Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/12/1995 09:10 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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         SB 116 PATERNITY; CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT                         
                                                                               
 Number 406                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced  SB 116  as the next order of business              
 before the committee.                                                         
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE, CSED, stated that SB 116 would provide for the                
 administrative establishment for paternity.  Currently, all                   
 paternity cases must be handled by the Alaska Court System which is           
 backlogged.  CSED does the genetic work and identifies the punitive           
 father, then the case goes to the court.  Only after the case                 
 returns to CSED can the amount of money owed be determined and                
 collections received.  Paternity establishment must be determined             
 before collections can take place.                                            
                                                                               
 Ms. Straube pointed out that the federal regulations have changed             
 and in order for CSED to conform, CSED must establish 75 percent of           
 their orders in six months and 90 percent of their orders in 12               
 months.  She reiterated that in order to do the orders, paternity             
 must be established first.  Establishment of paternity alone could            
 take two and half to three years.  She commented that CSED is doing           
 other administrative things in an attempt to solve this problem.              
 Currently, the court portion of this could take up to six months.             
                                                                               
 Under SB 116, CSED would use the same standard as the court which             
 is already the case.  She explained that a case is not sent to the            
 court unless it meets the standards set forth in AS 25.20.050.                
 Those standards review if there has been a voluntary                          
 acknowledgement or if there is a 95 percent chance or better                  
 through the genetic test that the person is the father.  SB 116               
 would still allow due process with the option of judicial review.             
 Ms. Straube reiterated that this legislation would alleviate some             
 of the backlog in the courts.   She indicated that most people                
 would not use judicial review if CSED uses the same standards as              
 the court in the establishment of paternity.                                  
                                                                               
 Currently, there are 3,200 cases in progress regarding the                    
 establishment of paternity, approximately 70 percent of those cases           
 are AFDC cases.  SB 116 would eliminate at least six months of the            
 process and perhaps even more.  Ms. Straube asserted that CSED                
 would not be able to meet the federal standards unless this                   
 legislation is passed as well as many in-house and inter-                     
 governmental changes.                                                         
                                                                               
 Ms. Straube discussed a scenario in which a child born in wedlock             
 is the child of a third person who acknowledges that he is the                
 father; everyone agrees that the third person is the father.  By              
 law, CSED cannot accept those affidavits, only the court can accept           
 those.  Currently, those people would have to go to court and file            
 a paternity action.  SB 116 would allow CSED to take the word of              
 these three people through affidavit; there are other similar                 
 situations in which SB 116 would help.  Ms. Straube did not foresee           
 any problems with SB 116 nor the process.                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO inquired as to the definition of tribunal.  AL ZANGRI,           
 Chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics for DHSS, directed the                
 committee to page 2, line 18 of the bill.                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO asked if the application of this referred to CSED.               
 GLENDA STRAUBE replied yes, CSED is the administrative agency; we             
 would be the tribunal.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 481                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO expressed concern with the six month period in which             
 a case would sit in the court, but the two years in which it may              
 take to establish parentage would be of more concern.  What are               
 some of the things being done to deal with this problem?  GLENDA              
 STRAUBE stated that a portion of the governor's welfare reform                
 deals with co-location.  The goal is to place people in the public            
 assistance office during intake hours in order to do the affidavits           
 correctly as well as doing the genetic testing.  Doing an affidavit           
 through the mail could take up to six months.  Ms. Straube noted              
 that the Attorney General's Office is also making some changes to             
 expedite the process on their end.                                            
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there would be any point in the process in            
 which a persons' rights would be infringed upon.  GLENDA STRAUBE              
 clarified that people would have the same rights that they                    
 currently do.  Currently, the process begins with an informal                 
 hearing and then a formal hearing and finally, if the person                  
 remains unsatisfied, they could go to court.                                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO mentioned the possibility of the mother being                    
 unwilling to name the father; why would that be?  GLENDA STRAUBE              
 informed the committee that of the 3,200 paternity cases, 2,600 of            
 those have names of the father and 639 do not have the father's               
 name.  Of those 639 cases without names, 482 are AFDC cases.  In              
 her opinion, women do not name the father for reasons ranging from            
 fear to the desire to not have the father be a part of their life.            
 Some women do not feel the need to name the father at a particular            
 time.  Ms. Straube also proposed the psychology of protection as              
 another reason not to name the father.                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO commented that in all the reasons Ms. Straube had                
 cited the notion that women do not name the father of their                   
 children in order to receive more AFDC was not mentioned.  GLENDA             
 STRAUBE did not believe that a mother would collect more AFDC if              
 she did not name the father.  Ms. Straube explained that the family           
 receives the first $50 of any child support.  They would also                 
 receive anything over the grant.                                              
                                                                               
