International Treaty on Child Support Enforcement

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Issue: International Treaty on Child Support Enforcement

Impact:

The rule could impact court policies and procedures.

Position:

No formal position

Summary:

On 12/20/16, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) published a final rule, Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs.  There are several provisions in the final rule of particular interest to the courts.

  • Child Support Guidelines
  • The rule prohibits treatment of incarceration in state child support guidelines as voluntary unemployment in establishing or modifying support orders. 
  • As part of the quadrennial review of the child support guidelines, states are required to “publish on the internet and make accessible to the public all reports of the guidelines reviewing body, the membership of the reviewing body, the effective date of the guidelines, and the date of the next quadrennial review.”
  • The rule requires that the quadrennial review process provide a meaningful opportunity for public input and that the views and advice of the State IV-D agency be obtained.
    • Setting Accurate Support Orders Based on the Specific Facts
    • The rule places new requirements on the State IV-D agencies to improve the accuracy of support orders by collecting all relevant information.  The agencies are required to:
      • take “reasonable steps to develop a sufficient factual basis for the support obligation, through such means as investigations, case conferencing, interviews with both parties, appear and disclose procedures, parent questionnaires, testimony, and electronic data sources”;
      • gather information regarding the earnings and income of the noncustodial parent (NCP) and information about the specific circumstances of the NCP when earnings and income information is unavailable or insufficient;
      • base the support obligation or recommended support obligation amount on the earnings and income of the NCP whenever available. If evidence of earnings and income is unavailable or insufficient, then the support obligation or recommended support obligation amount should be based on available information about the specific circumstances of the NCP; and
      • document “the factual basis for the support obligation or the recommended support obligation in the case record.”
  • Civil Contempt Due Process Requirements
  • The State IV-D agencies are required to establish guidelines for the use of civil contempt citations in IV-D cases.  The guidelines place a burden on the agency to provide the court with information on the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay court ordered support.  The guidelines must require the agency to:
    • “screen the case for information regarding the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay or otherwise comply with the order”;
    • “provide the court with such information regarding the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay, or otherwise comply with the order, which may assist the court in making a factual determination regarding the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay the purge amount or comply with the purge conditions”; and
    • “provide clear notice to the noncustodial parent that his or her ability to pay constitutes the critical question in the civil contempt action.”
  • Incarceration as a Change of Circumstance
  • The rule requires that IV-D agencies inform both parents of the right to request the State to review and, if appropriate, adjust the order upon learning that the NCP is incarcerated. The notice must specify, at a minimum, the place and manner in which the request should be made.
The rule addresses incarceration as a significant change of circumstance when determining the standard for grounds for petitioning a review and adjustment of a support order.   

Status:

OCSE has now published an Action Transmittal (AT-16-06) that provides a table that lists the subject areas included in the rule along with preamble page numbers and regulatory text page numbers.  OCSE also published a Fact Sheet that provides a high level overview of the rule.