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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hague Convention Treaty on Recovery of International Child Support and H.R. 1896

Carmen Solomon-Fears
Specialist in Social Policy

Alison M. Smith
Legislative Attorney

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to enforce child support obligations in cases where the custodial parent and child live in one country and the noncustodial parent lives in another. The United States has not ratified a multilateral child support enforcement treaty dealing with this issue. P.L. 104-193 (enacted in 1996) established procedures for international enforcement of child support. Currently, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) has reciprocal agreements regarding child support enforcement with 15 countries, including Australia, Canada (separate agreements with 9 of the 10 Canadian provinces and with all 3 Canadian territories), Czech Republic, El Salvador, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (referred to hereinafter as the Convention or Treaty) was adopted at the Hague Conference on Private International Law on November 23, 2007. The Convention contains procedures for processing international child support cases that are intended to be uniform, simple, efficient, accessible, and cost-free to U.S. citizens seeking child support in other countries. For many international cases, U.S. courts and state Child Support Enforcement (CSE) agencies already recognize and enforce child support obligations, whether or not the United States has a reciprocal agreement with the other country. However, many foreign countries will not enforce U.S. child support orders in the absence of a treaty obligation. The United States was the first country to sign the Convention. The other signatories are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Union, Norway, and Ukraine. However, the United States has not yet ratified the treaty.

Although it is not the Senate’s role to ratify treaties, it provides its advice and consent to a treaty’s provisions. On September 29, 2010, the U.S. Senate approved the Resolution of Advice and Consent regarding the Convention. According to OCSE, the following additional steps must occur before the Convention can enter into force for the United States:

• Congress must adopt, and there must be enacted, implementing legislation for the Convention.

• Pursuant to the implementing legislation, all states must enact the 2008 version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) by the effective date noted in the legislation. In addition, the implementing legislation would require states to make minor revisions to their CSE state plan.

• The President must sign the instrument of ratification for the Convention.

• Finally, after all these activities are completed, the United States will be able to deposit its instrument of ratification with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is the depository for the Convention. Once the Treaty is in force, it would apply to cases being worked between countries that are party to the Treaty.

H.R. 1896 (the International Child Support Recovery Improvement Act of 2013) was passed by the House on June 18, 2013, by a vote of 394-27. It would implement the Convention. H.R. 1896 would require the Secretary of HHS to use federal and, if necessary, state CSE methods to ensure compliance with any U.S. treaty obligations associated with any multilateral child support convention to which the United States is a party. H.R. 1896 would amend federal law so that the federal income tax refund offset program is available for use by a state to handle CSE requests from foreign reciprocating countries and foreign treaty countries. It would require states to adopt the 2008 amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) verbatim to ensure uniformity of procedures, requirements, and reporting forms. In addition, H.R. 1896 would provide for the development of a standard format for data exchange of CSE data. It would also allow certain researchers to use the National Directory of New Hires database with personal identifiers for the purposes of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or CSE programs or of evaluating whether federal reemployment programs are working as intended.

Date of Report: July 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R43109
Price: $29.95

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