The Essentials of Serving Child Support Papers: A Comprehensive Overview

This article will provide guidance on The Essentials of Serving Child Support Papers: A Comprehensive Overview. Ensuring the well-being, health, and happiness of your child while juggling the responsibilities of a lawsuit can be incredibly demanding. Bearing the emotional and financial burdens of parenthood alone can be difficult.  In fact, in some United States jurisdictions, both parents are legally obligated to financially support their children. Although it is not common practice, the court may order both parents to pay child support if deemed necessary.   Click here for How Child Support Modification Works in New York: A Guide.

Going to court is the only way forward for parents who cannot come to an agreement about how to divide up their child’s expenses; a judge can then issue a child support order that specifies how much each parent must pay each month. Child support is usually withheld from the paycheck of individuals who are ‘generally employed’ through an Income Withholding Order. An income withholding order can be temporarily halted by a judge if the parent receiving the payment indicates that there is another method of payment.

 We at Undisputed Legal understand that serving child support papers can be difficult. We aim to make the process as easy as possible in an emotionally and legally taxing time.


A form of spousal support, child support is money sent from one parent to the other to help cover expenses related to raising a child. Child support can be mandated by the court or the government, or parents can come to an agreement amongst themselves. The state’s income guidelines are utilized to establish the amounts of child support payments that are ordered by the court.  When parents have children together, child support is a kind of alimony that one parent pays to the other to help pay for their child’s upkeep.

Child support regulations vary from one state to another. A good example of a state with a law that holds parents financially responsible for their children until they turn twenty-one is New York. New York allows you to initiate a child support case if you have primary physical custody of the child and reside with them for the majority of the time as a custodial parent or if reside with the child and are responsible for their care as their guardian or carer, not as a parent. Foster children can have their child support claims pursued by the Department of Social Services as well.

The first federal laws establishing child support guidelines were enacted in the early 1950s. Modifications made to the Social Security Act in the late 1960s gave states the authority to access data stored by the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration in order to identify parents who were not custodial. Cooperation amongst states was mandatory when it came to child support issues. President Ford signed the Child Support Enforcement program and formalized its establishment under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. 

To guarantee that international litigants have access to IV-D services, the Social Security Act was amended. It additionally mandated that states pass the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Child support services are offered by the program to both custodial parents and other parents who are not legally responsible for their children. 

Aside from determining a present child and medical support obligation, the first order may also retroactively set that obligation, as well as assess fees, legal expenses, genetic testing costs, the cost of giving birth, and any applicable late payment charges or interest. Most courts will make the order retroactive to when the support petition was filed with the tribunal, but some states allow retroactivity much further back, even to the child’s birth.

Numerous repercussions may ensue if the parent obligated to pay child support does not do so.. When determining child support, the courts  refer to the state’s ‘guidelines.’ Each parent’s income, tax filing method, and amount of time spent with their children are all factors that are taken into consideration by these guidelines. Tips, commissions, bonuses, income from independent contractors, income from unemployment, disability, worker’s compensation, interest, rental income, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), pensions, and lottery or insurance payouts are all factors that are taken into account. A modification to child support orders may be required at a later date if one parent’s situation changes. After that, changes can be made.

Compliance For Child Support

Neither marriage nor a court order establishing legal custody are prerequisites for a parent to seek child support. It is not necessary for both parents to reside in the same state in order for one party to seek child support. However, in certain states, proof of parentage may be required prior to filing a child support claim. It is customary in New York for both parents to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form or to petition the court for this to happen. If there is any doubt about paternity, the court might mandate a DNA test. Courts in New York have wide latitude to use their best judgment when deciding on paternity for same-sex couples.

