When Does the State Get Involved in Child Support Cases?

Any parent knows that raising a child is costly. Clothes, daycare, extracurricular activities, college funds, and all the other things that go along with having a child in your care add up quickly. Child support is meant to help balance and manage those costs when parents live apart. In optimal situations, parents cooperate even when they are no longer romantically involved with each other. In some situations, though, the court must get involved and set court-ordered child support. However, in some situations, the state will also get involved in a child support dispute.

The first way the state may get involved in a child support dispute is if the custodial parent applies to the state for child support services. A custodial parent may go to the state child support office and apply to ask that the state file a petition to have a child support order set or modified. The state will then file a petition and serve the non-custodial parent and the parties will proceed to court. The custodial parent may also request partial services, such as only setting up medical support or support monitoring.

Another common way that the state will get involved is if the custodial parent applies for state assistance. This includes Medicaid, WIC, food stamps, or any similar state or federally funded assistance program. As when there is a parent request, the state will then file a petition and proceed to court to have the non-custodial parent start paying child support. The reasoning behind this is if the non-custodial parent was actually providing financial support, it is possible that the custodial parent would not have to use the state programs, thereby saving tax payer money.

A non-custodial parent may also avail themselves of the services provided by the state child support office. A non-custodial parent may apply to have their support or paternity established, work out interstate or intergovernmental child support issues, or enforcing a child support order.

Two important issues should be noted by every parent. First is that the government office that provides assistance is not a resource for a custody or visitation dispute. For that, parties will have to hire private counsel or represent themselves. Second is that even though one of the parents may have been the first one to apply for assistance through the state office, the state attorney does not represent either one of the parties. The state attorney represents the state and its interests, which may or may not be aligned with the desires of one of the parties.

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About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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