We're About More Than Divorce

U.S. Senate Passes Tribal Child Support Bill

Child support can be one of the most contentious elements of the end of a marriage or other relationship. It’s all too common that once an order is in place, the paying parent refuses to pay the amount the court has ordered. That’s why every state has agencies dedicated to tracking these delinquent parents and, if needs be, seizing funds based on the court order.

The problem is that not every agency has access to the same tools. Currently, state-run agencies have significantly more leeway than their tribal counterparts to pursue past-due payments and disperse those funds to families. This leaves families under the jurisdiction of tribal bureaus with fewer options to get the funds they’re owed. The Tribal Child Support Bill is a new piece of legislation that’s intended to fix that problem.

What Is the Tribal Child Support Bill?

The Tribal Child Support Bill is a piece of legislation intended to assist custodial parents around the country by reworking the current legislation that state agencies use to access and transfer funds from non-custodial parents to the ordered recipient (the custodial parent).  

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) cosponsored the Tribal Child Support Bill, which has been approved by the U.S. Senate without a single dissenting vote. It now needs to pass through the House before officially being signed into law. The Senate’s unanimous approval makes it likely that the Bill will be passed through the House with similar ease. Should that be the case, Native American families in Oregon and nationwide will begin to receive the funds they’re due.

The Problem with Collecting Child Support

Child support is vital for many parents with custody of their children. These orders are specifically intended to help the custodial parent pay for the things their children need. Late or missing payments can put a significant strain on a family’s finances.

That’s why state and federal government agencies prioritize these orders and have specific programs dedicated to collecting past-due payments. The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, for example, allows these agencies to deduct past-due funds from the delinquent parent’s tax refund. While this isn’t a perfect solution since it only takes place once a year, it can still make a significant difference to the custodial parent.

State-run agencies can also acquire identifiable information to enforce these orders. This information helps them find the non-custodial parent’s address and employers. As a result, state bureaus can pursue delinquent parents for monthly payments, which means quicker results for families in need and the potential to skip the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program entirely.

The problem is that there are 60 Tribe-run child support agencies nationwide that can’t make use of the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program or acquire identifiable information, two of which are in Oregon. Without the ability to intercept tax returns or track down delinquent parents, these agencies face a much more challenging task in getting funds to the family in need.

The Impact of Late or Delinquent Child Support Payments

These payments are so much more than a simple transfer of funds. For many custodial parents, the funds they receive are essential to safely raise their children. These funds are supposed to help keep the kids’ quality of life at the level they experienced before their parents split. When it’s late, the entire family can suffer. Potential consequences include:

  • Food Insecurity: Without the money due from the support order, the custodial parent may not afford enough food to feed their family. That can lead to the kids going hungry through no fault of the parent with custody.
  • Housing Insecurity: Housing a family simply costs more than living alone or with roommates. Child support is intended to supplement those higher costs. Late payments can cause families to miss rent or mortgage payments and risk eviction.
  • Lack of Child Care: Many parents rely on their support funds to pay for childcare so they can go to work. Delayed payments can cause the parent to lose money by missing work to care for the kids.
  • Lower Quality of Life: Even if the custodial parent can successfully scrape by without a few payments, it’s not best for the children. The parent may need to work more and spend less time with the kids. Meanwhile, the food and housing they can afford may be of significantly lower quality. That can impact the kids for life.

As the law currently stands, Native American families are significantly more likely to suffer these consequences. If they are under the jurisdiction of their tribe’s agency, they are less likely to get the money their co-parent owes them. That’s incredibly unjust and puts Oregon tribe members at a disadvantage for life.

Get the Child Support You’re Owed

The Tribal Child Support Bill is a major step forward for the equality of tribe members. In Oregon alone, too many Native American parents don’t receive the payments that are supposed to help them care for their kids. The Bill will grant tribal agencies the right to provide tribe members with the same services that any other state resident receives.

Whether or not you’re currently under the jurisdiction of a tribal agency, you still deserve to receive the help you need. If you need help with your custody agreement or a delinquent co-parent, reach out to an experienced, compassionate family law attorney. With the help of the right legal team, you can request modifications to your order or pursue the funds you need to raise your children. Get the help you need today from the team at Regele Law, LLC.