Parents in Maine have a legal obligation to financially support their minor children to the best of their ability, regardless of whether they are married or not. In cases where parents do not live together, one parent often pays child support to the other. This applies to both divorce cases and cases involving parental rights and responsibilities for unmarried parents.
Calculating child support
Step 1: Completing the Child Support Affidavit form
To determine the combined income of both parents, each parent needs to fill out a Child Support Affidavit (FM-050). This form collects information about income and certain expenses. Once completed, the Affidavit must be signed in front of a Notary Public, attorney, or court clerk and submitted to the court before the Case Management Conference. A copy of the completed Affidavit should also be given to the other parent. It’s important to note that the information provided in the Affidavit is confidential and cannot be accessed by the public.
Step 2: Completing the Child Support Worksheet
Once both parents have exchanged income information through the Child Support Affidavits, the combined income is used to fill out a Child Support Worksheet (FM-040). The Worksheet provides detailed instructions on how to complete it.
The Worksheet designates one parent as the “Primary Care Provider” and the other as the “Non-Primary Care Provider.” Generally, the court will order the Non-Primary Care Provider to pay child support to the Primary Care Provider. The Worksheet also takes into account daycare and medical expenses, giving credit to each parent for these costs. Additionally, it considers support paid for other children or to a former spouse, as well as any other children living in the Non-Primary Care Provider’s home. If both parents share the child’s care almost equally, a Supplemental Worksheet (FM-040-A) must be completed.
The Child Support Guidelines are then applied to the information on the Worksheet (and Supplemental Worksheet, if applicable) to determine the amount of child support. In certain circumstances, the court can deviate from these guidelines if there is valid evidence to support a different amount.
If the Child Support Worksheet (and Supplemental Worksheet, if applicable) has not been completed before the Case Management Conference, a magistrate may fill it out during that time. It’s important to bring all relevant financial information, including the cost of daycare and health insurance for the children, to the conference.
How can I modify a child support order?
If you wish to change a court-ordered child support arrangement, you must file a written request (a “motion”) with the court. The process for changing or enforcing an order in a family matters case should be followed. If it has been more than three years since the original child support order was issued, you can ask the court to reassess the order and recalculate the amount. If it has been less than three years, you can request a modification if a change in your income or the other parent’s income would result in a fifteen percent or greater change in the child support amount.
How can I enforce a child support order?
Immediate Income Withholding
If the child support order specifies “immediate income withholding,” the designated amount for child support will be automatically deducted from the paying parent’s paycheck. The Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) under the Department of Health and Human Services can assist in setting up immediate withholding. More details can be found in the section below on Support Enforcement and Recovery Services.
Motion to Enforce or Motion for Contempt
If a parent is not fulfilling their financial obligations as stated in the child support order, you can file a motion in court to enforce the order. Please refer to the Changing or Enforcing an Order in a Family Matters Case guidelines for further information.
Support Enforcement and Recovery Services
The Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services offers child support enforcement services. It is not necessary to have any other involvement with the department to apply for DSER services.
DSER can assist parents seeking to enforce a child support order in various ways, including collecting past due support, imposing penalties on non-paying parents (such as liens on property, license or passport revocation, direct collection from bank accounts or lottery winnings, and reporting child support debt to credit bureaus), establishing paternity, and collecting money from the child’s other parent.
Recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits or other qualifying income-based benefits will automatically receive child support services from DSER without needing to request them.
Parents who have not received cash assistance from TANF
For parents who have never received public assistance for the children involved in their case, there may be a small fee for DSER assistance. The Federal government requires DSER to collect a $25.00 annual federal fee for each case in which the State has disbursed at least $500.00 of child support for a person who has never received cash assistance from TANF.
For more information about DSER, including contact details, visit the DSER Guide to Services on the Office of Family Independence webpage of the Department of Health and Human Services. You can also reach out to the DSER Voice Response System at (800) 371-7179 or (207) 624-7830, or call (207) 624-4100 to speak to a representative.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance provides step-by-step instructions on calculating child support. You can find more information on this topic in their guide titled “Calculating Your Child Support.”
If you are interested in learning about the collection of past due child support by the Department of Health and Human Services, you can refer to Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s resource on “Child Support and Debt Due for Past Support.”