The guide is meant to help someone who is not represented by a lawyer understand the general rules and procedures of a civil court case in Louisiana. It is not a complete guide to the law nor does it discuss every issue or aspect of the law that may affect your case.
This information is not meant to replace State laws or Court Rules. The purpose of this guide is to give general information and make it easier to represent yourself in court. You have a right to represent yourself in court, but it comes with the responsibility to follow certain court rules and procedures.
The guide will help you understand the child support process by:
Answering questions on how to apply for child support in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section below;
Providing forms for you to apply for child support in the "Forms Available" section;
Explaining the steps for applying for child support in the "Instructions" section attached to the form;
Giving you more information about how to proceed with your case while delaying court fees in the "Related Articles" section; and
Helping you find a lawyer in the "Community Resources" section.
*In order to file with the Clerk of Court, forms must be printed out and filled in completely. If you are unable to do this, or do not have access to a printer, you can visit your local library for assistance. For more assistance locating a library, click here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT
CHILD SUPPORT IN LOUISIANA
1. What is Child Support?
Child Support is considered a payment that a noncustodial parent makes as a contribution to the costs of raising his or her child. In Louisiana, a child has the right to be financially supported by both of his parents. Support can be provided for basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, transportation and education. Support can also cover the child’s medical needs as well as any day care costs when parents go to work or school.
2. Who can ask for Child Support?
Generally, either parent can go to court and ask for a Child Support Order to establish a set amount for Child Support. Also, a person who has custody of a child, such as a grandparent, can ask for an order. Finally, if either parent receives public assistance for the child and they are not married and living together, the local attorney’s office can request a Child Support Order.
3. How do I establish and enforce a Child Support Order?
In Louisiana, Child Support Orders are established by Louisiana Support Enforcement Services. To find more information please click here. Enforcement can be completed in a variety of ways including interception of tax refunds and suspension of motor vehicle registration if necessary. Louisiana Support Enforcement services can also provide assistance by locating a parent and/or providing paternity testing.
4. How is Child Support determined?
In Louisiana, Child Support is determined by a number of factors such as income, the cost of child care and health insurance, and the number of children in the household. Some things to consider are:
The amount of any preexisting court order for child support and spousal support paid 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 or private schooling needs, by agreement of the parties or order of the court
5. What if I want to increase or decrease a Child Support Order?
Generally, a Child Support Order cannot be modified unless the party seeking to reduce or increase the order shows a material change in the circumstances since the order was granted. An example of a material change could be if a parent lost their job or if child care expenses increased significantly. If necessary, a court hearing will take place to determine if the increase or decrease can be awarded.
6. Can a parent withhold visitation when the other parent refuses to pay Child Support?
A parent cannot deny visitation because the other parent refuses to pay or is unable to pay child support. Likewise, a parent cannot refuse to pay child support because the other parent will not permit visitation or because they have not been able to visit for other reasons.
7. Where should I file a "Rule to Modify Child Support"?
The 14th Judicial District Court Clerk of Court's office is located at 1000 Ryan Street in Lake Charles. The offices are open 8:30am-4:30pm. For more information, including fees, you can call (337) 437-3550. Please note that the Clerk of Court does not “notarize” documents, and you may need to visit a Notary Public beforehand.
8. What if I cannot afford to pay the filing fee?
Article 5181 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure provides: “an individual who is unable to pay the costs of court because of his poverty and lack of means may prosecute or defend a judicial proceeding in any trial or appellate court without paying the costs in advance or as they accrue or furnishing security therefore.”
If you cannot afford the filing fee, then you can file an affidavit with the court to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). Not only must you swear and prove to the court that you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, but you will also need a witness who knows you to swear to the court that you can’t afford to pay the filing fees. The Louisiana Supreme Court provides an IFP affidavit for use in the district courts. If allowed to proceed IFP, you will not have to pay the filing fees in advance. The fees will be assessed by the judge at the end of the case though, and if you lose your case the court may assess the fees to you.
NOTE THAT AN APPROVED IFP APPLICATION DOES NOT MEAN YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO PAY THE FEES.
An approved IFP application means that your case can move forward before you pay the fees, but that you will still have to pay court fees at a later date.
If you have little or no income, it is likely that you qualify for either a no-fee or low-fee attorney from one of the legal aid organizations in the state. Please click here for more information.