District of Columbia Child Support Guidelines provides the right to the custodial parent to receive retroactive child support payments for a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition for child support.
The Court of Appeals in Ford v. Snowden decided on September 22, 2016, addressed specifically the issue of whether a custodial parent receiving government benefit (“TANF”) was entitled to child support payments in addition and above the “TANF” amount.
Specifically, Fashon Ford challenges the trial court’s order denying her the opportunity to seek child support from Snowden for the period of time during which Ms. Ford was receiving (“TANF”) benefits.
Ford argued that the trial court erred in holding that the government had waived her right to seek such relief by failing to seek or prosecute the action on her behalf for the retroactive sum.
At the center of the Court’s analysis were two specific DC Code provisions:
1) D.C. Code § 4-205.19 (b), (c)(4) – provides that a custodial parent receiving TANF benefits assigns to the District the right to receive child support, but that assignment is limited to the amount of TANF benefits received.
The limited nature of that assignment suggests that the custodial parent will remain free to assert the right to any additional unpaid child support beyond the TANF benefits
2) D.C. Code § 46-203 (a) –- provides that a custodial parent receiving TANF benefits subrogates his or her right to seek child support to the District.
Thus the District has the right to step into the custodial parent’s shoes, and seek reimbursement for the benefits the government provided to the custodial parent for child support.
The issue in the case was whether the District as “subrogee”, in not pursing retroactive child support foreclosed Fashon from seeking such in access of the “TANF” payments – the short answer: NO.
That is, the custodial parent under “TANF” support payments would be still entitled to seek child support beyond and above the TANF payments, if warranted, even if the government — as they generally don’t — seek such payments or amounts from the non-custodial parent.
That is “the right of subrogation provided to the government was never intended to limit the amount of child support that could be recovered from the non-custodial parent to only what was owed to the government.”
This ruling does create a logistic legal complication in cases where the government is seeking and prosecuting support on behalf of the custodial parent.
Generally and as a rule the government does not seek retroactive support payments for the period in which the custodial parent was receiving TANF.
However the ruling clearly indicated that the custodial parent is entitled to support payments in access of the “TANF” payment and when the custodial parent is represented by the government, in the limited cases with facts presented above, potential conflict of interest may arise.