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Issue Alert - Child Support Non-Cooperation Sanctions

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Date:

Jan 08, 2008

Program Area:

FIP - PEM 255

Issue Summary:

Applicants and recipients must comply with all requests for action or information needed by DHS to establish paternity and/or obtain child support on behalf of children for whom they receive assistance, unless a claim of good cause for not cooperating has been granted or is pending. In the past, there was no sanction if good cause was not found and that person was ineligible for benefits. New policy states that the entire group will be sanctioned, including FIP cases whose grantee is ineligible or disqualified.

Persons Affected:

Applicants and recipients of FIP who are either ineligible or disqualified from receiving benefits who have been determined non-cooperative in providing paternity information without good cause.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558 E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org

Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100 (734) 998-9125 Fax


Background

Recipients and applicants are expected to comply with all requests for action or information needed to establish paternity and/or obtain child support on behalf of children
for whom they receive assistance, unless a claim of good cause for not cooperating has been granted or is pending. Exceptions to the cooperation requirement are allowed for all child support actions except failure to return court-ordered support payments received after the payment effective date.

Good cause may be granted if:
• Requiring cooperation/support action is against the child's best interests, and
• There is a specific “good cause” reason.

If good cause exists, cooperation is excused as an eligibility requirement for the child involved. It can still be required for another child in the same family.

There are two types of good cause:
• Cases in which establishing paternity/securing support would harm the child. Do not require cooperation/support action in any of the following circumstances:
•• The child was conceived due to incest or forcible rape.
•• Legal proceedings for the adoption of the child are pending before a court.
•• The client is currently receiving counseling from a public or licensed private social agency to decide if the child should be released for adoption, and the counseling has not gone on for more than three months.
• Cases in which there is danger of physical or emotional harm to the child or client. Physical or emotional harm may result if the client or child has been subject to or is in danger of:
•• Physical acts that resulted in, or threatened to result in, physical injury.
•• Sexual abuse.
•• Sexual activity involving a dependent child.
•• Being forced as the caretaker relative of a dependent child to engage in nonconsensual sexual acts or activities.
•• Threats of, or attempts at, physical or sexual abuse.
•• Mental abuse.
•• Neglect or deprivation of medical care.

Cooperation is a condition of eligibility. The following persons in the eligible group are required to cooperate in establishing paternity and obtaining support, unless good cause has been granted or is pending:
• Grantee and spouse.
• Specified relative/person acting as a parent and spouse.
• Parent of the child for whom paternity and/or support action is required.

What's Happening?

PEM 255 - FIP case closure for non-cooperation with child support will now apply when any person who is required to cooperate with child support does not cooperate and does not have good cause. This includes Family Independence Program (FIP) cases whose grantee is ineligible or disqualified. Before this policy is implemented, notices will be sent to active FIP ineligible or disqualified grantees who show in non-cooperation status in the Michigan Child Support Enforcement System (MiCSES). Though this population has received non-cooperation notices in the past, they will be given a last opportunity to cooperate prior to implementing this policy change.

What Should Advocates Do?

If your client receives a notice from DHS stating that they must cooperate with child support or face a full family sanction, investigage whether good cause exists. If so, assist the individual in requesting a good cause exception to cooperation. If possible, evidence of good cause should be in writing. However, verification of good cause due to domestic violence is required only when questionable. Some examples of vericiation are:

Pending Adoption:
Court documents or records indicating that legal proceedings for adoption are pending.
Adoption Counseling:
Written statement from a public or licensed private social agency indicating:
• That the client is being helped to decide whether the child should be released for adoption, and
• The date the agency began its services for this purpose.
Domestic Violence
• Documented receipt of domestic violence counseling.
• Medical records.
• Court records(e.g., personal protection order or petition).
• Police records (e.g. domestic disturbance response).
• Other case record information (including children’s services).

What Should Clients Do?

Contact one of the resources listed in "Finding Help" below if you receive a notice from the Department of Human Services (DHS) stating that you are in non-compliance with child support and are facing sanctions.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee.

You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalAid.org.

You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.