 Child support calculations are subject to the laws of each individual state. Child support is affected by a number of factors, including with whom the child primarily lives and the amount of time a child spends visiting the other parent. Both the custodial and noncustodial parents’ incomes are also factors. Child support orders are not based on the parents’ racial or gender identities or sexual orientations. It is important to ensure that the other parent is ‘served’ with the necessary paperwork after initiating a paternity or custody case. Serving the other parent is the responsibility of the petitioner.  Not even the court will take care of serving the papers on their behalf. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can be important to ensure that the other parent gets served. 

Timeliness of service to the defendant is key. The case will be dismissed if you fail to serve by the deadline.  It is customary to personally serve defendants.  The petitioner should make a plan in case the defendant cannot be personally served. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can make sure that you serve the custody or paternity complaint and its accompanying paperwork, including a replica of the summons. On page 2, an official clerk’s signature is required on the summons. 

Parties have a hundred and twenty days from the date of complaint filing to have their papers served. If service is difficult to achieve, it is not the end of your case! Parties have the option to request a court extension for the time limit. If the petitioner needs more time to serve, they can submit the extension paperwork to the court. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal will be a part of your child support journey from start to finish. 

Who can serve your child support papers?

Someone who is not involved in the case, has no stake in its outcome, and is at least eighteen years old is required to serve the papers and is considered a ‘disinterested person.’ No member of the immediate family or a person’s significant other (boyfriend or girlfriend) may serve the papers. 

Petitioners have the option of requesting a third party to serve the papers on their behalf, or they can involve a private process server to do it.  To serve the papers, some judges need a professional process server who is licenced. It is always preferable to involve a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal to serve your papers.  Our Undisputed Legal servers will fill out an Affidavit of Service detailing the time, place, and contents of any documents served on the Defendant. As evidence of service, the sheriff or private process server may require you to fill out their own form. The affidavit must be submitted to the court in order to prove that the other parent was duly served.

At Undisputed Legal, we make every effort to track down the other parents and personally serve them. Alternative service should be requested if an address is not available when contacting the Defendant.  If the petitioner needs to serve the papers through a different method than what is listed on the order, they can ask the judge for permission to do so. If the judge gives the green light, the party will have to use every method listed on the order to send the documents.

If the petitioner is completely cut off from the other parent and has no idea how to get in touch with them, the court will still expect them to make every effort to locate the defendant. We at Undisputed Legal will do our due diligence by exploring all possible avenues in your search for the defendant. If the petitioner is still unable to locate the other parent, they have the option to seek permission from the court to have the summons published in a newspaper. Sending the paperwork to a last known address is also an option. The search for the defendant must be meticulously documented.  It is important to ensure that the Affidavit of Publication is filed once the publication is finalized. The documents will be sent to the defendant’s last known address as instructed by the judge. Additionally, the process server will fill out and submit the Certificate of Mailing that is attached to this document.

How to Determine Child Support

Assuming both parents live together, the income shares model states that a parent should get the same percentage of support from the noncustodial parent. This model considers both parents’ incomes when calculating the amount that should be paid. The income shares model is utilized for child support calculations in forty-one states.

The noncustodial parent’s income is used to determine child support in the percentage of income model. This percentage can be applied at a flat rate or one that varies depending on the state’s guidelines.  In most cases, a modification to an existing child support order requires the approval of the court. Child support applications can typically be filed with the appropriate state agency, such as the Department of Social Services or the Child Support Services division, depending on the applicant’s residence. Online or in-person applications might be an option to determine the child support. The court can look at income as well as the individual costs of raising a child, such as nursery, medical bills, insurance, and tuition.

A noncustodial parent may be able to send payments to the Department of Social Services once a child support order is established. The custodial parent would subsequently receive them. Instead, child support payments may be automatically garnished from wages according to the state’s laws. The court may take enforcement measures, such as fines and jail time if the child support payments are not made as ordered. When a parent is determined to be willingly unemployed or underemployed, most states permit decision-makers to impute income. In most cases, it is acceptable to attribute income based on what the parent could have earned had they been fully employed, or their earning potential. Judges and administrative decision-makers consider a person’s age, education level, job experience, and other factors when determining their earning capacity.

