This topic contains information on the following subjects:
When judicial action is used to obtain a support obligation, service of process is required to provide notice of the action to the parties. North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure prescribe the appropriate service methods and use of each method.
Service of process can be accomplished by certified mail or personal service by the Sheriff's Department, depending on the local office's preference.
When caseworkers learn whether or not the service of process was successful, they must document this information in ACTS. If an attempt to serve a noncustodial parent (NCP) at a home address has failed and his/her employer is recorded, documents are immediately issued for service at the employer's address. Similarly, if an attempt to serve the documents at the employer's address has failed and a current mailing or residential address is recorded, documents are immediately issued for service at the mailing/residential address.
If the service is unsuccessful due to evasion or because the NCP is "unavailable", new documents are generated as appropriate and reissued. If the return of service indicated a date when the NCP will become "available", caseworkers enter a reminder in ACTS for that date so that the necessary service of process documents can be issued at that time. Otherwise, the new documents are issued immediately.
A Civil Summons (DSS-4668) must be issued within five (5) days of the filing of a complaint. By Rule 4 of Rules of Civil Procedure, this summons must be served within sixty (60) days of the date when it was issued. If the Summons is not served within the alloted time, the action is discontinued. However, it can be continued by the issuance of an Alias Or Pluries Summons (DSS-4669) within ninety (90) days of the issuance date of the initial summons. CSS should make every attempt to serve the Alias Or Pluries Summons within (60) days of its issuance.
Once a NCP's home address or employer has been recorded, federal regulations require that a summons be served (or an order entered) within ninety (90) calendar days.
After CSS caseworkers have submitted the necessary documents to the Clerk of Court, the Clerk informs them when their hearings are to take place. Once a hearing date/time is set, caseworkers document this information in ACTS.
If the court dismisses a petition for a support order without prejudice, local CSS must, at the time of dismissal, examine the reasons for the dismissal and determine when in the future it would be appropriate to seek an order and seek it at that time.
When the local CSS agency establishes an order for support, the order must be properly filed with the Clerk of Superior Court and the appropriate filing fee paid. In any action filed by the CSS agency, the agency is the party in interest, not the custodial parent (CP). Therefore, it is not appropriate to request that the Clerk of Court waive the advance payment of the filing fee upon presentation of a Pauper's Affidavit completed by the CP.
When a voluntary support agreement is filed, the responsible parent making the support payment should pay the $6.00 filing fee at the time the agreement is filed.
Effective July 1, 2008, local CSS agencies are responsible for paying the fees in civil actions (other than the filing of a voluntary support agreement) at the time of the filing of the action. As a matter of convenience, the Clerk of Court can agree to bill local CSS agencies on a monthly basis for actions filed during the month.
Fees and costs for Non-TANF cases are handled pursuant to Non-TANF case procedures. Therefore, local CSS agencies cannot charge the Non-TANF client any costs other than the application fee. Any costs for filing fees or related court costs are the responsibility of the CSS agency.
It is essential that caseworkers enter the result of a court hearing in ACTS. Recording the outcome of a hearing maintains an accurate historical record of the CSS case.
When a legal support obligation has been established, CSS caseworkers must immediately enter all provisions of the order into ACTS. Once this information is entered, the system can receipt and apply payments to the case.
NOTE: The order date in ACTS should be the date when the judge signs the order. If a payment could become due before the order is signed by a judge, caseworkers can use information from the Child Support Interim Order (AOC-CV-626AS) to record the terms of the order in ACTS. This form can be obtained from the local Clerk of Court.
The form is designed to record the terms of the child support order in open court and is signed by the judge in open court. All parties present can then receive copies of the order. A final order with the appropriate findings of fact must still be prepared and submitted to the judge for a signature as soon as possible.
In accordance with NCGS 50-13.4 and 110-132, the court can require a noncustodial parent (NCP) to conduct a job search or participate in work activities when establishing a child support order, as long as the NCP is not incapacitated. "Work Activities" are defined as on-the-job training, job search and job readiness assistance, community service programs, private or public sector employment, etc. This option can be useful in Establishment cases where the NCP is unemployed or underemployed. Caseworkers should remind the CSS attorney of this option when preparing the child support case for court. Job search or work activities can also be ordered in Enforcement cases.
Caseworkers enter support orders in ACTS in accordance with normal procedures even if the order is appealed by the noncustodial parent (NCP). All charging, billing, and enforcement takes place while the appeal is pending. If the appeals court grants a stay of the order, ACTS notifies caseworkers to check on the result of the appeal and suppress billing and tax intercept. When the stay is lifted, caseworkers reverse the suppression of billing and tax intercept.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.