Child support cases are basically assigned to three categories: intake, collections, or parent locate. An intake case is one in which an order for support has not yet been established. Many of the intake cases also require paternity to be established. A collection case is one in which an enforceable order for support exists. Parent locate services are appropriate any time the non-custodial parent's location, place of employment, or assets are unknown.
Under Federal regulations, SES is required to provide child support services to Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP), IV-E (Foster Care) and appropriate Medicaid recipients.
In addition to the persons to whom services are required to be provided, any person who applies for services and pays the $25.00 application fee is entitled to receive the full range of services. If the custodial parent only wants locate services, the fee is $10.00. In Louisiana, seventy-five percent (75%) of the money that is collected each year goes to payees who do not receive FITAP benefits.
There are five basic types of services that support enforcement offers:
1. Locate Parents
2. Establish Paternity
3. Establish Orders(including medical support)
4. Enforce Orders
5. Collect and Distribute Support Payments
In addition, SES offers the custodial parent and non-custodial parent an administrative review process.
PARENT LOCATE SERVICE:
One of the biggest challenges in doing child support work is trying to locate and keep up with the non-custodial parents. The child support enforcement computer system, LASES, has automated interface systems with various other state agencies and all programs within the Department of Social Services. There is also an automated interface with the Federal Parent Locator Service which provides information on persons who receive Social Security or Veterans Pensions, and persons who work or contract with the Federal Government, including Military personnel. Louisiana also belongs to the Electronic Parent Locate Network (EPLN). EPLN is a consortium of eighteen states which have agreed to combine information from various sources in each state into one data base which can be accessed on-line by participating states.
Each year SES receives approximately 18,000 to 20,000 new cases in which paternity is an issue. Under Louisiana law, a father of an illegitimate child is not responsible for child support payments until paternity has been established. Louisiana law allows paternity to be established by a court or by having the father sign an affidavit acknowledging that he is the father of the child. Many of the paternity establishments that are obtained by SES each year come through the acknowledgment process. Under State law, hospital personnel are required to provide the parents of illegitimate children the opportunity to sign an acknowledgment of paternity form in the hospital at the time of the child's birth. If an alleged father refuses to sign an acknowledgment of paternity, SES attorneys or contract District Attorneys may file a paternity suit asking the court to determine paternity.
Prior to signing an acknowledgment of paternity, an alleged father may request a genetic test to determine if he is the biological father of the child. Cost of a paternity test for all three parties is approximately $210.00. SES has contracts with two laboratories for genetic testing purposes. The contracts require the labs to either exclude the alleged father, or return a probability of paternity of 99.9%. This is the highest probability requirement in the nation and provides for a higher accuracy rate in determining paternity. Before an alleged father signs an acknowledgment of paternity, he is strongly encouraged to request a blood test to establish beyond question that he is the biological father of the child.
The Legislature established the Award Guidelines to determine the amount of child support. The amount of support is based on the income of both parties. A schedule is used to determine the total amount of support, and the noncustodial parent is required to pay an amount that is based on his percentage of the total income of both parties.
Guidelines for Determination of Child Support (LRS 9:315 et seq.)
The Child Support Award Guidelines for Louisiana were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature, and provide a mathematical formula to determine the appropriate amount of support.
The premise of the guidelines is that child support is a continuous obligation of both parents. Children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents and should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth. It is very important that children not be forced to live in poverty because of family disruption and that they be afforded the same opportunities available to children in intact families, consisting of parents with similar financial means to those of their own parents.
The Income Share approach to child support guidelines incorporates a numerical schedule of support amounts. The schedule provides economic estimates of child-rearing expenditures for various income levels and numbers of children in the household. The schedule is composed of economic data utilizing a table of national averages adjusted to reflect Louisiana´s status as a low-income state and to incorporate a self-sufficiency reserve for low-income obligors to form the basic child support obligation.
In cases of joint custody, the court shall consider the period of time spent by the child with the nondomiciliary party as a basis for adjustment to the amount of child support to be paid during that period of time.
The Guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption to all child support orders in Louisiana. Louisiana R.S. 9:315.1(B) allows the court to deviate from the guidelines if their application would not be in the best interest of the child or would be inequitable to the parties. The court shall give specific oral or written reasons for the deviation.
Income is defined as actual gross income of the parent if employed to full capacity, or potential income if unemployed or underemployed. Gross income of each parent should be determined as specified below and entered on Line 1 of the Obligation Worksheet. The income of a spouse is not considered in this calculation.
Gross income includes income from any source, including salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, worker's compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, and spousal support received from a pre-existing spousal support obligation.
The basic child support obligation is calculated considering the following factors:
- The amount of any preexisting court order for child support and spousal support is deducted from the gross income of the non-custodial parent.
