Child Support Agencies’ Interest in Access to Justice

Last week I attended the Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council Conference in Jackson Hole Wyoming.  I was part of a session on the implications of Turner v. Rogers.

I talked to people from many states (Wyoming, California, and Colorado among them), and was impressed by the level of interest in closer collaboration between courts and child support enforcement agencies at the state and local level.  Most of the people I talked to really see their work as access to justice work, and they see themselves not primarily as collection agents, but as a gateway to financial stability for the families they help.  In fact, the vast majority of their caseload is not collecting reimbursement for welfare payments, but rather trying to get non-custodial parents to pay their fair share of the costs that custodial parents bear.  Moreover, they realize the importance of both sides being heard, of not imposing impossible orders, and of being flexible and sensitive when parents are unable to make their payments.

Which is all by way of encouraging those concerned with access to reach out an include state and local IV-D agencies in your planning processes.  Indeed, in some states, the costs of self-help services provided in child support cases are now reimbursed under the federal IV-D program, pursuant to collaborative agreements between the IV-D agency and the courts.  As a general matter, 66% of child support and establishment and collection costs are potentially reimbursable, and there is no state or per capita cap on total IV-D reimbursement.  As some of you know, I have funding to work on developing materials to encourage such collaboration, and would welcome thoughts on how best to do so.

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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2 Responses to Child Support Agencies’ Interest in Access to Justice

  1. Claudia Johnson says:

    One of the issues that came up w/me when I was leading the hotline at Bay Area Legal aid, was the issue of arrears for elderly and disabled non-custodial parents. Many of them qualified for a waiver,under CA law, where based on their disability, they could limit the collection to 10% of their income being from disability. Many of them called in b/c they had large amounts being withheld putting them in eviciton court due to non payment of rent, or having to deal with credit card collections, health care debt, etc. I think that this is an area where courts/Title VI-D, and legal aid groups could collaborate in building tools those who fall into this categoria can use to help themselves obtain the 10% waiver. It would reduce all the other legal problems that come down the pike when someone who receives $900.00 is having $600.00 withheld b/c they don’t know how to request a motion to reduce the amount due to change in circumstances, plus they also do not know that they might qualify for limited deductions if they are disabled etc. Though traditionally this is not a population that legal aid groups work with in the child support arena–they may be working w/them on the other income related issues. Setting up self help centers, triage systems, and online forms with case management to help this particular group could end up reducing other actions (eviction for non payment, credit card collection, small claims, etc) and could end up also reducing the request for assistance from these case to legal aid, and also reduce the number of eviction defense or collection defense cases. A win win for all.

  2. We are proud to have support by the Texas AG’s office for the Access, Visitation, and Custody Hotline operated by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. Specific legal advice on child support and custody orders is supported by AG grants to Texas Legal Services Center. New funding provides also for mediation in some cases. Better compliance with orders and better outcomes for children.

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