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Legal Services

Scales of Justice and Judges GavelAn attorney appears on behalf of the Department of Revenue to obtain child support when an individual requests CSE services. Learn all about what we can do and how the process works though the following links.


What the Legal Staff can do for you

Our attorneys file pleadings for paternity, support, enforcement and modification actions, paternity disestablishment and may also appear in divorce proceedings solely to help calculate the guidelines and obtain an order for financial and medical support.

Our staff attorneys do not have an attorney/client relationship with any party other than DOR. They do not provide services for custody, visitation, parenting plans or schedules. The attorney cannot set final hearings in divorce actions or prepare orders for issues other than paternity and support.

Because of the volume of cases we handle, your contact with our office is through a Case Manager. By statute, there is no attorney/client relationship between our attorneys and any party to the cases in which they appear.

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Getting Ready for and Attending your Hearing

Location

  • The address of the Manatee County Judicial Center is 1051 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton Florida 34206. Most domestic relations hearings are held on the third floor in hearing rooms 1- 3.
  • Map to the Judicial Center
  • Parking issues - You may park at the City of Bradenton Parking Garage located at the corner of 8th Avenue and 12th Street West in downtown Bradenton. There is a charge at the garage and correct change is required.

Dress

  • Please dress appropriately for court, as it is your opportunity to present yourself in the best light possible. Please do not wear shorts, t-shirts, jeans or revealing items or you may not be allowed in the courtroom.

Attendance

  • Attendance at hearings is important to insure that you have a voice in the outcome of the proceeding. Often, your testimony is the only evidence available to the critical issues about which the Judge will make a decision regarding your life. In addition, without your presence, we cannot respond to assertions made by the other party to the case. This failure could result in the reduction of your child's support or arrears.
  • You can check your case to see if the Non-custodial parent has been serviced with copies of the pleadings using your party access to the clerk's electronic court records website.
  • Plan to be involved in the process at least one to two hours though your matter could take less time.
  • Please note that despite having verified that your attendance is necessary, unforeseen circumstances may occur which would prevent the hearing from going forward. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Domestic Violence

If you are concerned for your safety due to domestic violence, please tell the bailiff, who will separate the parties and do his or her best to monitor the parties.

Children and Guests

  • Don't bring friends unless you know of an issue for which their testimony will be helpful
  • PLEASE DO NOT BRING YOUR CHILDREN TO COURT. THEY CANNOT TESTIFY WITHOUT SPECIFIC COURT PERMISSION AND MAY NOT BE IN THE COURT ROOM. WE DO NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN DURING THE HEARING.

Upon arrival at the courtroom

  • Check in with bailiff outside of courtroom
  • Have a seat. The child support enforcement office has a highly qualified team of case managers who will speak with both parties to determine what issues must be resolved as well as attempt to settle the cases prior to the scheduled hearing. You should tell the case manager all that you feel is necessary to know to resolve your case.

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What happens in the hearing or trial

Each of the different types of cases involves different issues but the process in the courtroom is very similar. The bailiff will call the names of the parties from the doorway and each party present will enter the courtroom. The bailiff will instruct you where to sit. Also present in the room will be the bailiff, the Trial Clerk, the attorney for DOR and the Support Enforcement Hearing Officer or Judge, depending on the type of hearing.

EVERYTHING that you say will be recorded and on the record whenever the blue light in the room is steady. The attorney may make an opening statement or may simply begin asking questions.

Generally, the custodian is the first witness. The questions should all be on topics you are well able to speak about, as they will deal with your finances and the child. The next witness is typically the Respondent who will be asked similar questions. If there are additional witnesses they will then be able to testify. Typical types of issues that may be addressed by additional witnesses are: cost of daycare, extraordinary parenting time, direct payments, extraordinary medical costs, etc.

The Respondent will then have an opportunity to tell the hearing officer those things that he or she feels the Hearing Officer needs to know and to call witnesses, as well.

At the conclusion of the evidence (the testimony), the Attorney will make a closing statement. Finally, the Hearing Officer or Judge will make a decision. Typically he or she will announce the ruling from the bench though occasionally he may take the matter under advisement for additional thought or research.

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What to expect after the hearing or trial

Orders reflecting the Hearing Officer's ruling will be prepared as soon as possible after the hearing. When signed by the Hearing Officer, they go to the Circuit Judge who reviews and signs them. Once that process is completed, they are mailed to the parties.

For both paternity and support, there is a process to contest the ruling of the Hearing Officer/Magistrate. There are timeframes for contesting that must be met to receive a review.

If a Motion to Vacate is filed by either party, a copy of this motion must be provided to the other party and the Child Support Legal Department and the original filed with Circuit Civil in the Clerk's office. A hearing will be set once the Attorney receives the motion. The moving party must obtain and pay for a transcript of the proceeding. If an appeal is filed, we will coordinate with the Department of Revenue which determines how to proceed.

Once the order is returned signed by the judge and the copies mailed, an Income Deduction Notice to Payor is sent to the Respondent/Obligor's place of employment, if known. Upon receipt of an Income Deduction Notice to Payor the employer has two weeks to begin making deductions from the Obligor's pay and begin sending them to the State Disbursement Unit. The timing of receipt of the notice and pay frequency will influence how quickly that will actually occur. An employer who pays monthly and who receives the notice shortly before a paycheck is due would not be required to deduct until the next monthly paycheck.