- Net child care costs incurred due to employment or job search (minus the value of the federal tax credit for child care) is added to the basic obligation.
- If either parent carries health insurance for the child(ren) due support, the cost of that coverage is added to the basic child support obligation.
- A provision may also be made for extraordinary expenses of a child, such as medical or special schooling needs, by agreement of the parties or order of the court.
Some of the tools that SES uses to enforce the payment of support are as follows: income assignment, interception of State and Federal tax refunds, interception of lottery winnings, suspension of occupational, professional, drivers', and hunting and fishing licenses, contempt of court hearings, and passport denials. Over 65% of the money collected each year comes through the income assignment process. Employers play a large role in the income assignment process, and the Department is appreciative of the effort and cooperation of the employer community.
The 2001 Session of the Louisiana Legislature gave the Department the administrative authority to suspend licenses. In addition to the professional, occupational, drivers, hunting and fishing licenses, the Department also has the authority to suspend motor vehicle registration. We expect that child support workers will make good use of their new authority to suspend licenses, and we expect an increase in collections as a result of this new law.
COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION:
Payments for child support are collected by the Centralized Collection Unit and are posted Monday through Friday. After posting, checks are made payable to the custodial parent and are mailed the next day.
All fees and support payments must be made payable to the Department of Social Services (DSS). The payor shall include his/her name, address, and social security number and/or LASES number on the payment instrument.
Mail money order or cashier´s check for Support Payment or Genetic Testing fee to:
Centralized Collection Unit
Post Office Box 260222
Baton Rouge, LA 70826
Genetic Testing fees shall be identified as "BT ONLY" fee when submitted to the Centralized Collection Unit.
When submitting application fees, contact one of the appropriate 12 SES Regional Offices serving the customer´s parish.
The Jefferson Parish District Attorney´s Office, Child Support Enforcement, 1546 Gretna Blvd., Harvey, LA 70058-5366 processes the application and the application fee for Jefferson and East Jefferson Paish.
The East Baton Rouge District Attorney´s Office, 233 St. Ferdinand Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70801 accepts the application and the application fee for East Baton Rouge Parish only.
Do not submit the application fee to the Centralized Collection Unit.
The following is information custodial parents should consider before hiring a Child Support Private Collection Agency (PCS).
A private collection agency (PCA) is a privately owned, for-profit business that, for a fee, helps custodial parents collect child support. Support Enforcement Services is not a party to any contract between the custodial parent and the PCA. The custodial parent is entitled to receive services with SES even if the custodial parent hires a PCA. If the custodial parent is receiving public assistance, foster care maintenance, or Medicaid, SES will be required to pursue support enforcement on behalf of the custodial parent.
Most PCA´s are paid on a "contingency fee" basis. This means that the custodial parent is not required to pay the PCA for its services in advance, but the PCA will take a percentage of the child support it receives on the cutodial parent´s behalf. These contingency fee rates generally range from 25 to 33 percent of all money collected. A PCA may collect fees on any amounts received by the PCA, even if the money was collected as a result of the work of SES. PCA´s may also charge application or processing fees or charge additional fees, such as, attorney fees, court cost, etc.
The custodial parent should get as much information about the PCA that they are considering and read their contract carefully before signing.
Voice Response System:
Support Enforcement Services maintains a voice response system with payment information (the 3 most recent child support payments plus arrears information) available 24 hours a day. To access the system callers need to provide their LASES case number from a touch tone phone. The payment information is updated nightly.
The numbers for our Voice Response System are:
(225)219-4000 Out of State and Baton Rouge area
1(800)256-4650 In Louisiana
Costs and Figures:
The Federal government pays 66 percent of the costs to operate the child support program. In addition, the State earns an incentive based on the amount of child support collected and on how the State performs in five specific areas as compared to other states. In addition, the State is eligible to retain approximately 27% of all monies collected that is used to reimburse a TANF grant.
At the end of State Fiscal Year 02-03, SES had 85,422 intake cases and 185,129 collection cases. (An intake case is one which does not have an order for support, and a collection case is one which has an order for support). During the Fiscal Year 02-03, SES established 8,912 paternities and 12,580 new obligations for support. Total collections for State Fiscal Year 02-03 were $291,635,238. Of this amount, $10,873,445 was collected on FITAP cases, and $280,761,793 was collected on non-FITAP cases.
ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW PROCESS:
The custodial parent or non-custodial may request an administrative review when they disagree with actions taken on their case, or when there is evidence that an action should have been taken on the case. The purpose of the administrative review is to determine if the appropriate action was taken in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws, rules, and regulations.
A request for an administrative hearing may be made verbally or in writing to the office that is handling the case. The Analyst and Supervisor will review the proposed action or the action taken on the case. The individual will be notified by telephone or in writing of the decision made on the case.