Family Court or Administrative Proceedings?

Hearing Officers of the Office of Child Support Hearings (OCSH) issue administrative orders, either with or without a hearing, that establish, modify, or enforce a child support obligation.   Family Court also issues orders regarding child support.  The process of obtaining a Family Court child support order differs from the process of obtaining an administrative child support order, but the legal effect of both types of orders is the same.  The OCSH applies the same child support guidelines as the Family Courts and its child support orders have the same force and effect as child support orders issued by a Circuit Family Court.

However, the OCSH differs from the Family Courts in the following ways:

    • The Family Courts have jurisdiction over a broad range of issues such as paternity, custody, visitation and property division, whereas the OCSH has jurisdiction over child support issues only.
    • OCSH receives only cases processed through the CSEA, while Family Court receives its cases when a party files a motion or action in Family Court.
    • OCSH does not apply rules of evidence and procedure as strictly as the Family Courts.
    • Most parties represent themselves in OCSH proceedings, while attorneys represent most parties in Family Court proceedings.
    • OCSH does not charge a fee for its services, while the Family Courts charge a filing fee for certain proceedings.
    • CSEA representatives in the administrative hearing may have information on the incomes of the parties reported by their respective employers to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Hearings officers are not judges.  They are licensed attorneys who have the same authority as Family Court judges over child support administrative proceedings. Please consult an attorney and visit the Family Court webpage for more information about Family Court procedures.