On August 30, 2016, President Obama signed the instrument of ratification for the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. A White House press release of the same date describes the Convention's "numerous groundbreaking provisions that, for the first time on a global scale, will establish uniform, simple, fast, and inexpensive procedures for the processing of international child support cases, which benefits children and those responsible for their care."
The press release goes on to provide that, "[w]hile similar procedures are already the norm in the United States, establishing them as the international standard represents a considerable advance on prior child support conventions." To sum up the impact of the Convention's ratification, the press release reports, "more children residing in the United States will receive the financial support they need from their parents, whether their parents reside in the United States or in a foreign country party to the Convention."
By letter dated August 30, 2016, addressed to various state child support officials, and to describe the Convention's ratification, Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, states, "[t]here are approximately 15 million child support cases in the United States, including an estimated 150,000 international cases. These cases have been primarily handled under bilateral agreements that the U.S. has with 14 countries and 12 Canadian provinces. Bilateral agreements require time-consuming country-by-country negotiations. As a result of U.S. ratification of the Hague Child Support Convention, we will have a treaty relationship with 31 countries in which the Convention is already in force, including the European Union. U.S. families will benefit from the Convention's expedited cost-free procedures for enforcing support orders. That means more U.S. families will receive timely support without regard to whether both parents live in this country."
Ms. Turetsky's letter included the following highlights from the Hague Child Support Convention:
¥ The Convention provides a legal framework and administrative procedures that are both ground breaking and results-oriented.
¥ The Convention will greatly speed up the enforcement of U.S. orders. It limits the circumstances under which a court can review and object to an order. It requires recognition of a U.S. order unless a respondent timely raises a challenge and it limits available objections that the respondent may raise to those similar to ones now allowed under U.S. law.
¥ The Convention recognizes U.S. due process requirements. It allows a challenge to recognition of a foreign support order if there was a lack of notice and an opportunity for a hearing. It allows a challenge if the order does not comply with U.S. jurisdictional rules. And it allows a court to refuse recognition of an order if it is manifestly incompatible with public policy.
¥ The Convention requires treaty countries to provide free legal assistance in child support cases. As you know, Title IV-D agencies in the U.S. already provide such assistance. Now other Convention countries must provide cost-free services to U.S. residents.
Ms. Turetsky's letter concludes by highlighting the Convention's provision of standardized procedures and timeframes: "Each Convention country must follow certain procedures to recognize and enforce child support orders. They must meet certain timeframes for allowing a challenge to an order and for providing status updates. Additionally, there are recommended standardized forms that will reduce the need for a country to request additional information."
For more information about the Convention, or the enforcement of child support orders in the United States or abroad, please contact Fitch Law Partners LLP.