 REBECCA EAMES, representing the Division of Public Assistance,                
 clarified that if the child support exceeds the AFDC needs                    
 standard, then the mother would be denied AFDC.  If the amount of             
 the child support is less than the AFDC needs standard, the mother            
 would receive $50 and CSED would receive the remainder.                       
                                                                               
 Number 538                                                                    
                                                                               
 RICK KRUEGER, testifying from Fairbanks, related his personal                 
 experience in which he was notified that CSED was looking for him             
 in 1986.  He called CSED and was informed that a woman whom he had            
 not seen in seven years was claiming that he was the father of her            
 child.  He cooperated with CSED and filled out the paperwork.  CSED           
 said that they would contact Mr. Krueger regarding taking a blood             
 test.  Six years later, CSED is taking Mr. Krueger to court for six           
 years of arrears for child support and welfare which total $65,000.           
 He noted that the amount was reduced by half with the help of an              
 attorney.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Mr. Krueger said that CSED is currently taking half of his take               
 home pay for the arrears.  He explained that he did not have a                
 problem with paying the child support, but he felt that he should             
 only have to pay from the time he received the results of the blood           
 test.  He asserted that CSED recognized their fault in this manner,           
 but they did not care and wanted the arrears.  CSED is a                      
 bureaucracy that is out of control and it does not answer to                  
 anyone.  He noted that he had talked to various legislators and               
 there seems to be nothing that can be done.  Mr. Krueger expressed            
 frustration that his situation took six years when he remained in             
 the same state.  In conclusion, Mr. Krueger recommended the state             
 taking responsibility in a timely manner in 90 days.  If a mother             
 does not name a father when she applies for welfare, the mother               
 should not receive benefits.  The father should be named                      
 immediately.                                                                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Mr. Krueger if he was ever informed that he              
 had a child before CSED was in the matter.  RICK KRUEGER said he              
 was not and added that he is not on the birth certificate.                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN recognized the concern with late notifications which           
 create large arrearage.  That type of situation does seem punitive            
 and unfair, but it is not necessarily the state's responsibility to           
 deal with this.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO pointed out that although one may sympathize with Mr.            
 Krueger, meanwhile someone is raising his child and it takes money            
 to do so.  The larger issue here is the care of the child which               
 should be the parents responsibility, but the state should be                 
 available for assistance if necessary.                                        
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE explained that the lengthy time in which someone               
 could be notified of their child is not in the purview of CSED, it            
 is part of federal regulations.  However, the amount of time                  
 between any blood test and the establishment of paternity, which SB
 116 would help, as well as the time between the establishment of              
 paternity and their notification of the amount owed should be                 
 controlled.                                                                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN said that it did not seem unfair to require the                 
 father to participate in raising their child, it is proper.                   
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-30, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 590                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN indicated that for a woman to name a father years               
 after the child has been born is unfair; the father has been denied           
 the opportunity to be a father for that time.  There should be a              
 reasonable amount of time to receive back collection, after that              
 time the back collection would not be possible.  Is there such a              
 limitation in federal or state law?  GLENDA STRAUBE did not know.             
                                                                               
 In response to Senator Leman, MARILYN MAY did not believe there was           
 a statute of limitations until after the emancipation of the child.           
 She noted that most courts have went back six years from the date             
 the paternity complaint was filed; collection of arrears are                  
 allowed that far back.  Ms. May did not believe there should be a             
 limitation.  When a man has unprotected sex it is his                         
 responsibility to know the consequences.  It is not appropriate to            
 penalize the child and the mother for the fact that the father did            
 not know and did not check the results of his action.                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN said that he did not have a problem with the father             
 taking responsibility, but if the father is not informed of his               
 child that is another situation.  In this case, the father has lost           
 an opportunity to be a father, even a non-custodial father.  He               
 felt that the mother should take on some responsibility with                  
 regards to notifying the father of the child.  MARILYN MAY                    
 reiterated that in most cases the father is held for six years of             
 arrears prior to the time he was notified of the paternity                    
 complaint which seems to be the limitation for what the mother can            
 hold the father responsible.  Ms. May opposed the penalization of             
 the child, the loss of support of the child, because the mother had           
 waited a certain number of years to inform the father of his child.           
 Ms. May recognized the unfairness to which Senator Leman was                  
 speaking however, a greater unfairness would result if a father               
 could escape responsibility for a child entirely.                             
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE specified that these cases often happen because the            
 mother was not on AFDC when it occurred and paternity was not                 
 established at the time.  The problem begins when the mother goes             
 on AFDC, then CSED takes the case and the mother is required to               
 name the father.                                                              
                                                                               
