Alaska Child Support Services Division

Overview of Child Support Services

History

Congress established the Child Support Services Program in 1975. Lawmakers realized that far too many children were struggling because their mother or father failed to make regular support payments. The new law, adopted as an amendment to the Social Security Act, required states to set up their own Services and collection programs. Alaska created its Child Support Enforcement Agency in 1976.  The name of the agency was changed in 2004 to Child Support Services Division.

The Alaska program has grown over the years as new federal and state laws were adopted to ensure that more children receive financial support from both parents.

The Organization

The Alaska Child Support Services Division consists of about 230 employees responsible for collecting child support for tens of thousands of children.

The work is crucial to the collection and disbursement of support payments. The customer service staff handles tens of thousands of questions a year; the agency receives more than a million phone calls and letters each year. Some workers set up cases; some look for non custodial parents; others investigate difficult cases of non-support. The accounting section receives and disburses child support payments on a daily basis.

The Customer Service Section

is the main point of contact for clients of the Child Support Services Division. This section includes the Juneau, Fairbanks and Wasilla Field Offices and Outreach staff. Assigned staff must have a working knowledge of all aspects of the Child Support Services Division. Critical skills include the ability to understand the functions of Establishment, Enforcement, Review and Modification and Interstate in order to thoroughly explain case actions and assist customers with the paperwork necessary to proceed with their child support case. Additionally, the staff responds to requests for account information from financial institutions and various assistance programs and conducts genetic testing to facilitate the establishment of paternity.

The Establishment Section

The Establishment Section will work on a case if paternity or a child support order is needed. In cases where paternity is disputed or not yet legally determined, the staff handles the process to determine paternity. After verifying paternity, either by the father’s affidavit or genetic testing, the staff establishes a child support order by calculating support payments and conducting conferences in disputed cases.

A father can acknowledge paternity by signing a voluntary acknowledgment. Hospitals cooperate with the agency by giving unmarried parents information and a form to acknowledge the father's paternity. Parents are not required to apply for child support services when acknowledging paternity at the hospital. Fathers also can acknowledge paternity at any time up to the child's 18th birthday by signing a form available through the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics.

A support order cannot be established for a child who is born to unmarried parents until paternity is established, so it is important to establish paternity as early as possible. If the man will not acknowledge that he is the father, the child support agency can order genetic testing. These tests are simple, painless and highly accurate.

Establishing a support order depends on success in several critical areas, such as locating the noncustodial parent, determining the financial needs of the child using Alaska’s child support guidelines, and figuring out how much the noncustodial parent should pay each month.

The Enforcement Section

The Enforcement Section works to collect on administrative and judicial support orders when the noncustodial parent lives in Alaska. Services tools include automatic income withholding from wages, attaching bank accounts, intercepting IRS tax refunds, Alaska Permanent Fund dividends and other assets, and reporting delinquent parents to credit bureaus. All these methods can be used by the agency without directly involving the courts.

Immediate wage withholding began in November 1990 for child support orders issued or modified by the agency. Immediate wage withholding began January 1994 for all orders established by court. The law allows for an exception to immediate wage withholding if the court (or the agency) finds good cause, or if both parents agree to an alternative arrangement. But even in these cases, immediate wage withholding will be put into place if the noncustodial parent falls a month behind in payments.

If the noncustodial parent has a regular job, wage withholding for child support is treated like other forms of payroll deduction such as income tax, Social Security, union dues or any other required payment.

If the payments stop, or if the parent is self-employed, works for cash or commissions, changes jobs or moves frequently, the agency can use other collection actions such as seizing funds in the parent’s bank account.

The Modification Section

The Modification Section revises administrative child support orders to match changes in a parent’s financial situation.

The agency can update a support order itself if the original order was established by the agency.

If a child support order was set by the court, only the court can modify the order. The agency can help the process by reviewing the case and current income statements from the parents, then forwarding a recommendation to the court for a new support order.

The Hearing Section

The Hearing Section represents the state’s interests at the formal hearing level. Either parent may request a hearing to challenge a decision in the case, and a hearing officer appointed by the Department of Revenue commissioner will rule on the issue.

The Interstate Section

The Interstate Section works on child support cases in which the noncustodial parent lives outside Alaska. Interstate caseworkers handle all aspects of child support Services, including location, paternity establishment, and establishment of support obligations.

When a noncustodial parent lives outside Alaska and the custodial parent and child live in Alaska, we send information about the noncustodial parent to the other state’s child support Services office. This is called initiating a case to the other state. The other state, called the responding state, attempts to locate the noncustodial parent and begin proceedings to establish paternity or collect support. Alaska does the same when responding to requests from other states.

Federal law requires that Alaska cooperate with other states in handling requests for assistance. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act includes a provision to ensure there is only one valid child support order to enforce when more than one state is involved in a case.

The federal law also allows a state to work a case directly against an out-of-state noncustodial parent under certain conditions. Alaska can use interstate wage withholding to enforce a support order in another state if we know where the noncustodial parent is employed.