Determination of Controlling Order/Reconciliation of Arrears Guide and Calculator
DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER
ATTACHMENT: Determination of Controlling Order and Reconciliation of Arrears
DATE: August 14, 2003
TO: ALL STATE IV-D DIRECTORS
RE: OCSE Interstate Initiatives: the Determination of Controlling Order/Reconciliation of Arrears (DCO/ROA) Guide and the Arrears Reconciliation Calculator.
As part of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement’s (OCSE) efforts to improve interstate case processing, I am pleased to provide you with two products recently developed under OCSE interstate initiatives: the Determination of Controlling Order/Reconciliation of Arrears (DCO/ROA) Guide and the Arrears Reconciliation Calculator.
Enactment of UIFSA and the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA) ended the legal practice of creating multiple de novo child support orders in different states under URESA, the predecessor interstate law. UIFSA and FFCCSOA also set out the rules for selecting which of the valid current support orders would govern the obligor’s prospective current support obligation, called Determination of the Controlling Order (DCO). Although both URESA and UIFSA mandate that payments made under any order must be credited against the amount owed under all, the mechanism for reconciling and consolidating the arrears that accrued under valid multiple support orders is not defined. UIFSA (2001) places greater emphasis on DCO and adds a requirement that the tribunal making the determination reconcile the arrears (ROA) at the same time.
The DCO/ROA Guide provides the framework for front-line workers (attorneys and non-attorneys) to solve multiple orders and arrears reconciliation issues that come up in everyday work. It is divided into two sections: determining the controlling order and reconciliation of arrears. Both sections provide step-by-step narratives, easy-to-use flow charts, and questions and answers that will assist workers from start to finish with selecting the valid support order and reconciling the accrued arrears for prospective enforcement. Use this Guide as is or as an outline to develop more specific state and local procedures in an administrative or judicial case processing environment.
State and local child support staff developed the Guide participating in the ACF Region IX (San Francisco) and Region X (Seattle) Bi-Regional Interstate Task Force. It was subsequently trial-tested in local offices in Washington State and California. The field tests showed that the Guide was helpful in overcoming reluctance of workers to do formal determinations of controlling order and reconciliation of arrears and provided answers or suggestions for commonly occurring problems.
The Arrears Reconciliation Calculator was developed under an OCSE Task Order. The project’s goal was to provide a tool to handle the arrears reconciliation task. The charge was to develop a user-friendly automated calculator to assist states with the multiple-order interstate arrearage reconciliation processes. To that end, the project team worked with state and local staff from Virginia, Texas and Pennsylvania to develop the Calculator. It was subsequently field-tested in several locations and has been well- received at three conferences at which it was presented recently.
Given the present inability of one state to electronically “read” the order and payment records of another state and significant differences in state law in areas such as interest charges and application of payments, the Calculator was designed to work fairly and easily for about 80% of cases with multiple orders, while making minimal data entry demands on staff. Basic order information – effective date and order amount – and annual payments received are required. Once the information is gathered, data entry and calculation generally take under 15 minutes.
The Calculator uses a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It is supported by instructions that explain how the calculator works and what policy choices are incorporated. There is also a case example, usable for training. It is designed to assist caseworkers and lawyers during preparation of a reconciliation case. It will support both mediation/negotiation on these complex issues and litigation before an administrative or judicial tribunal. Sharing the calculator with the decision-maker will permit new information to be included – such as an additional order or payments not previously recorded – and an immediate recalculation of the total arrears, significantly decreasing delay. The Calculator contains both summary pages and year-by-year documentation. It reports total arrears, but presents subtotals showing interest and fees owed.
These two tools are intended to complement three other OCSE interstate initiatives: the Interstate Case Reconciliation Project, the Workgroup on Interagency Communications, and the UIFSA (2001) TEMPO (IM-03-01 January 22, 2003). The shared vision of the planners and participants in these varied projects is that offering a streamlined “how to” in a standard format - understandable and usable across state lines - would result in a greater effort by states to untangle multiple-order interstate cases.
We hope you find the DCO/ROA Guide and the Arrears Reconciliation Calculator to be of assistance to you in interstate multiple-order cases. We look forward to receiving your feedback on both tools as they are used with real cases.
Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Office of Child Support Enforcement
cc: ACF Regional Administrators
CSE Regional Program Managers