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NPRM: Involuntary Child and Spousal Support Allotments

AT-83-14

Published: July 20, 1983
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Collections/Distribution/State Disbursement Unit (SDU), Employer Responsibilities, Income/Wage Withholding
Types:
Policy, Action Transmittals (AT), Regulations

Involuntary Child & Spousal Support Allotments

PROPOSED REGULATIONS

ACTION TRANSMITTAL

OCSE-AT-83-14

July 20, 1983

TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT

ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS

SUBJECT: Involuntary Child and Spousal Support Allotments; Proposed Processing Provisions

ATTACHMENT: Attached are proposed regulations from the Office of the Secretary, Health and Human Services, which provide specific guidance to States, courts, and the Public Health Service (PHS) on processing involuntary child or child and spousal allotments. The provisions of these regulations apply only to PHS commissioned officers.

REGULATION REFERENCE: 42 CFR Part 21

COMMENT PERIOD: Consideration will be given to written comments received on or before August 10, 1983. Address comments to: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of Management Office of Personnel Management, Commissioned Personnel Operations Division, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20857.

INQUIRIES TO: OCSE Regional Representatives.

Deputy Director

Office of Child Support

Enforcement

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Office of the Secretary

42 CFR Part 21

Involuntary Child and Spousal Support Allotments; Proposed Processing Provisions

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, HHS.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

SUMMARY: This proposed rule would implement section 172 of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-248). The proposed rule provides specific guidance to States, courts, and the Public Health Service on processing involuntary child or child and spousal support allotments. The provisions of these regulations apply only to PHS commissioned officers. The issuance: (a) Establishes Department of Health and Human Services policy; (b) provides instructions on the service of notice; (c) defines the limitations on the amount of a support allotment; (d) prescribes procedures for officer notification and consultation; and (e) lists the designated officials within the Department of Health and Human Services who will process involuntary support allotments.

DATE: Written comments must be received on or before August 10, 1983. Comment will be available for public inspection by request.

Because of the expected number of comments, we do not plan to acknowledge or respond to individual comments. However, we will respond to the comments in the preamble of the final rule.

ADDRESS: Address comments in writing to: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of Management, Office of Personnel Management, Commissioned Personnel Operations Division, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20857.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Winston J. Dean, 301-443-2626.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In order to effect prompt implementation, beginning on October 1, 1982, the Department of Health and Human Services will follow the proposed rule until a final rule is issued.

Regulatory Impact Analysis

The Department has determined that this rule is not a major rule under E.O. 12291; therefore a regulatory impact analysis is not required. Only a few commissioned officers (less than five) are expected to have their pay garnished each month for overdue child and spousal support. Therefore, the total cost to officers as well as the cost of administering the regulation is minimal.

Additionally, we certify that these regulations will not, if promulgated, have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because they affect only individuals. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis as provided in Pub. L. 96-354, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, is not required.

Information Collection Requirements

Section 21.75 of this proposed rule contains information collection requirements. As required by section 3504(h) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, we have submitted a copy of this proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its review of these information collection requirements. Other organizations and individuals desiring to submit comments on these information collection requirements should direct them to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, New Executive Office Building (Room 3208), Washington, D.C., 20503, ATTN: Desk Officer for HHS.

List of Subjects in 42 CFR Part 21

Definitions, Appointment.

Accordingly, it is proposed to revise 42 CFR Part 21 by adding a new Subpart C, reading as follows:

Subpart C--Involuntary Child and Spousal Support Allotments

Sec.

21.70 Purpose.

21.71 Applicability and scope.

21.72 Definitions.

21.73 Policy.

21.74 Responsibilities.

21.75 Procedures.

Authority: 37 U.S.C. 101;15 U.S.C. 1673;42 U.S.C. 665

Subpart C--Involuntary Child and Spousal Support Allotments

§ 21.70 Purpose.

Under references 37 U.S.C. 101.15 U.S.C. 1673, and 42 U.S.C. 665, this subpart provides implementing policies governing involuntary child or child and spousal support allotments, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures.

§ 21.71 Applicability and scope.

(a) This subpart applies to officers in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The term "Public Health Service, "hereinafter shall be referred to as Service.

(b) Its provisions pertain to officers of the Service under a call or order to active duty for a period of six months or more.

§ 21.72 Definitions.

(a) Child Support. Periodic payments for the support and maintenance of a child or children, subject to and in accordance with State or local law. This includes, but is not limited to payments to provide for health care, education, recreation, clothing, or to meet other specific needs of such a child or children.

(b) Spousal Support. Periodic payments for the support and maintenance of a spouse or former spouse in accordance with State or local law. It includes, but is not limited to, separate maintenance, alimony pendente lite, and maintenance. Spousal support does not include any payment for transfer of property or its value by an individual to his or her spouse or former spouse in compliance with any community property settlement, equitable distribution of property, or other division of property between spouse or former spouse.

