woman with baby

If a Court has ordered someone to pay you child support:

The parent who has primary residence of the children or who is owed child support through an Order for Child Support is sometimes called the "Primary Residential Parent," or the "Custodial Parent" or "CP" for short. DSER's services are primarily geared toward helping the CP obtain financial support for the children living in her or his home. As a CP, you have a very important role in your child's life!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are a parent afraid that the other parent of your child will harm you or your child, there is help available. If you are receiving TANF benefits, and fear that naming the other parent may put you or your child in danger, you may be granted "good cause" to receive benefits without revealing information about the baby's other parent. If you are in this situation, speak with your TANF worker for details about good cause. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7.

There are four ways that DSER helps CPs:

  • 1. If you receive TANF benefits: Because DHHS sends State money to your household as a public assistance grant, you will "assign" your right to child support to DHHS to pay back that money. In other words, the other parent, who is obligated to financially support your children, will send child support to the State to reimburse the money sent to your household by the TANF program.
  • 2. Full Services: If you have never received TANF benefits on behalf of your children, or if you have received TANF and no longer need it or are now ineligible to receive it, you may apply for full services (PDF) and receive paternity, establishment and collection/enforcement services from DSER. See a detailed Guide to DSER Services

    DSER has a wide range of mechanisms to encourage parents who are ordered to support their children to keep current on their child support obligation. This includes tools not available to collection agencies, such as garnishing wages, seizing assets, intercepting tax refunds, liening property and taking professional, recreational and automotive licenses and passports. If you contract with DSER, you allow us to use these methods to help collect child support for your children.

    man holding baby DSER will help you to modify your case when necessary, and will go to court as a representative of the Department when the parent who owes you child support is habitually behind or "in arrears." DSER may ask a Court to force the other parent to seek work, or, in very extreme cases, to send him or her to jail for chronic non-payment of support. Assistant Attorney Generals represent DHHS's interests in these matters. If you would like representation of your own interests, you may hire an attorney.
  • 3. Limited Services: In a limited services case, if you or the other parent serves an income withholding order, the Department will process those payments. The Department's only responsibility on a limited services case is to accept and disburse payments. The Department will keep records of payments received.

    In Limited Service cases the Department does not locate the other parent or the other parent's employer, serve income withholding orders, intercept the other parent's tax returns, gambling proceeds or lottery winnings, attach unemployment compensation or workers' compensation payments, lien property, or take the other parent's licenses if the he or she fails to pay child support. The Department provides this help only in a full service case.

    If you receive limited services and would like us to employ the methods above to collect your child support, you may ask for full services at any time. Contact any Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery office and ask for a "non-welfare application for services," or download an application (PDF).
  • 4. Medical Expense Reimbursement

    If you would like DSER to help you receive reimbursement for medical bills which your support order requires the other parent to pay or share, do the following:
    • Notify the non-custodial parent of the paid bills in writing, enclosing copies of them, and requesting payment or the making of a satisfactory arrangement for payment of the non-custodial parent's share of them within 30 days.
    • If neither payment nor satisfactory arrangement for payment is made within 30 days from date of mailing of the letter to the non-custodial parent, mail a copy of the letter and the paid bills to, Case Review Unit, DSER, 11 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333. Be sure to keep a copy of all documents for yourself.
    • In your cover letter, please remember to give your case number and the date you mailed the letter to the non-custodial parent. The Case Review Unit will forward this material to the enforcement agent handling your case, and DSER will then take steps to establish an enforceable legal debt against the non-custodial parent for the reimbursement to which you may be entitled.
  • You can help DSER in its efforts to obtain medical expense reimbursement for you by doing the following:
    1. Always include an itemized calculation of what is owed to you.
    2. Do not submit bills to DSER more than once every three months, unless the new un-reimbursed amount is high; and
    3. Do not keep un-reimbursed bills for more than a year before submitting them to DSER.
    4. Remember that DSER cannot seek reimbursement for any medical bills that you haven't paid yet.

A note about the Special Responsibilities of the CP: You are primarily responsible for ensuring that your child's day to day needs for growth and development are met, and sometimes must do so on a limited budget. In addition to your love and emotional support, physical presence and assurance that you will always be there when your children need you, remembering not to cast a negative light on the other parent, even if he or she is late or delinquent in paying child support, will help to ease the stress of divorce for them. Remember to put your kids' needs and feelings first, even if you are angry, frustrated or hurt over the actions of the other parent. Your kids will thank you for your unselfish devotion to their needs during what is a difficult time for the entire family, and for keeping them out of the middle of an adult dispute.