Interstate Case Closure When Custodial Parent Location Is Unknown
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children & Families
Office of Child Support Enforcement
DATE: August 10, 2000
TO: State IV-D Directors and Regional Program Managers
FROM: David Gray Ross
Office of Child Support Enforcement
SUBJECT: Interstate Case Closure When Custodial Parent Location Is Unknown
The purpose of this issuance is to clarify the policy that governs case closure for interstate cases when the custodial parent's whereabouts are unknown.
Question 1: Under what circumstances can a responding State close a case if the initiating State does not know the whereabouts of the custodial parent?
Response 1: There are two ways a responding State may close a case under these circumstances. The first way is that the initiating State closes the case. Regulations on case closure at 45 CFR 303.11(b)(10) permit an initiating State to close a non-IV-A case receiving services under section 302.33(a)(1)(i) or (iii) (i.e., if the individual has filed an application for services with the IV-D agency or has been receiving IV-D services and is no longer eligible for assistance under title IV-A TANF, IV-E foster care, and the Medicaid program), if the IV-D agency is unable to contact the recipient of services within 60 calendar days despite an attempt of at least one letter sent by first class mail to the last known address. If the initiating State follows this process and decides to close a case, it must notify the responding State of the case closure consistent with 45 CFR 303.7(b)(5). The responding State should follow suit and close its case, since it is operating at the request of the initiating State.
The second way is when the responding State is unable to take further action in the case because the initiating State has failed to take an action essential for the next step in providing services. As stated in the preamble to the final rule on case closure (64 FR 11810, 11812 (March 10, 1999); OCSE-AT-99-04), under prior regulations a responding State could not close a case without the permission of the initiating State. This obligated the responding State to keep the case open even if it was unable to take any further action on the case. The new case closure regulations added 45 CFR 303.11(b)(12) which allows a case to be closed when "The IV-D agency documents failure by the initiating State to take an action which is essential for the next step in providing services."
If the responding State is unable to take further action without additional information or assistance and, as provided in the preamble to the final rule on case closure (64 FR 11810, 11816), it has so notified the initiating State consistent with 45 CFR 303.7(c)(4)(ii), the responding State may take steps to close the case on its own. According to 45 CFR 303.11(c), the responding State must notify the initiating State in writing 60 calendar days prior to closure of the State’s intent. Under 45 CFR 303.7(b)(4), an initiating State must provide a responding State with any requested information or notify the responding State when information will be provided within 30 calendar days. These two periods should run concurrently. The case must be kept open if contact is reestablished with the recipient of services within the 60-day time frame. If the initiating State responds that it has closed its case due to inability to locate the custodial parent, the responding State may close its case immediately.
Question 2: What should the responding State do with any undistributed collections when an interstate case is closed due to loss of contact with the custodial parent?
Response 2: In an interstate case, under 45 CFR 303.7(c)(7)(iv), a responding State must forward support payments to the location specified by the IV-D agency in the initiating State. See also OCSE-AT-98-24, question and answer 12 on interstate distribution, indicating that responding States are not responsible for distribution of support collected in an interstate case, and thus, not responsible for attempting to locate the custodial parent for purposes of distribution. The initiating State must accept the collection from the responding State and continues to be responsible for distributing monies when the custodial parent’s whereabouts are unknown. At no time does responsibility for distribution shift to the responding State. Any monies collected would be disbursed according to the initiating State’s laws including, if appropriate, returning the collection to the obligor, through the responding State, should the initiating State fail to locate the custodial parent.
I hope this information will be helpful in interpreting the requirements for case closure in interstate cases.