Public Assistance and Child Support
PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND CHILD SUPPORT
What are the child support cooperation requirements?
If you apply for Public Assistance or receive Public Assistance and there is a child under 21 in your household, you must:
1. Turn over (“assign”) your right to get support to DSS.
2. Cooperate with DSS to:
a. name the father of your child (“establish paternity”).
b. get any support owed to you and any child living with you.
What do I have to do to cooperate?
If there is a child in the household whose parent lives outside the household (“absent parent”), or whose father lives in the household but is not married to the mother and has not been adjudicated by a court to be the father of the child (“putative father”) you must:
1. meet with the Child Support Enforcement Unit (“CSEU”, also sometimes called “4D”) at DSS.
2. provide information to identify and locate the absent parent or putative father, including:
b. social security number
c. date of birth
d. telephone number
f. employer’s name and address
If you do not know some of this information, you must fill out and sign and swear to a form called “Attestation to Lack of Information”.
3. Go to court or other hearings if needed to establish paternity or establish, modify or enforce support.
4. Have a DNA test and take the child for a DNA test if ordered by a court.
Are there exceptions to the child support cooperation requirements?
Yes, if you have a good reason (“good cause”) for not cooperating. Good cause is found when pursuing paternity or child support would not be in your child’s best interest. Some examples of good cause are:
1. Cooperation is likely to cause physical or emotional harm to you or your child.
2. The child came from a pregnancy due to incest or rape.
3. You are working to have your child adopted.
If you do not want to pursue child support because you are a victim of domestic violence, tell DSS. You will be referred to the domestic violence liaison. The domestic violence liaison can grant a waiver so that you do not have to cooperate with establishing paternity or seeking support.
How do I claim good cause?
Tell your Public Assistance caseworker that you want to claim good cause for not pursuing child support. If you are applying for assistance or recertifying, you can check the box at the bottom of the Notice of Responsibilities and Rights for Child Support form that are required to sign which says that you “cannot pursue child support as it would expose my children or myself to physical or emotional harm. “ You can claim good cause at any time if something happens to make pursuing child support harmful to you or your children.
What happens when I claim good cause?
Your Public Assistance caseworker must investigate your claim. You will have 20 days to give your caseworker any documents that support your claim, such as court, medical, criminal, child protective services or police records or sworn statements from other people that show that the other parent might harm you or your child. If you need help to get the evidence, ask your caseworker to help you. Your caseworker may not contact the other parent without telling you first. You are excused from cooperating with child support requirements while your good cause claim is being decided. DSS must decide on your good cause claim within 30 days from the date you make it. DSS can decide:
- to accept your claim for good cause and not proceed with establishing paternity and support.
- to accept your claim for good cause, but proceed with establishment of paternity and support without your participation if they believe it can be done without causing harm to you or your child
- to deny your claim for good cause. If your claim of good cause is denied, you are given the choice of withdrawing your application, cooperating with child support requirements, or being sanctioned for not cooperating (see the section below about sanctions).
If I am pregnant do I have to cooperate in establishing paternity and support from the baby’s father?
No, you cannot be sanctioned for refusing to cooperate with paternity or support establishment before the baby is born. If you are applying or receiving Public Assistance and you are pregnant, you will be referred to the Child Support Enforcement Unit. They will encourage you to pursue support and they may initiate paternity or support proceedings on your behalf. If the alleged father denies paternity, the CSEU cannot continue with the paternity case until 60 days after your baby is born.
What happens if I do not cooperate with child support requirements?
If you are required to cooperate with child support requirements and you do not cooperate, you can be sanctioned by DSS. Your Public Assistance standard of need (the maximum grant before income is deducted) is cut by 25%. This reduction lasts until you comply.
What can I do if I disagree with the decision by DSS on my claim of good cause, or if I disagree with a sanction for not cooperating?
If you disagree with DSS’s action, you can request a Fair Hearing. See article on Fair Hearings.
What happens if I receive child support?
If you have a child support order and you are on Public Assistance, support paid by the absent parent usually is paid to the Support Collection Unit at DSS. If you have one child, DSS gives you the first $100 of support received for that child in the month in addition to your regular Public Assistance grant. This is called a “pass-through”. If you have two or more children, your pass-through is the first $200 of support received for the children. DSS keeps the rest of the support collected as reimbursement for Public Assistance it pays you.
If the other parent pays you support directly, you are required to turn it over to DSS. You will then receive the pass-through.
If the support order is more than your welfare grant plus the pass-through, your Public Assistance case will be closed and you will receive all the child support instead.
What can I do if I do not think I received all the child support from DSS that I am entitled to?
You do not have the right to a Fair Hearing if you disagree with the amount of support you receive as a pass-through. If you think that there is a mistake, you should talk to your Public Assistance caseworker. If you cannot work it out by talking to your caseworker, you can request a “desk review.” You must fill out a desk review request form, which you can obtain from DSS.
How does a desk review work?
The Support Collection Unit and a DSS worker will review their payment records and any information you submit and decide whether you are owed any child support. If you have requested a conference you will have one in person or by phone. They must make a decision in writing within 45 days of the date you request the desk review. If you do not agree with their decision, you can request a second level review with the State Division of Child Support Enforcement by filling out the form which is enclosed with the decision from your desk review. You must request the second level review within 20 days of the date of the desk review decision. If you disagree with the results of the second level review, you have the right to appeal to court in an Article 78 proceeding. You must file your Article 78 appeal within 4 months of the date of the second level review decision. See our article on Article 78 proceedings.
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This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer. Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.