 In response to Chairman Green, MARILYN MAY clarified that even in             
 a case without AFDC, a mother can apply for services and name an              
 alleged father and go through the paternity establishment process.            
 Ms. May did not know how far back the support award could go; the             
 courts have differed in the allowed arrears prior to the time the             
 mother requested services.                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 518                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO was confused because she thought there was a six year            
 back collection limit.  MARILYN MAY said that was true for cases              
 involving AFDC.  Ms. May explained that when a mother applies for             
 AFDC she is required to assign her right to collect child support             
 to the state, who requires the mother to name the father.  There              
 are no general requirements that a mother must name a father in               
 order to receive AFDC.  Ms. May pointed out that there is leverage            
 to make the mother name the father because she could be determined            
 by the court to be non-cooperative.  In an AFDC case, the state has           
 the right to the repayment of those benefits that were paid to the            
 mother which is why the courts would go back six years from the               
 claim made by the state.  Ms. May offered to check on the                     
 information regarding the court's stance in those cases that do not           
 involve AFDC.                                                                 
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE asserted that regardless of the issues that have               
 come up today, this bill would help establish paternity and notify            
 these people faster.                                                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO said that the bill is a step in the right direction in           
 order to alleviate some of the court time involved and make the               
 establishment of paternity an easier process.  All the other issues           
 discussed are important to other pieces of legislation.                       
                                                                               
 In order to clarify for Chairman Green, GLENDA STRAUBE explained              
 that in AFDC cases back arrears can go back to six years, but in              
 non-AFDC cases the back arrears would depend upon the court.                  
 MARILYN MAY agreed and added that most of the courts have not went            
 back for arrears in non-AFDC cases.                                           
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if CSED and AFDC would go after the non-                 
 custodial parent on their own for fees that CSED or AFDC did not              
 have anything to do with paying in those years.  GLENDA STRAUBE               
 believed that CSED and AFDC would not.  Ms. Straube offered to get            
 that information to the committee members.  Ms. Straube emphasized            
 that issue does not change SB 116.                                            
                                                                               
 MARILYN MAY pointed out that administrative establishment of                  
 paternity would happen upon the advocation from a mother, custodian           
 or a legal custodian of the child or from the state.  The one                 
 person missing from that list would be the punitive father who is             
 presumed to be the father of the child by operation of law, if the            
 man and woman are married.  In some cases the husband wants                   
 paternity disestablished.  SB 116 would not allow for that type of            
 case, the bill only addresses the normal establishment of                     
 paternity.                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO concluded that such cases would remain in the purview            
 of the court.  MARILYN MAY said yes, this type of case does not               
 require an administrative establishment of paternity.  Such cases             
 could be done in court.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 441                                                                    
                                                                               
 AL ZANGRI, Bureau of Vital Statistics for DHSS, stated that SB 116            
 focuses on two primary issues:  the three party affidavit and the             
 establishment of the administrative procedure for the establishment           
 of paternity.  The three party affidavits recognized are voluntary            
 establishments of paternity by everyone involved.  Currently in               
 statute, there are two party voluntary affidavits of paternity that           
 are being used.  He informed the committee that approximately 30              
 percent of the births in Alaska are to single mothers which means             
 that approximately 3,100 children have one named parent.                      
 Approximately 1,400 affidavits are processed in voluntary paternity           
 every year.  The remaining go through involuntary processes through           
 the court, SB 116 would allow CSED to utilize an administrative               
 procedure.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Mr. Zangri noted that the other dissatisfied clients would fall               
 under the three party affidavits.  Under current law, three party             
 affidavits cannot establish paternity.  Approximately 300 or 400              
 people are affected by three party affidavits.  By the time the               
 Bureau of Vital Statistics receives a call, the client is very                
 upset.  Often there is nothing that can be done.  When a man and a            
 woman remain married after many years of separation, if the woman             
 has a child by another man, the woman's husband must be placed on             
 the birth certificate and must be give parental rights although, he           
 is not the father.  The husband is legally the father of the child.           
 Mr. Zangri discussed various scenarios in which the biological                
 father is not legally recognized as such.  The bill would help                
 these situations.  The department supports SB 116.                            
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE informed the committee that she could have answers             
 to the committee's questions within an hour.                                  
                                                                               
 MARILYN MAY stated that CSED does not seek back payments prior to             
 the time of the paternity complaint in cases that do not involve              
 AFDC.  If there are cases in which the courts have went back with             
 arrears, then it is very rare and does not represent the norm.                
                                                                               
 GLENDA STRAUBE commented that the reason for that is that AFDC is             
 a federal regulation that CSED does not control.                              
                                                                               
 BEA HAGEN informed Mr. Krueger that could call the 800 number for             
 the Office of the Ombudsman in Anchorage since Fairbanks does not             
 have an office.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN moved that SB 116 be reported out of committee with             
 individual recommendations.  Hearing no objection, it was so                  
 ordered.                                                                      

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