Requests by Custodial Parents for a Change of Address for the Disbursement of Support
DATE: December 04, 2002
TO: State IV-D Directors
FROM: Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Office of Child Support Enforcement
SUBJECT: Requests by Custodial Parents for a Change of Address for the Disbursement of the Custodial Parent's Share of Child Support Collections
Our goal in issuing this PIQ is to clarify for State IV-D agencies the existing federal policy regarding requests by custodial parents  for a change of address for the disbursement of the custodial parent's share of child support collections. We previously issued policy guidance on whether payments received by the IV-D agency due to the custodial parent may be forwarded to a private collection agency instead of the custodial parent, at the custodial parent's request. PIQ-92-13 stated that "[n]othing in federal law precludes States from sending child support payments to an entity requested by a custodial parent if authorization to do so has been obtained. Such practices would be governed by State law."
In response to recent inquiries, we reiterate in this policy guidance that there are no federal statutory or regulatory authorities that prevent a state from honoring a request by a custodial parent for a change of address for the disbursement of his/her share of child support collections, even if the address is that of a third party, such as an attorney or a private collection agency. Under federal law, a payment sent by the IV-D agency to the custodial parent at his/her residence is no more or less valid than one sent to the custodial parent at, for example, a post office box, a private mailbox company, or "in care of" an attorney or a private collection agency.
Question 1: If a state honors a custodial parent's request for a change of address for the disbursement of child support payments, is the state in violation of the requirement that the state disbursement unit (SDU) disburse payments within two days of receipt of the payment?
Answer 1: No, as long as new payments are disbursed within 2 business days to the new address. Section 454B(b)(1) of the Social Security Act (Act) requires the SDU to use automated procedures "for disbursements to custodial parents and other obligees. . . ." Pursuant to section 454B(c)(1), the SDU generally must "distribute all amounts payable under section 457(a) within 2 business days after receipt from the employer or other source of periodic income, if sufficient information identifying the payee is provided." These requirements do not speak to the address to which payments due to the custodial parent must be sent. Federal law does not prevent states from sending child support payments to any particular address requested by the custodial parent. Therefore, a state may send a child support payment to the custodial parent at any address that he/she requests without violating the two-day rule in section 454B(c) of the Act.
Question 2: If a state honors a custodial parent's request for a change of address for the disbursement of child support payments, is the state in violation of the federal statutory and regulatory requirements that IV-D agencies make payments to the resident parent, legal guardian, or caretaker relative?
Answer 2: No. Section 454(11)(B) of the Act and 45 CFR 302.38 require payments to be made to the resident parent, legal guardian, or caretaker relative having custody of or responsibility for the child or children. These requirements identify the individual to whom the payments must be made (i.e., the payee), not the geographic address to which the payments must be sent. Federal law and regulations do not prevent states from sending child support payments to the address authorized by the custodial parent.
Question 3: If a state honors a custodial parent's request for a change of address for the disbursement of child support payments, is the state in violation of the federal statutory and regulatory requirements that IV-D agencies distribute certain collections to the family?
Answer 3: No. Section 457(a) of the Act and 45 CFR 302.32 require that states distribute child support amounts collected pursuant to an approved state plan "to the family" unless assigned to the federal or state share. For the reasons provided in our answers to Questions 1 and 2, sending payments "to the family" at the address of the custodial parent's choice fully satisfies a state's obligations under these provisions.
Question 4: Does changing an address for disbursement of support collections to the address of a private attorney, private collection agency or other address constitute a change of payee or a redirection or assignment of payments?
Answer 4: No. Merely honoring a change of address does not constitute a change of payee or a redirection or assignment of payments to someone other than the payee under a support order, unless state law provides otherwise. The mere mailing of a payment in a custodial parent's name to an address other than his/her residence does not change the payee to anyone other than the custodial parent. Sending a payment in the custodial parent's name to the address that he/she requests, including that of an attorney or a private collection agency, should not change the fact that the custodial parent or other obligee named in the child support order remains the payee. Only the entity that issued the support order may change the payee, in accordance with state law.
Question 5: Some state officials have suggested that they cannot honor a custodial parent's request for a change of address for disbursement of child support payments because the state's automated system only stores one address for each custodial parent and the state is concerned about sending legal notices and correspondence to such an address. Is this appropriate?
Response 5: No. Any state that has an automated system that has been certified as meeting the Family Support Act requirements should be able to maintain at least two addresses. Under 45 CFR 307.25(b), a state must have an automated system that meets the requirements in the OCSE guideline titled, "Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States." Objective A-8.b. of this guideline requires the state system to accept and maintain both a home and a mailing address for the custodial parent.
In sum, state IV-D programs can send payments in the custodial parent's name to the address that he/she provides, unless otherwise prohibited by state law. States may not refuse to honor a custodial parent's request that payments be sent to a specific address on the basis that federal statute or regulations preclude such action.
cc: ACF Regional Administrators
Regional Program Managers