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SDUs International Activity

SDUs and Canadian Maintenance Enforcement Programs

Published: June 19, 2012
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Collections/Distribution/State Disbursement Unit (SDU), International
Types:
Outreach/Brochures, Program Information/Contacts

International: Current U.S. State Disbursement Unit Activities

Background

For several years the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has been promoting electronic methods for sending child support payments to custodial parties in other countries.  Electronic payments are cheaper, faster, safer, and more accurate than paper checks.

Debit Cards

Most states offer both direct deposit and debit cards to custodial parties (CP) in the U.S. for child support. Currently several states, through their state disbursement units (SDU), have extended their debit card program to custodial parties who live in other countries. The state child support enforcement (CSE) agency contracts with a private vendor (usually a financial institution) to administer a direct deposit and debit card program. Typically the debit card is branded, such as Visa or MasterCard. The vendor provides the debit card to the state CSE agency, and the CSE agency mails it to the custodial party living in Canada, Mexico, or elsewhere. The vendor can remotely load the card with the child support payment whenever a payment is received. States sending child support electronically to custodial parties in other countries include the following: CO, MO, NE, NY, TX, VA, and WA.

Direct Deposit

Direct deposit refers to pre-authorized, automatic payments to individual accounts.  Some states are able to directly deposit an international child support payment if the CP has an account with an international branch of a major financial institution, for example Wells Fargo or Bank of America.

  • Virginia and Wells Fargo: Disbursements

    Virginia contracted with Wells Fargo for online international banking services as an extension of services Wells Fargo was already providing to the Virginia SDU.  The authorized user accesses Wells Fargo's website enters data on a customized international child support payment template and Wells Fargo processes and remits the payment to the foreign country via direct deposit.

    The charges for this service in U.S. dollars (USD) are:

    • Monthly service charge - $30
    • Per transaction charge - $3
    • One-time start-up fee - $300

    This method uses direct payment in a U.S. child support case where the custodial party/support recipient lives in Canada. Since this is a U.S. case not registered with a local Canadian maintenance enforcement program (MEP), no case data needs to be transmitted to the MEP.

    Through Wells Fargo, the Virginia child support agency disburses payments via direct deposit to the CP’s bank account in a Canadian financial institution or to the bank account of another foreign country's child support agency such as Germany.

    The Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transfer method is an Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) transfer. The file format is pre-set in a web-based template provided by the bank for each receiving country. Using the template, the Virginia SDU worker manually creates the transaction (credit).  Templates may be saved and reused for subsequent payments. For Canada, the Virginia SDU can select payment in USD or Canadian dollars (CAD). Currency conversion to CAD occurs at the time of the online banking transaction. The Virginia SDU knows immediately what the recipient will receive in CAD. The Virginia SDU worker manually adjusts the payment on the state child support system to credit the noncustodial parent (NCP). After the adjustment, a notice is sent for that event stating that the money is being moved electronically to Canada, with the translation of the amount in USD to CAD. This activity provides a basis in the record for future questions about payments, arrearages, etc. However, the worker needs to look at each payment and manually create a spreadsheet of the different USD and CAD payment amounts.

    Cost savings: On-line transaction costs are 8 times less expensive than paper-based processing.  On-line processing costs $3 per transaction compared to paper-based processing, which costs an average of $25 per transaction.

    Efficiency: Payments reach the custodial party/support recipient in Canada in two days compared to paper-based mailings which may take several days to weeks to deliver. Templates eliminate workers' need to learn various countries' electronic standards and file formats.

    Security:  Direct deposit lowers risk of theft or loss of paper check.

    Customer satisfaction:  Customers appreciate speed of payments.

    For more information, go to Wells Fargo website.

  • Washington State/U.S. Bank and Canada: Collections from NCPs via Recurring Debits

    The Washington (WA) SDU made arrangements with a few NCPs in British Columbia, Canada to set up pre-authorized debits for child support from their accounts each month.

    This method uses automated withdrawal from a Canadian financial institution in a U.S. child support/maintenance case where the NCP/debtor lives in Canada.  Since this is a U.S. case not registered with a local Canadian maintenance enforcement program (MEP), no case data needs to be transmitted to the MEP.

