It’s called a “fairness act” because of the unfairness of child support enforcement laws heaped upon a parent who pays their child support.
Consider a recent case in which a dad (Minier v. County of Los Angeles) fought a default judgment the District Attorney erroneously obtained against him, without his knowledge, for $2,991. A process server hired by the DA claimed he served Minier at his home. He didn’t. Since Minier was never served, he had no reason to answer the complaint. So he didn’t. In fact, Minier says he never should have been served at all since he has always been in compliance with his child support obligation and paid his child support through the Bureau of Family Support. Minier was forced to hire a private attorney after his credit record was ruined, he lost income tax refunds, his driver license was suspended which caused his insurance rates to go up, a car loan was denied, etc. etc. Three years later, the DA agreed with Minier, set aside the default judgment, later dismissed the case, and apologized. Oops.
Unfair? “It’s humiliating, embarrassing and frustrating when I’m actively supporting my daughter – and I’m proud to do that,” Minier said.
It’s called a “fairness act” because of the unfairness of child support enforcement laws heaped upon a parent who may not be the parent obligated to support the child at all. AB 380, introduced by Assembly Member R. Wright, may make it easier to prove they are not the obligor.
The legislature, in enacting AB 380, found that thousands of individuals each year are mistakenly identified as being a “deadbeat” parent for a child that is not even theirs. As a result, the ability to earn a living is severely impaired, assets are seized, and family relationships are often destroyed.
The legislature says, “It is the moral, legal, and ethical obligation of all enforcement agencies to take prompt action to recognize those cases where a person is mistakenly identified as a support obligor in order to minimize the harm and correct any injustice to that person…”
In one study by the Judicial Council, 70 percent of all child support orders are obtained by default. By the time a support obligor receives actual notice of the support order, the arrearage could be tens of thousands of dollars. For a low wage earner, these staggering arrearage amounts could be a significant obstacle to good faith compliance. If prompt actual notice of child support obligations is given, it would prevent the accumulation of large arrearages.
The bill authorizes the following: In actions for support entered by default judgment, the defendant can be relieved if he establishes that he or she was mistakenly identified in the order as the person having the obligation to provide support. If a mistaken identity claim is filed, the local child support agency must investigate the claim and resolve it within 30 days. Beware, filing a false claim of mistaken identify is punishable as a misdemeanor.
A support order, or any part thereof, may be set aside on grounds of perjury, fraud, or lack of notice.
An order modifying or terminating support may be made retroactive to the date of filing of the petition or other first pleading, instead of retroactive to the date of filing of the notice of motion or order to show cause.
The support obligee may be obligated to repay excess amounts paid if an order decreasing or terminating support is entered retroactively.
In proceedings against a parent for failure to sufficiently provide for the support of his or her children, if the parent enters into an agreement to pay support, the court may suspend the proceedings or sentence in a contempt action.
If a family is granted aid under the CalWORKS program, the noncustodial parent must reimburse the county. However, that amount is limited to the amount that would have been specified in an order for support for a period not to exceed one year prior to the date of the filing of the complaint or petition.
Municipal courts, instead of Superior Courts, will conduct the judicial review if a license applicant believes his or her name should be deleted from “the list” of persons who are not in compliance with a support order. Currently, the DA provides a list to the Department of Social Services who in turn provide this list to all state boards that issue licenses for the purpose of withholding renewal or issuance of the license to anyone on the list.
Additional requirements will be imposed on the DA regarding service of process on defendants in actions to establish or enforce support.