(c) Notice. A court order, letter, or similar documentation issued by an authorized person, which provides notification that an officer has failed to make periodic support payments under a support order.

(d) Support Order. Any order providing for child or child and spousal support issued by a court of competent jurisdiction or by administrative procedures established under State law that affords substantial due process and is subject to judicial review. A court of competent jurisdiction includes Indian tribal courts within any State, territory, or possession of the United States and the District of Columbia.

(e) Authorized Person. (1) Any agent or attorney of any State having in effect a plan approved under Part D of title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 651-665), who has the duty or authority to seek recovery of any amounts owed as child or child and spousal support (including, when authorized under a State plan, any official of a political subdivision); and (2) the court which has authority to issue an order against the officer for the support and maintenance of a child, or any agent of such court.

(f) Active Duty. Full-time duty in the Service, including full-time training duty.

(g) Legal Officer. Shall be an officer of the Service or employee of the Department who is a lawyer and who has substantial knowledge of the regulations, policies, and procedures relating to the implementation of Section 172 of Pub. L. 97-248.

§ 21.73 Policy.

(a) it is the policy of the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold allotments from pay and allowances of commissioned officers on active duty in the Service to make involuntary allotments from pay and allowances as payment of child, or child and spousal, support payments when the officer has failed to make periodic payments under a support order in a total amount equal to the support payable for two months or longer. Failure to make such payments shall be established by notice from an authorized person to the designated official of the Department. Such notice shall specify the name and address of the payee to whom the allotment is payable. The amount of the allotment shall be the amount necessary to comply with the support order including amounts for arrearages as well as for current support. However, the amount of the allotment, when added to any other amounts withheld from the officer's pay pursuant to a support order, shall not exceed the limits for involuntary allotments from pay as prescribed in section 303(b) and (c) of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 1673. An allotment under the subpart shall be adjusted or discontinued upon notice from any authorized person.

(b) Notwithstanding the above, no action shall be taken to withhold an allotment from the pay and allowances of any officer until such officer has had an opportunity to consult with a legal officer of the Department to discuss the legal and other factors involved with respect to the officer's support obligation and his or her failure to make payments. The Department shall exercise continuing good faith efforts to arrange such a consultation, but must begin to withhold allotments on the first end-of-month payday after 30-day have lapsed since notice of an opportunity to consult was sent to the officer.

§ 21.74 Responsibilities.

(a) The General Counsel, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, shall be the Designated Official for the Department and shall provide guidance to the Service regarding administration of the provisions of these regulations.

(b) The Commissioned Personnel Operations Division, Office of Personnel Management, Office of Management,, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, shall implement the provisions of these regulations.

§ 21.75 Procedures.

(a) Service of Notice. (1) An authorized person shall serve on the designated official of the Department a signed notice including:

(i) Full name of the officer;

(ii) Social security number of the officer;

(iii) Duty station location of the officer, if known;

(iv) A statement that support payments are delinquent by an amount at least equal to the amount of support payable for two months;

(v) A photocopy, along with any modifications, of the underlying support order;

(vi) A statement of the amount of arrearages provided for in the court order and the amount which is to be applied each month toward liquidation of the arrearages, if applicable;

(vii) The full name and address of the payee to whom the allotment will be payable;

(viii) Any limitations on the duration of the support allotment.

(2) The service of notice shall be accomplished by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service, upon the appropriate designated official of the Department. The designated official shall note the date and time of receipt on the notice.

(3) Valid service is not accomplished until the notice is received in the office of the designated official.

(4) If the order of a court or duly authorized administrative agency seeks collection of arrearages, the notice must state that the support allotment qualifies for the additional 5 percent in excess of the maximum percentage limitations found in 15 U.S.C. 1673. Supporting evidence must be submitted to the Department establishing that the support order is 12 or more weeks in arrears.

(5) When the information submitted is not sufficient to identify the officer the notice shall be returned directly to the authorized person with an explanation of the deficiency. However, before returning the notice, an attempt should be made to inform the authorized person who caused the notice to be served that it will not be honored unless adequate information is supplied.

(6) Upon proper service of notice of delinquent support payments and together with all required supplementary documents and information, the Service shall identify the officer from whom moneys are due and payable. The pay of the officer shall be reduced by the amount necessary to comply with the support order and liquidate arrearages if any, if provided by order of a court or duly authorized administrative agency. This maximum amount to be allotted under this provision together with any other moneys withheld from the officer for support pursuant to a court order may not exceed:

(i) 50 percent of the officer's disposable earnings for any month when the officer asserts by affidavit or other acceptable evidence that he or she is supporting a spouse or dependent child or both, other than a party in the support order. When the officer submits evidence, copies shall be sent to the authorized person, together with notification that the officer's support claim will be honored. If the support claim is contested by the authorized person, the authorized person may refer it to the appropriate court or other authority for resolution. Pending resolution of a contested support claim, the allotment shall be made but the amount of such allotment may not exceed 50 percent of the officer's disposable earnings;

(ii) 60 percent of the officer's disposable earnings for any month when the officer fails to assert by affidavit or other acceptable evidence, that he or she is supporting a spouse or dependent child or both;

(iii) Regardless of the limitations above, an additional five percent of the officer's disposable earnings shall be withheld when it is stated in the notice that the officer is in arrears in an amount equivalent to 12 or more weeks' support.

(b) Disposable Earnings. (1) The following moneys, as defined in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual, are subject to inclusion in computation of the officer's disposable earnings:

(i) Basic pay;

(ii) Basic allowances for quarters for officers with dependents and officers without dependents;

(iii) Basic allowance for subsistence;

(iv) Special pay for physicians, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians;

(v) Hazardous duty pay;

(vi) Flying pay;

(vii) Family separation allowances (only for officers assigned outside the contiguous United States).

(c) Exclusions. The following moneys are excluded from the computation of the officer's disposable earnings. Amounts due from or payable by the United States shall be offset by any amounts:

(1) Owed by the officer to the United States.

(2) Required by law to be deducted from the renumeration or other payment involved including but not limited to:

(i) Amounts withheld from benefits payable under Title II of the Social Security Act when the withholding is required by law;

(ii) FICA.

(3) Properly withheld for Federal and State income tax purposes if the withholding of the amounts is authorized or required by law and if amounts withheld are not greater than would be the case if the individual claimed all dependents to which he or she were entitled. The withholding of additional amounts pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 3402(i) may be permitted only when the officer presents evidence of a tax obligation which supports the additional withholding.

(4) Deducted for the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance coverage.

(5) Advances of pay that may be due and payable by the officer in the future.

(d) Officer Notification. (1) As soon as possible, but not later than 30 calendar days after the date of receipt of notice, the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division shall send to the officer at his or her duty station, written notice:

(i) That notice has been served, including a copy of the documents submitted;

(ii) Of the maximum limitations set forth, with a request that the officer submit support affidavits or other documentation necessary for determining the applicable percentage limitation;

(iii) That by submitting supporting affidavits or other necessary documentation, the officer consents to the disclosure of such information to the party requesting the support allotment;

(iv) Of the amount or percentage that will be deducted if the officer fails to submit the documentation necessary to enable the designated official of the Service to respond to the legal process within the time limits set forth;

(v) That a consultation with a legal officer is authorized and will be provided by the Department, The name, address, and telephone number of the legal officer will be provided;

(vi) That the officer may waive the personal consultation with a legal officer; however if consultation is waived action will be taken to initiate the allotment by the first end-of-month payday after notification is received that the officer has waived her/her consultation;

(vii) That the allotment will be initiated without the officer having received a personal consultation with a legal officer if the legal officer provides documentation that consultation could not be arranged even though good faith attempts to do so had been made; and

(viii) Of the date that the allotment is scheduled to begin.

(2) The Commissioned Personnel Operations Division shall inform the appropriate legal officer of the need for consultation with the officer and shall provide the legal officer with a copy of the notice and other legal documentation served on the designated official.

(3) If possible, the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division shall provide the officer with the following:

(i) A consultation in person with the appropriate legal officer to discuss the legal and other factors involved with the officer's support obligation and his/her failures to make payment;

(ii) Copies of any other documents submitted with the notice.

(4) The legal officer concerned will confirm in writing to the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division within 30 days of notice that the officer received a consultation concerning the officer's support obligation and the consequences of failure to make payments. The legal officer concerned must advise the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division of the inability to arrange such consultation and the status of continuing efforts to contact the officer.

(e) Lack of Money. (1) When notice is served and the identified officer is found not be entitled to any moneys due from or payable by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division shall return the notice to the authorized person, and advise in writing that no moneys are due from or payable by the Department of Health and Human Services to the named individual.

(2) Where it appears that moneys are only temporarily exhausted or otherwise unavailable, the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division shall advise the authorized person in writing on a timely basis as to why, and for how long, the moneys will be unavailable.

(3) In instances where the officer separates from active duty, the authorized person shall be informed in writing on a timely basis that the allotment is discontinued.

(f) Effective Date of Allotment. Allotments shall be withheld beginning on the first end-of-month payday after the Commissioned Personnel Operations Division is notified that the officer has had a consultation with a legal officer, has waived his/her right to such consultation, or the legal officer has submitted documentation that a consultation with the officer could not be arranged after good faith attempts to do so were made by the legal officer. The Service shall not be required to vary its normal allotment payment cycle to comply with the notice.

(g) Designated Official. Department of Health and Human Services, General Counsel, Room 5362 North Building, 330 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20201

Dated: June 10, 1983.

Margaret M. Heckler,

Secretary

[FR Doc. 83-18509 Filed 7-8-83:8:45 am]

Billing Code 4150-04-M