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Montana Self Help Law Centers

Many people using our online child support calculator are doing it because they are representing themselves in a divorce, child custody, or child support matter in Court. For most people, going in to Court unrepresented is an intimidating and difficult thing. Luckily, Montana has the Self Help Law Program, with offices across the state.

It’s a free service provided by the Montana Supreme Court to help with civil legal problems. This means that they’re only involved in non-criminal matters. They exist to give you the information you need and help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Hopefully, this help you resolve your legal problems on your own if you cannot afford an attorney or if you choose not to hire one. They can’t give you legal advice or represent you in court, but they will provide you with legal information and resources that will help you help yourself.

The Self Help Law Centers only deal with civil matters. Here’s the wikipedia page explaining what civil law is as opposed to criminal law. Most commonly, the centers help with family law matters (divorce, parenting disputes, guardianships, step-parent adoptions), Landlord-Tenant disputes (evictions, damage deposits, notices to repair, …), Order of Protection, Powers of Attorney, Emancipations, and civil suits. That last category (civil suits) is a pretty broad catch all that basically means they’ll try to help you with whatever comes up.

The process for people seeking self help generally goes something like this: 1) People make an appointment or go visit one of the centers; 2) at the appointment one of the staff discusses your situation and gives you forms that will apply; 3) you take the forms home and fill them out; and 4) you come back to the center so their staff can review the forms. It’s a great process, but it can take some time.

Many of our users are also involved with the Self Help Law Center. Unfortunately, the form for the child support calculation is the same one found on CSED’s website – and there’s no automation to it. So, if you’re looking to get a determination of numerous combinations of numbers, you may want to combine our product with the Self Help Law Center. Of course you can represent yourself without using the child support calculator, I’m just not sure why you’d want to.

Child Support and License Supsension

The Montana Child Support Enforcement Division has wide ranging authority and powers when it comes to establishing and enforcing child support. Their powers to “encourage” enforcement range from income withholding to license suspension. In a state as large as Montana, motor vehicle travel is more of a necessity than a luxury so it’s easy to see why this power is so effective.

Before suspending a parent’s license for failure to pay child support, CSED must give the legally required notice to the noncustodial parent. This is set by statute and something that the law takes very seriously since it goes directly to the Due Process rights guaranteed by both the state and federal constitution. The notice lets the parent know that their license is in danger of being suspended and gives them a deadline to respond and request a hearing.

If the parent requests a hearing, one is held in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An ALJ is different from a traditional judge. They are often attorneys, but not this is not necessarily true. While working for CSED, they focus exclusively on child support matters – unlike a District Court Judge who will hear a huge variety of different cases. Administrative hearings tend to be less formal in that they are not held in a courtroom and involved a more relaxed version of the rules. For people representing themselves, the administrative process tends to be more welcoming and understandable.

Montana is somewhat unique in the way that it handles license suspension. Unlike other states, our CSED has authority to order the license suspension itself for child support violations. Their order is then given to the DMV which will suspend the license.

The bottom line here is that your driver’s license can be suspended for failure to pay child support. The simple solution is to pay the child support owed, but the more important message is how vital it is to participate in the process that establishes child support. So many people think that there’s no reason. That’s just not true. There are lots of good reasons. For example, without accurate income information – the rules allow the other parent to guess. This means that a reasonable number will be assigned, and the calculation will be based on that assumption. The fact that you may not actually make that much money doesn’t factor in to it. And the end result may be a loss of your driver’s license.

Now, doesn’t being involved in the process sound like a better idea?