In order to establish a child support order, it does not matter that they do not have any income. Although it is acknowledged that a person incarcerated has almost no ability to earn money, attributed income is still calculated based on their earnings or earning capacity prior to incarceration. This is typically interpreted as full-time employment at the State’s minimum or even median wage. This leads to unpaid child support and a mountain of debt that will likely never be paid off, especially in states that charge interest on arrears (including retroactive support.) If state law is vague or non-existent, then it is up to the judges to decide how an obligor’s incarceration affects their support obligations, whether or not a change to an existing support order is warranted, and how to handle arrears that have accumulated while the obligor was behind.

In cases where following the child support guidelines would lead to an unfair or inappropriate outcome, it is permissible to deviate from the guidelines according to federal law. The ultimate decision-maker is responsible for deciding whether the child’s best interest and equity would be better served by doing so. In order to ensure that parents pay their child support on time and consistently, the child support program collaborates with both of them. When payments for child support are not made on a regular basis, legal action can be taken to collect both the current and past due amounts.

According to the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, a larger portion of the obligor’s or employee’s disposable income must be withheld for child support than for other types of garnishments. Every time the party gets a paycheck, they have to take a little bit out and usually send it to the state disbursement unit (SDU).  Individuals, courts, tribunals, solicitors, and child support agencies from states, tribes, and territories are all eligible to submit an IWO.

Anywhere in the United States, even in the territories, an IWO is enforceable.
The IWO is merely a notice and not an order, so if anyone other than a court or child support agency sends it, the party should obtain a copy of the underlying order that permits income withholding. The laws of the state that issued the order, as well as the employee’s work state, must be taken into account when processing the IWO. 

Default Order

Any state court can issue a default order if the respondent does not show up for the hearing, as long as the court has personal and subject matter jurisdiction over them and has given them notice. While it is fairest if both parties are involved, a default order might be needed if one party does not show up after getting the notice. Default orders give rise to two significant policy concerns. Payout rates for default orders are lower than average. Additionally, when seeking enforcement in a different jurisdiction, it is common practice to challenge default orders based on due process doctrines.

Conversely, the respondent’s presence at the order’s establishment is of paramount importance to the state. The first summons and notice should be reviewed by the courts. How service takes place, whether the notice took into consideration the needs of people who do not speak English and how much time passes between the petition being served and the hearing notice being sent are factors that will be considered by the court. 

The court will first begin by considering what constitutes jurisdiction. Establishing the original support order or adjudicating paternity requires personal jurisdiction over the respondent. Even though it might be more troublesome and time-consuming to serve the order personally, making sure the service is adequate and documented will protect the order from any potential challenges to its validity in the future.

The UIFSA has been passed by every state in which the tribunal is claiming jurisdiction over a person who does not reside there. The order should once again state the basis for jurisdiction. Think of creative ways to get more people to fill out the survey. Child support hearings are more likely to be attended if the litigants have a positive impression of them in terms of their fairness, transparency, and thoroughness, according to many advocates.

The court will verify that notice and an opportunity to appear have been provided to the parties, and keep a record of proof of service and notice in the court file. In cases where the respondent’s military status is known or suspected, legal representation can be requested in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

It is important that the child support guideline addresses the needs and interests of low-income families by including standards for setting default orders. The court may provide a brief window of opportunity to request a reconsideration of the order or to reopen the case. To ensure the respondent has received and comprehended the order, follow-up procedures should be put in place.

