The Family Support Magistrate Courts in Connecticut hear cases involving paternity, establishing the amount of child support, modifying the amount of child support (increase or decrease the current support order) and enforcing the payment of child support (contempt). Divorces and issues of visitation are not heard in Family Support Magistrate Court but rather in the Family Court.
Cases are heard by a Family Support Magistrates who are lawyers appointed by the Governor. Family Support Magistrates are not judges but have the same powers of judges to determine paternity and to establish and enforce child and spousal support orders.
For a small fee a parent may open a case with Child Support Enforcement which is a state agency responsible for establishing and monitoring support orders. Therefore, many cases involve Support Enforcement Officers who may file a Motion for Contempt against a parent for nonpayment of child support. They may also file a Motion for Modification at the request of a parent based upon a “substantial change in circumstances” of either of the parents.
In cases where the State of Connecticut has provided financial support to a family an Assistant Attorney General will be involved to represent the State’s interest in establishing orders for repayment (arrearage) to the State.
If you are a parent who has been served with documents to appear in Support Magistrate Court you should do the following:
1) Complete a Financial Affidavit. This is a “sworn” document reflecting your income, assets, debts and liabilities.
2) Bring documentation which support the figures set forth in your Financial Affidavit especially relating to income. For example, pay stubs for the last 13 weeks of employment, tax returns, information concerning benefits you are receiving (worker’s compensation, social security income or disability, or unemployement benefits). This is especially important for a Modification.
3) If you are cited for Contempt be prepared to explain why you have been unable to pay the order. For example, if you were recently laid off bring a letter from your employer or if you are physically unable to work have a letter from your doctor available.
4) Also for cases of Contempt have a plan. Are you looking for work? If so, bring proof of your job search efforts such as applications you completed, employing headhunters, registering with temporary agencies etc. Obviously, it also never hurts to bring some money (even if not the full amount of the arrearage) to court to show your “good faith” in meeting your obligation.