    Process:

    • U.S. Bank, servicing bank for the WA SDU, processes cross-border automated withdrawals from the NCP’s (payer's) bank account for a few NCPs living in Canada.
    • U.S. Bank provides the software to process the automated withdrawals.
    • The WA SDU created a separate batch program on its automated child support system to process these cross-border automated withdrawals.
  • Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada and Idaho, Maine, and Ohio SDUs: IATs
    Prince Edward Island’s Maintenance Enforcement Program is currently sending child support payments in the International ACH (Automated Clearinghouse) Transaction (IAT) format to the Idaho, Maine, and Ohio SDUs.

Electronic Funds Transfer with Electronic Data Interchange

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) with electronic data interchange (EDI) refers to the sending of an electronic payment with data, namely the case information necessary to identify a child support payment.

Electronic Formats: Domestic and International

U.S. Domestic Payment Formats

In the U.S. the child support SDU accepts electronic child support payments domestically in several ways, as outlined below:

  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) -- SDUs accept payments through credits to the ACH Network using two EFT file formats: CCD+ and the CTX 820.  Each format can carry case information in an electronic data interchange (EDI) segment.  The Child Support Deduction Segment (DED) portion of the EDI carries the child support case data.
  • Web-Based Payment Services -- SDUs (or their vendors) process web-based payments (ACH debits) through the ACH Network.
  • Recurring Debits -- SDUs use this format to process recurring debits to the ACH Network.  The SDU works with the NCP to set-up automated debits for support collection through the NCP's financial institution.
  • Other -- Phone (ACH debit) or personal computer (on-line banking--ACH debit) set up by the SDU, the SDU vendor, or financial institutions.

International ACH Transaction (IAT)

NACHA (The Electronic Payments Association) developed the International ACH (Automated Clearinghouse) Transaction (IAT) file format, for cross-border transactions in order to comply with the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) regulations and concerns about money laundering.

The IAT replaced the CBR and PBR file formats upon implementation by U.S. financial institutions on September 18, 2009. One advantage of the IAT is that it includes two optional addenda records, one of which is identical to the addendum record now being used domestically for remitting child support payments electronically in the U.S. It can carry the case data that the SDUs need to receive in order to identify electronic payments and post them automatically.

Financial institutions may need time to complete system analysis, programming, and testing for the new EFT/EDI file format. For more information on the IAT, go to www.nacha.org.

U.S. and Canada Partnership to Send and Receive Cross-Border Payments

Overview

Canada is a federal state, composed of 10 provinces and three territories, each with its own independent Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).  The 13 MEPs run their own collection/disbursement programs similar to the SDUs in the U.S. However, unlike the U.S., ACH payments in Canada are exchanged directly among banks that are direct clearers in the Automated Clearinghouse Settlement System (ACSS).  In the U.S., ACH payments are processed through the Federal Reserve and the several private electronic payment networks that serve as the ACH Operator.

Canadian Domestic Payment Formats

The Canadian MEPs accept child support payments domestically in various ways, as detailed below:

  • Automated Funds Transfer (AFT) – The AFT format is synonymous to EFT.  Both carry ACH credits for direct deposit transactions, but the AFT does not include EDI for case data.  Payments sent through this format may require a separate electronic transmission for case data.
  • Financial EDI 820 (F-EDI 820) – This format is also known as the ANSI X12 820 Payment Order/Remittance Advice file format or flat file for mainframe users.  The F-EDI 820 can include just the payment (EFT) information or can include detailed records (data).  In some instances, the F-EDI 820 also specifies how data will be transmitted to the payee, either by fax, email or EDI.  Of note, the F-EDI 820 is similar to the CTX 820, a file format used for domestic purposes in the U.S.  However, the F-EDI in Canada does not include the DED Child Support Addendum Segment used in the U.S.
  • ECLIPS – This format represents a web-based AFT debit payment service where the user enters information into a user interface to set up the payment.  ECLIPS translates the information to an EDI 820 file, and then translates it to a flat file for upload to the MEP's system.
  • Recurring Debits – This is a widely used electronic payment format.  The individual or organization gives the MEP permission to debit its/their account at a set time for a set amount every month.  The transaction is processed through AFT debits and is known as a pre-authorized payment plan (PAP or CPAP).
  • Other – Online or telephone banking options are available with all major banks in Canada and are widely used by individuals and companies to remit payments.  Payments collected via this method are in the F-EDI 820 format.

