtown, spend $7.00 on parking, sit around in a crowded courtroom for hours, only to be told that Dad wasn't served, and therefore the AG can't proceed today. "Sorry about that. We'll reset your case, we'll let you know when to come back."
In fact, even if Dad has been served, the law says he has [approximately] 21 days to file an answer. If you come to Court, and Dad has been served, and the requisite amount of time (for him to file an answer) hasn't passed, and he doesn't come to Court voluntarily ... guess what? Wasted trip. See you next month.
And ... if he has been served, and has filed an answer, and he didn't get at least 45 days' notice of the final hearing ... he can announce "not ready," and he automatically gets a continuance. Even though YOU'VE been sitting there in the courtroom waiting for two hours. ANOTHER wasted trip.
The system operates 100% for their convenience, and 0% for yours.