Serving Child Support Papers on Servicemembers

With the passage of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA,) state child support (IV-D) agencies and private attorneys had to reevaluate serving paternity and child support cases involving military personnel. In order for certain courts to enter a default order regarding child support or paternity, an Affidavit of Non-Military Service is now necessary in every case. The courts may think about using teleconferences to keep hearings on track for military personnel stationed outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction.  Click here For information on How To Serve Legal Papers on Military Bases

Procedural matters were the sole domain of the previous statute. Administrative proceedings are also encompassed by the statute.  Servicemembers are protected against default proceedings. The tribunal (court or administrative agency) must first appoint an attorney to represent the defendant before entering a judgment seeking the entry of a default order against a servicemember. In default proceedings, an automatic stay of proceedings must be granted under SCRA if the defendant is serving in the military, if defense counsel requests or the court moves for it, if the court finds a possible defense to the action that cannot be presented without the defendant’s presence, or if defense counsel is unable to reach the defendant or determine the existence of a meritorious defense. An initial ninety-day stay is required. Furthermore, a stay request does not waive any substantive or procedural defenses and does not constitute an appearance for jurisdictional purposes.  Click here for information on How The Service Member Civil Relief Act Protects our Military

Private process servers are impartial third parties with no personal interest in the case. We at Undisputed Legal can guarantee that child support documents are served impartially and without prejudice, therefore preserving the integrity of the judicial system. Furthermore, discreet and competent handling of delicate circumstances by our licensed and professional servers guarantees that the service procedure is carried out with the highest regard for all parties concerned.  Click here for information on How Military Verification Works in Process Service 

If the parties to the child support proceedings are not on good terms, there may be dangers or disputes. Professionally handling challenging circumstances, private process servers are also prepared to guarantee their own safety and protection while delivering the documents. By reducing the possibility of conflict escalating, we can guarantee the documents are delivered effectively and securely. 

Written by: Undisputed Legal Inc.


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1 The current statute outlining these changes can be found in 42 U.S.C. §§651 – 669B

2 The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has issued regulations governing the administration of this Federal/State/local program, which can be found in 45 CFR, Parts 301 through 310.

3 According to the California Code, Family Code – FAM § 3651, a support order can be changed or ended whenever the court deems it necessary.

4 All of the paperwork you submitted to the court, including forms to waive fees if applicable
Form FL-270, Blank Response to Custody and Support Petition of Minor Children
‘Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act’ (UCCJEA) (form FL-105) blank declaration
If you submitted any additional papers, you may also be required to fill out blank response forms.
Along with the time and date, your server should make a note of the address where the other parent was given the papers. In order to complete a Proof of Service form, the server requires this information.

5 ‘Brief Child Support Guideline Models.’ National Conference of State Legislatures, Accessed May 2024. 

6 The following details are required of you when you apply:

  1. Identification documents
  2. Documentation of source of income
  3. A duplicate of the birth certificate for your kid
  4. Image of the parent who is not legally responsible for the minor’s care
  5. Acknowledgment of union status
  6. The divorce decree, a parentage affidavit, a protective order for domestic abuse, and any agreements that you and the noncustodial parent voluntarily signed are all legal documents that could be relevant to your claim.

7 Income Withholding Order can include:

  1. Financial records of Levy
  2. Withhold a refund for federal or state income taxes
  3. Cut off all other federal payments, whether they’re one-time or ongoing, including pensions, salaries, payments to suppliers or contractors, and more.
  4. Passport denial
  5. Cancel driver’s, occupational, and leisure licenses
  6. Placing liens on property and notifying credit bureaus of outstanding child support payments

8 Parties are additionally required to send payments to the SDU in private cases (not handled by the child support agency) where a support order was issued on or after January 1, 1994.

9 The grounds for extended jurisdiction are laid out in Section 201

10 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940) (codified at 50 U.S.C. §§ 3901—4043

11 ‘Any State or federal administrative agency’ is defined as a court for this purpose.


The information contained herein has been prepared in compliance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works. The articles/Images contained herein serve as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, educational, and research-as examples of activities that qualify as fair use. Undisputed Legal Inc. is a Process Service Agency and “Not A Law Firm” therefore the articles/images contained herein are for educational purposes only, and not intended as legal advice.