Difference between Canadian and U.S. Payment Formats

Through the U.S. and Canada partnership, we have identified key differences between the payment formats used in each country. These differences are outlined below:

Canadian Payment Formats

 

U.S. Payment Formats

 

Comments

 

AFT in Canada: CP Standard 005 EFT with EDI in U.S. Canada and the U.S. are currently both sending direct deposit payments through EFT transactions. In these transactions, case data is either not required because payment is made directly to a CP account or the case data is sent separately.
Financial EDI 820 with the RMR remittance segment is used in Canada. In the U.S. the CTX 820 is similar to the F-EDI but uses a DED Child Support Deduction segment instead of the RMR remittance segment.

 

Canada's F-EDI 820 does not include the U.S.'s DED segment and therefore the two formats are incompatible.

 

Canadian banks that accept EFT transactions would use proprietary translation software to convert the U.S. EFT data (CTX 820) into an AFT-acceptable format like the 005 or the F-EDI 820.
IAT In the U.S. the CBR (Cross-Border Remittance) format was replaced by the IAT on 9/18/09. The IAT is required in the U.S., but not in Canada. Canadian banks may take longer to program for the IAT.

 

These differences relate to the different e-payment standards set by the governing institutions in each country, NACHA, The Electronic Payments Association in the U.S. and the Canadian Payments Association (CPA) in Canada. Different e-payment standards heighten the need for continued communications and coordination between U.S. and Canadian child support/maintenance agencies and their banks, financial institutions, and electronic payments associations.

International Contacts

See International Contacts for EFT Payments

Hague Convention Approved

On June 4, 2012 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the International Child Support Recovery Act, HR 4282. Once this legislation is passed and UIFSA 2008 is enacted and adopted by states, the Convention should lead to easier international child support case processing. To learn more, contact Anne Miller at anne.miller@acf.hhs.gov.

Reciprocal Agreements

The United States has federal reciprocal agreements with the following countries:

  • Australia - May 21, 2001
  • Canadian Provinces or Territories:
    • Alberta - September 4, 2002
    • British Columbia - December 15, 1999
    • Manitoba - July 11, 2000
    • New Brunswick - February 1, 2004
    • Northwest Territories - February 7, 2004
    • Nunavut - January 20, 2004
    • Newfoundland/Labrador - August 7, 2002
    • Nova Scotia - December 18, 1998
    • Ontario - August 7, 2002
    • Saskatchewan - January 24, 2007
    • Yukon - May 22, 2007
  • Czech Republic - May 3, 2000
  • El Salvador - June 21, 2007
  • Finland - September 29, 2007
  • Hungary - January 22, 2007
  • Ireland - September 10, 1997
  • Israel - February 5, 2009
  • Netherlands - May 1, 2002
  • Norway - June 10, 2002
  • Poland - June 14, 1999
  • Portugal - March 17, 2001
  • Slovak Republic - February 1, 1998
  • Switzerland - September 30, 2004
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - December 17, 2007

As of this date, a reciprocity agreement has been signed, but is not yet in effect, with Costa Rica.

Each country (or Canadian province or territory) has designated a Central Authority to facilitate enforcement and ensure compliance with the standards of the agreement. Information relating to the designated Central Authorities and the procedures for processing requests may be obtained by contacting:

United States Central Authority for International Child Support
Department of Health and Human Services
Office of Child Support Enforcement
370 L'Enfant Promenade, SW, 4–East
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: 202-401-9373
Fax: 202-205-5927
E-mail: ocseinternational@acf.hhs.gov.

The law also permits individual states of the United States to establish or continue existing reciprocating arrangements with foreign countries when there has been no federal declaration. Many states have arrangements with additional countries not yet the subject of a federal declaration. Information may be obtained from the individual state IV–D agency. To learn which countries with which a state has reciprocity, go to the Intergovernmental Reference Guide on the OCSE website and click on “C. Reciprocity”.

Questions regarding the status of U.S. negotiations, declarations and agreements may be obtained by contacting the Division of Policy within the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Division of Policy
Office of Child Support Enforcement
370 L'Enfant Promenade, SW, 4–East
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: 202-401-9385
Fax: 202-260-5980
E-mail: ocseinternational@acf.hhs.gov.

Additional Resources: