(a) Scheduling of Cases. - The procedures of this section shall apply to all child support cases in any district court district as defined in G.S. 7A-133 or county in which an expedited process has been established. All claims for the establishment or enforcement of a child support obligation, whether the claim is made in a separate action or as part of a divorce or any other action, shall be scheduled for hearing before the child support hearing officer. The initiating party shall send a notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing to all other parties. Service of process shall be made and notices given as provided by G.S. 1A-1, Rules of Civil Procedure.
(b) Place of Hearing. - The hearing before the child support hearing officer need not take place in a courtroom, but shall be conducted in an appropriate judicial setting.
(c) Hearing Procedures. - The hearing of a case before a child support officer is without a jury. The rules of evidence applicable in the trial of civil actions generally are observed; however, the hearing officer may require the parties to produce and may consider financial affidavits, State and federal tax returns, and other financial or employment records. Except as otherwise provided in this Article, the hearing officer shall determine the parties' child support rights and obligations and enter an appropriate order based on the evidence and the child support laws of the State. All parties shall be provided with a copy of the order.
(d) Record of Proceeding. - The record of a proceeding before a child support hearing officer shall consist of the pleadings filed in the child support case, documentation of proper service or notice or waiver, and a copy of the hearing officer's order. No verbatim recording or transcript shall be required or provided at State expense.
(e) Transfer to District Court Judge. - Upon his own motion or upon motion of any party, the hearing officer shall transfer a case for hearing before a district court judge when the case involves:
(1) A contested paternity action;
(2) A custody dispute;
(3) Contested visitation rights;
(4) The ownership, possession, or transfer of an interest in property to satisfy a child support obligation; or
(5) Other complex issues.
Upon ordering such a transfer, except in cases of contested paternity, the hearing officer shall also enter a temporary order that provides for the payment of a money amount or otherwise addresses the child's need for support pending the resolution of the case by the district court judge. The chief district court judge shall establish a procedure for such transferred cases to be given priority for hearing before a district court judge. (1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 993, s. 1; 1987 (Reg. Sess., 1988), c. 1037, s. 89.)