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Change in Expedited Processes Exemption Requirements

DCL-95-07

Published: January 27, 1995
Information About:
Other Public Partners, Courts, State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Paternity Establishment
Types:
Policy, Dear Colleague Letters (DCL)
Tags:
Administrative/Judicial Processes

TO ALL STATE IV-D DIRECTORS

Dear Colleague:

This is to alert you to a change in the process for requesting an exemption from expedited processes requirements as a result of the publication of the final regulation on paternity establishment in the Federal Register on December 23, 1994 (59 FR 66204; OCSE-AT-94-06).  The final regulation implements, among other things, changes to 466(a)(2) of the Social Security Act (the Act) made by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA '93)[P. L. 103-66].  

Section 466(a)(2) of the Act requires that procedures under which expedited processes are in effect under the State judicial system or under State administrative processes for obtaining and enforcing support orders must now extend to procedures for establishing paternity.  The statute directs that "expedited processes" are to be determined in accordance with regulations of the Secretary.

Under final rules issued May 9, 1985, implementing the Child Support Amendments of 1984, the term "expedited processes" was defined as administrative or expedited judicial processes or both which increase effectiveness and meet processing times and "under which the presiding officer is not a judge of the court".  In reevaluating this rule, in light of the OBRA '93 statutory change, we focused on the importance of case processing timeframes.  With inclusion of paternity establishment in expedited processes, we believed it necessary to remove the prohibition against the use of judges as presiding officers. Currently, most States use judges as presiding officers in the majority of contested paternity cases.  With the regulatory change, Federal regulations at 303.101(a) now define "expedited processes" as administrative or expedited judicial processes, or both, which increase effectiveness and meet processing timeframes.  This change is designed to emphasize meeting timeframes for completion of case activities rather than imposing restrictions on who may be presiding officials in child support cases.  

As a result, there is no longer a need to request an exemption in order for a judge to serve as the presiding official.  Current exemptions allowing political subdivisions or judicial districts to use judges as part of expedited processes are, by virtue of this regulation, rendered obsolete.  However, all jurisdictions, including those which use judges, will be subject to audit scrutiny to determine if they are meeting the required expedited processes timeframes and will be subject to possible penalty if they fail to meet case processing timeframes.    

This change gives States more flexibility while still achieving the desired outcome--expeditious processing of cases.  States have the option of using their existing judicial system or administrative processes for handling paternity establishment matters, as well as establishment and enforcement of child support orders as long as actions are performed in an effective and timely manner.  This revision is not meant to encourage States to abandon or not implement quasi-judicial or administrative processes.  Rather, States may need to reconsider their present decision-making process in order to meet the new expedited process timeframes.  We strongly urge States with administrative and quasi-judicial procedures to continue using such procedures.

To the extent that this changes instructions in OCSE-AT-88-19, such instructions relating specifically to exemptions to use judges are no longer applicable.  We will be considering and evaluating the need for additional revisions to the process and instructions for obtaining exemptions from State law requirements under Title IV-D.

If you have any questions, or need additional information please contact Marilyn R. Cohen, OCSE Division of Policy and Planning,
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W., 4th floor, Washington, D.C. 20447, (202) 401-5366.

Sincerely,
 

David Gray Ross
Deputy Director
Office of Child Support Enforcement

cc:  ACF Regional Administrators
     Child Support Program Managers, Regions I-X