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Child Support and the Representative Payee

In addition, the LO's research revealed no federal statutes or regulations that preclude the minor from being the payee of her own child support, in the event that a statute mandates continued support. It would be very beneficial for next year's LO to investigate the history behind the provisions cited from the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations in order to further investigate this issue. On the issue of whether or not a minor can be her own payee, the federal statutes are silent. However, there are guidelines for state administration of support services and payment generally that give wide latitude to the states, dictating only very broad and minimal mandates. A State plan for child and spousal support must -

The only provisions that could be located that seem appropriate to JRI's needs are those surrounding the concept of `representative payees,' who would receive the support payments in lieu of the parent and would in turn pass them on to the minor.67 This scheme appears to be the most promising means of getting support paid to the minor without payment having to be filtered through one parent first. The intent behind the representative payee provision in the Social Security Act seems to be to provide those who are in institutions or other types of managed care facilities access to financial support and benefits. Although these broad categories do not specifically encompass the minors whom JRI wishes to serve, they also do not bar their qualification. In brief, the representative payee would receive child support payments, therefore making those payments available to the minor without the involvement of the parent(s). The representative payee could be ``a community-based nonprofit social service agency licensed or bonded by the State'' or a federal agency that has been established for that purpose.68 As of now, it does not appear that JRI could serve as this payee, as it has no residential housing services or custodial relationship with minors. However, the Code specifically states that these non-profit groups will be given preference over government-run agencies.69 It is not clear if the minor could be represented by a financial institution and have the support payments deposited directly into an account to which she has access. Federal law does not specifically preclude this option. There are several requirements that must be met by the payee before they are approved: "representative [must] establish, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Social Security, that-

(I) such individual poses no risk to the beneficiary;

(II) the financial relationship of such individual to the beneficiary poses no substantial conflict of interest; and

(III) no other more suitable representative payee can be found."70

The provisions surrounding the representative payee are very detailed and include penalties for over- or underpayment, and outline legal remedies the payee has if the provisions are taken advantage of by the representative. The acute detail shows the statute's focus on the individuals who require payees, and places emphasis on these individuals' best interests in proscribing specific directives and guidelines for the representative. If Massachusetts elected to pass an emancipation statute that included a provision for child support, this would be a very viable and positive option for getting the support directly to the minors. Massachusetts would do well to rely on the rationale and structures promulgated by other states that include this as part of their statutes.



Footnotes

... child66
42 U.S.C. 654 (West 2002).
...67
42 U.S.C. 1383 (West 2002).
...68
Id.
...69
Id.
...70
Id.

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