Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/24/1995 01:36 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 115 UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT ART PETERSON, of the law firm Dylan & Findley, testified in his role as a Uniform Law Commissioner for Alaska. SB 115 represents the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) to replace the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), also promulgated by the NCCUSL. In several decades of experience with URESA, enacted by all jurisdictions, numerous problems arose; the most significant being the problem of multiple jurisdiction and multiple court orders. Multiple court orders can conflict with each other, cause confusion for both the obligee and obligor, prevent the child from receiving the appropriate amount of support, and cause confusion in the administrative agencies and courts. SB 115 resolves those problems by providing for the avoidance of multiple court orders. SB 115 was created in 1992, after a several year study by NCCUSL. It has already been adopted by 21 states and has been introduced in several other states this year. This legislation is anticipated to eventually replace URESA in all jurisdictions. Number 518 SENATOR ADAMS stated the Attorney General's Office is interested in deleting the reference to the Alaska Rule of Administration 9. He asked Mr. Peterson's position on that deletion. MR. PETERSON responded he would support the deletion. He noted the bill title would need to be amended, as well as Section 6 on page 26. He stated the Supreme Court voted to adopt that Rule change, therefore its inclusion is unnecessary. Number 530 MARILYN MAY, Assistant Attorney General, concurred with Mr. Peterson's description of the amendment. She verified the Rule change was made by the Supreme Court. SENATOR TAYLOR asked how SB 115 would impact a divorced couple whose support order was issued in Alaska, but have since moved at separate times to Oregon. MS. MAY stated UIFSA provides a method for determining which state has continuing exclusive jurisdiction, and it is only that state that has the power to modify an existing support order. In the scenario described, the Alaska order would remain in effect until one of the parties requested a modification of the order. That could occur in Oregon, because under UIFSA that would most likely be the state with exclusive jurisdiction. Either party could make the request of the Oregon tribunal. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if that is existing law. MS. MAY stated under existing law it is possible there could be two separate orders. The Alaska order would remain in effect but a new order might be established in Oregon. If one of the parties moved back to Alaska, Alaska could collect on its order, which could differ from the amount on the Oregon order. Currently under URESA, there can be two orders of differing amounts. The law provides that a person cannot double collect, however there is often argument about which amount is to be collected. Under UIFSA, if a party requested Oregon to modify the Alaska order, it would be modified and the Alaska order would no longer be effective. Number 564 SENATOR GREEN asked if ample provision exists for everyone to be represented in court, or at all levels of the hearing process so that there are no surprises. MS. MAY commented that UIFSA is more clear than URESA in that way, and provides a specific right to be represented by an attorney. It allows states to establish or modify orders administratively if allowable under state law. GLENDA STRAUBE, Director of the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED), stated the most important part of SB 115 is the elimination of the multiple order system which is a nationwide problem. The most difficult collection cases for CSED are the interstate cases, which comprise 44 percent of the caseload. If SB 115 is enacted, CSED estimates additional collections of $340,000 per year for the state share of the AFDC reimbursement, and about $680,000 in direct payments to children in non-AFDC cases. CSED does not anticipate any additional operating expenditures. The bill standardizes forms across state lines and allows direct income withholding. STUART HALL, Ombudsman, emphasized that enactment of SB 115 will assist many who sought the Ombudsman's help with CSED. In FY 94 and 95 to date, the Ombudsman's Office has assisted almost 1700 individuals with complaints against CSED, many of whom were custodial parents who depend on CSED to collect support from an out-of-state parent. A large number of those complaints came from single parents concerned about the slow pace of case establishment and child support collection. SB 115 will streamline the establishment process and prompt speedier collections, and would help reduce the Ombudsman's caseload. The bill will allow an Alaska order to be taken to another state, and to obtain payments directly from employers. Number 577 SENATOR TAYLOR questioned the number of the Ombudsman's cases related to CSED. MR. HALL responded approximately two-thirds of their cases involve CSED. He has discussed those complaints with Ms. Straube and Commissioner Condon. SB 115 would significantly streamline the process and reduce the level of clientele frustration. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if the frustration stems from the fact that CSED decides which order will be enforced when multiple orders exist. MR. HALL stated he was unqualified to answer that question, but repeated that the frustration stems from the fact that multiple orders exist. MR. PETERSON noted that Senator Taylor was correct, and added that SB 115 would streamline the process by providing for agency enforcement of the orders, simplify the process, eliminate some of the court backlog, and thereby minimize delays. When multiple court orders are challenged, a lengthy procedure takes place, and the courts have to resolve the issue. Under UIFSA, that problem will be eliminated, therefore subsequent handling of the order will be simplified. Number 554 SENATOR TAYLOR spoke of the high transient population in Alaska, and attributed the large number of out-of-state cases to that fact. He thought the State of Alaska was handling a lot of enforcement cases for people living elsewhere, instead of the state agency where the client resides. He cited previous testimony from CSED, in which the fact that Alaska was opting to go with the most expensive of the multiple orders without justification, was disclosed. He was concerned that policy be curtailed. SENATOR TAYLOR also discussed the fact the legislature needs to eventually make a policy call on the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program when both divorced parents have been judged to be competent parents but custody is awarded to one parent. When the custodial parent chooses to go on AFDC for six months, he believes the CSED should issue an automatic petition to move those children to the other parent who is willing to support them and has a job. Number 535 MS. STRAUBE replied CSED has no legal jurisdiction over custody or visitation rights. SENATOR TAYLOR spoke about the effect of the layoff in Wrangell on his constituents, and that most of those paying child support probably cannot afford to hire an attorney to request a reduction in payments. MS. STRAUBE explained if the support order was administratively established, a person can directly request a modification, at no cost. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if out-of-state orders can be modified directly by CSED. MS. STRAUBE responded they cannot. SENATOR GREEN asked for clarification of the modification process. MS. STRAUBE replied CSED can modify administrative orders directly, and if, after reviewing financial records, the modification is approved, a change of 15 percent is made. TAPE 95-25, SIDE B SENATOR TAYLOR asked if CSED modifies payments if the support order is a court order, and the recipient requests an increase based on an increase in the obligor's income. MS. MAY responded that only the court can change a court order. The CSED can provide forms, but the parent must appear in court. SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. May to work with committee staff to draft language to delete the reference to the Alaska Rule of Administration 9, as requested by Senator Adams. She agreed to do so. He announced a proposed committee substitute would be brought before the committee at the next meeting. SB 115 UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT SENATOR TAYLOR brought SB 115 back before the committee. SENATOR ADAMS moved to adopt Amendment #1 as follows. Page 1, line 3, delete: "amending Alaska Rule of Administration 9;" Page 26, lines 13-15, delete Section 6 Page 26, lines 19-21 should read: Sec. 8. AS 25.25.313(c), added by sec. 3 of this Act, take effect January 1, 1996 only if AS 25.25.313(c) receives the two-thirds majority of each house required by art. IV, sec. 15, Constitution of the State of Alaska. SENATOR ADAMS noted the Department did not contest any of the changes when discussed in the House. There being no objection to the adoption of the amendment, the motion carried. SENATOR ADAMS moved SB 115 as amended from the Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried.