1 dayturnaround on most documents
↓Significantly reduced court processing times
↑Improved response rates through SMS
Every month, the state of Louisiana handles over 250,000 child support cases. The 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office—which serves St. Tammany and Washington Parishes—partners with the Department of Children and Family Services to help ensure parents consistently meet their financial obligations.
But when it comes to requesting and enforcing child support orders, there are hoops to jump through and lots of paperwork to sign. Historically, that was primarily done through face-to-face appointments. One employee in the office’s Child Support Division set out to change that.
“Having people take off work just to sign things wasn’t very efficient,” said Mary Strahan, assistant district attorney. DocuSign eSignature, which Strahan first heard about in law school, was the ideal workaround, helping to speed up processing times while reaching people through their preferred channels.
Meeting people where they are
In the complicated—and predominantly young—world of child support, eSignature helps put people at ease because it’s a tool most have used in other parts of their lives—from signing a lease to closing on a home or car loan. “They can fill out everything we send them on their smartphone, which just fits their lifestyle better,” said Strahan.
Maximizing the use of online child support services benefits both the D.A.’s office and the people it serves. When it comes to being notified about important documents, constituents not only prefer SMS; it’s also the most successful channel for getting a quick response. “We’ve found that people are more likely to respond to text messages than email just because it’s simpler,” said Strahan.
By establishing a relationship with non-custodial parents early on—something eSignature helps facilitate—the D.A.’s office is also more likely to be successful at collecting payments from the get go. To help take some of the adversarialness out of the process, the Child Support Division also uses eSignature to create educational packets that address commonly asked questions and next steps.
Using DocuSign audit trails as key evidence
In the best-case scenario, document turnaround is within a day—a big shift from the slow cycle times of in-person appointments and snail mail. But another advantage for the D.A.’s office is being able to track the complete history of documents—an eSignature feature that’s come in handy in the courtroom.
A new Louisiana law that took effect in 2022 allows state attorneys to serve people via email as long as they can show proof of delivery. “In court, one person claimed they never received anything from us—that we didn’t contact them at all,” said Strahan. Using eSignature’s detailed audit trail, the D.A.’s office was able to show the judge that the documents were both received and reviewed. “Before, we had no way of knowing whether anything we’d sent out to parents was received, so this is a really great feature.”
Keeping cases moving forward
What started in 2018 as a single use case—preparing and sending Statements of Arrears—has grown to include judgments, payment instructions, information packets, and income and expense statements. But, according to Strahan, DocuSign really took off when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“One day we were in the office and everything was great,” she said. “The following Monday, court was canceled indefinitely—so we had to find creative ways to move months’ worth of cases and get our work done.”
Using eSignature, Strahan created packets with the 15 questions always asked in child support cases. Once they were completed and signed, they were sent to a hearing officer for review and child support computation. “Not only did they answer the questions, but they were also able to upload their income documents in DocuSign,” said Strahan.
The future is 100% digital
The office looks a lot different than Strahan remembers from the early days when there were stacks of documents everywhere.
The future, according to Strahan’s vision, is 100% paperless. Once the DA’s office gets remote notarization in place for affidavits, that vision—being able to do everything online—will be closer to reality.
Since implementing eSignature, the D.A.’s office is able to move at a faster pace than ever before while providing a better employee and constituent experience. It’s a success story Strahan has taken on the road to dispel misconceptions about electronic signatures in the legal world and spread the word about the benefits of DocuSign. “The opportunities are really unlimited,” she said. “If you can think a bit out of the box about what you're trying to accomplish, DocuSign most likely has a tool for it.”
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