Legislature(1995 - 1996)
05/06/1995 08:30 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL 115 "An Act relating to the establishment, modification, and enforcement of support orders and the determination of parentage in situations involving more than one state; amending Alaska Rule of Administration 9; amending Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure 79 and 82; and providing for an effective date." STEWART HALL, OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, spoke in support of SB 115. He stated that passage of the bill would help many people who have sought help through the Ombudsman's Office. He summarized that enactment of the legislation would streamline the process by providing speedier collection of payments. He urged favorable consideration of the bill. GLENDA STRAUBE, DIRECTOR, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, explained that the proposed bill was two bills rolled into one. The first bill addresses the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) which would eliminate the multiple order system. She commented that the current system is unfair and difficult to manage. The legislation would establish one continuing, exclusive jurisdiction and determination would be defined in that legislation. This was written from the federal guidelines and has been implemented by other states. Ms. Straube pointed out that 44% of the agency's caseload involves inter-state cases. Once another state becomes involved, the situation becomes complicated because of individual state laws. The legislation would also generate additional collection of $340 thousand per year of the State's share of Alaska Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) reimbursements. 2 Ms. Straube continued, the second portion of the bill would result in the administrative paternity establishment. New federal guidelines require that 75% of all child support orders must be established within six months. She noted that unfortunately, to establish orders, paternity must be established. The legislation would allow administrative establishment of paternity, at the same time providing a "due process". Without the legislation passed, federal timeliness will not be met. Ms. Straube pointed out that the Senate Finance Committee amended the legislation in order to create a "disestablishment" of paternity and that the Department is concerned about that change. Representative Parnell asked if other state exemptions would be recognized for garnishment by Alaska. MARILYN MAY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, ANCHORAGE, responded that the statute provides that in a direct income withholding situation, the employer should treat the order which came from another state as if it came from that specific state. She commented that in Alaska, there are no exemptions for child support. Representative Parnell noted that a percentage of the annual income would be used to determine the amount available for garnishment. He questioned the concern that the current Administration has with the "disestablishment" of paternity. Ms. Straube noted that genetic testing is currently not required, consequently, the State would be looking at places of paternity not yet established by the courts. She said that the State could be faced with people who had done a voluntarily acknowledgement, following with the default claimed. Discussion followed between Representative Parnell, Ms. May and Ms. Straube regarding the disestablishment of paternity. Representative Martin asked what was being repealed in the legislation. Ms. May stated that Chapter 25 is the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement Support Act (URESA) and that it is the precursor to Uniform Law encompassed in SB 115. She continued, previous to that law, the URESA was the uniform law enacted by all the States. Ms. Straube noted that modification occurs when there has been a significant change either way. In the new legislation, modification will be taken from the moment that all parties have served and notified that the process is occurring. Retroactive modification will not allow a person 3 to go back before filing. Ms. Straube concluded that it is a federal mandate to allow people to file modifications. There are no costs associated with filing a modification. Representative Martin asked why the modification request was being made. Ms. Straube advised that the Senate Finance Committee added that portion of the bill and that it addresses "disestablishment" of paternity. Ms. May directed that the purpose of that aspect of the legislation was to allow the person who disestablishes not to be required to pay arrearage. Representative Brown asked if all the civil rules of procedural changes would relate to disestablishment of paternity. Ms. May stated that they are not all related to disestablishment. She responded to Representative Brown's question regarding how the rule was changed. She stated that under the legislation, if an obligee prevails in a matter before the court, the obligor may be assessed costs; if an obligor prevails, the court may not assess fees, costs or expenses against the obligee. Representative Parnell asked if a requirement exists that the father be informed of his right to file a paternity suit. Ms. Straube explained that the father would need to respond within thirty days regarding the suit. Representative Parnell asked if the same circumstances would exist with the Notice of Repeal. Ms. Straube replied that when the father is notified that they have lost the appeal, they are then notified that they have the right to judicial review. Representative Parnell examined that one could administratively start proceedings to determine the paternity of the child, although at the same time, the legislation would not allow the father to disestablish their paternity obligation through the courts. Ms. Straube explained that portion had not been a part of the original legislation, although, now that it is included, the Department is not testifying to have it removed. She commented that the issue in regards to disestablishment is far bigger. In order to establish paternity, the court will look at two concerns: 1. Does the genetic test prove a 95% or better chance who the father is; or 2. Has the father provided a voluntary acknowledgment. If either circumstance has occurred, that person is adjudicated to be the father. 4 Representative Parnell asked the fiscal impact of the "disestablishment" section of the bill. Ms. Straube stated that it will affect the Department and that effect will depend on the "run" resulting from the action. She thought that there would be many more requests then currently exists. Ms. Straube commented that the courts do not have established standards. They look at the entire picture. She felt that it would be a lot of power delegated to that agency. Representative Brown MOVED to adopt to Amendment #1. [Attachment #1]. Representative Mulder OBJECTED. Representative Parnell thought that the amendment would establish a system which could disestablish paternity, then granting the agency authority to create regulations. Representative Mulder remarked that the amendment would add additional unnecessary laws on the books. Representative Grussendorf pointed out the tremendous expense to the Department in establishing the paternity of a child. He spoke in support of the amendment. Representative Parnell pointed out that the cost of the genetic testing would be assessed against the petitioner if paternity was established. Ms. Straube spoke to the tremendous costs currently within the Department. She added that punitive fathers have the right at all times to go to court to "disestablish". Representative Mulder countered the tremendous expense "to go" to court. (Tape Change, HFC 95-115, Side 1). Representative Brown asked if the Division had fee establishing authority. Ms. Straube noted that they do have it for genetic testing. Representative Brown stated that agencies do not have the authority to establish fees unless the Legislature provides that authority. She then questioned the legal recourse that an adoptive parent would have. Ms. Straube stated that the Senate provided an amendment on Page 30, Line 30, stating: "...unless established by court" which would specifically cover adoption paternity concern. A roll call was taken on the MOTION to adopt Amendment #1. IN FAVOR: Brown, Grussendorf OPPOSED: Parnell, Therriault, Kelly, Kohring, Martin, Mulder, Foster 5 Representatives Navarre and Hanley were not present for the vote. The MOTION FAILED (2-7). Representative Therriault distributed and briefly discussed an amendment provided to the Committee as drafted by Senator Rieger. [Attachment #2]. CS SB 115 (FIN) was HELD in Committee for further discussion.