NO. 63. AN ACT RELATING TO CHILD SUPPORT.
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. PURPOSE
It is the purpose of this act to amend the child support statute in order to comply with the Federal Welfare Act of 1996 (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act). The intention of the legislature is to effect compliance without diminishing any due process rights inherent or implicit in Vermont law. To that end, actions taken by the state, to the maximum extent possible shall be taken with notice and opportunity to challenge those decisions.
Sec. 2. 8 V.S.A. § 1024(3) is amended to read:
(3) Disclosure of information sought by the office of child support services pursuant to its authority and obligations under *[
33 V.S.A.]* section 115 and chapter 41 of Title 33, or by an agency of similar function of another state, pursuant to similar authority.
Sec. 3. 15 V.S.A. § 302(a) is amended to read:
(a) An action to establish parentage in cases where parentage has not been previously determined either by an action under this subchapter or by adoption, may be brought by a child who has attained the age of majority; the personal representative of a minor child, a person alleged or alleging himself or herself to be the natural parent of a child or that person's personal representative if he or she is a minor, incompetent, or has died; or the *[
department of social welfare chargeable with the support of the child at the time the action is commenced]* office of child support when an assignment of the right to support is in effect pursuant to section 3902 of Title 33 or when a parent has applied for IV-D services.
Sec. 4. 15 V.S.A. § 304(f) and (g) are added to read:
(f) Upon or after the filing of a parentage action, the office of child support may issue a notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the child, alleged parent and any acknowledged parent to appear and submit to appropriate genetic testing for the determination of parentage if the notice is accompanied by a sworn statement:
(1) alleging parentage, and setting forth facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact between the parties; or
(2) denying parentage, and setting forth facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the nonexistence of sexual contact between the parties.
(g) Written bills for pregnancy, childbirth and genetic testing costs shall be admissible as evidence without requiring third party foundation testimony, and shall constitute prima facie evidence of amounts incurred for such services or for testing on behalf of the child.
Sec. 5. 15 V.S.A. § 307 is amended to read
§ 307. VOLUNTARY ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PARENTAGE
(a) In any case in which the parents of a child are not married, parents of the child may acknowledge parentage by filling out and signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form prescribed and made available by the department of health and by filing the form with the department of health. The Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form shall be confidential and shall include the parents' mailing addresses and Social Security numbers, instructions for filing the form with the department of health, information concerning the legal implications of completing the form, including the procedure for establishing parentage, parental rights and responsibilities and child support obligations. *[
The form shall be substantially as follows:]*
STATE OF VERMONT VOLUNTARY ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PARENTAGE]*
NOTICE: Parentage creates specific legal obligations. This signed, witnessed form may be used in court in support of a parentage claim. You should seek legal advice before signing this form. See the attached sheet for some specific obligations of parenthood.]*
I, ]**[ , ]**[ , of ]**[ (full name of mother)]* *[ (mother's SSN, if known) (address)]*
, ]**[ and I, ]**[ (city) (state) (zip) (full name of father)]*
, of ]**[ , ]**[ (father's SSN, if known) (address)]*
being of sound mind and memory, voluntarily(state) (zip)]*
and without coercion, and of our own free will, hereby acknowledge]*
that we are the biological parents of the male/female child named]*
born on ]**[ at ]**[
(date of birth)]* *[ (place of birth)]*
Dated this ]**[ day of ]**[ 19]**[ , at ]**[ ,]*
(date)]* *[ (month)]* *[ (city)]*
, ]**[ .]*
(county)]* *[ (state)]*
Signature of Mother ]**[
Witnessed before me this ]**[ day of ]**[ , 19]**[
(date)]* *[ (month)]*
at ]**[ , ]**[ , ]**[ .]*
(city)]* *[ (county)]* *[ (state)]*
Dated this ]**[ day of ]**[ 19]**[ , at ]**[ ,]*
(date)]* *[ (month)]* *[ (city)]*
, ]**[ .]*
(county)]* *[ (state)]*
Signature of Father ]**[
Witnessed before me this ]**[ day of ]**[ , 19]**[
(date)]* *[ (month)]*
at ]**[ , ]**[ , ]**[ .]*
(city)]* *[ (county)]* *[ (state)]*
The department of health shall make Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage forms generally available to the public through hospitals, medical offices, schools and the courts.]*
(b) The department of health shall make Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage forms generally available to the public through hospitals, medical offices, schools and thecourts. Upon adoption of the uniform national Voluntary Acknowledgment Form by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it shall be adopted by the department of health. The form shall contain language emphasizing the gravity of the effects of acknowledging parentage and the rights and responsibilities which attach. The form shall also contain the following statement: "Parentage creates specific legal obligations. This signed form may be used in court in support of a parentage claim. You should seek legal advice before signing this form if you have any questions or if you are confused about your rights and responsibilities."
(c) The department of health shall only make the completed Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form available to the parties who signed it and the office of child support. The office of child support shall not have access to the form except for the purpose of initiating a parentage or support proceeding on behalf of a dependent child as defined in section 3901(4) of Title 33, in which case the department of health shall make available to the office of child support upon explicit request, the appropriate information.
(d) A witnessed Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form signed by both biological parents under this section *[
may be filed with the court in support of a complaint for parentage]* shall be a presumptive legal determination of parentage upon filing with the department of health provided no court has previously adjudicated parentage or no legal presumption of legitimacy otherwise applies.
(e) In an action brought under this chapter, documents on file with the court that contain the Social Security number of the parties shall be released only to the parties or the state if it is involved in the matter.
(f) A person who has signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form may rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days after signing the form or prior to a judicial determination of parentage, whichever occurs first. The rescission shall be in writing and shall be filed with the department of health. If a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form is not timely rescinded as provided for in this subsection, the determination of parentage may be challenged only pursuant to Rule 60 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure. During the pendency of such a challenge, the legalresponsibilities, including child support obligations, of any signatory arising from the acknowledgment may not be suspended during the challenge, except for good cause shown.
Sec. 6. 15 V.S.A. § 606(b) is amended to read:
Any]* For the purpose of enforcing child support orders under this title and Title 33, any support payment or installment shall become a judgment on the date it becomes due *[ for the purpose of calculating interest]*.
Sec. 6a. 15 V.S.A. § 660(f) is added to read:
(f) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section to the contrary, the court, in its discretion, may modify an order as to past support installments which accrued subsequent to the date of a noncustodial parents incarceration within the confines of a correctional facility.
Sec. 7. 15 V.S.A. § 658(d) is amended to read:
(d) The family court judge or magistrate may order a parent who is in default of a child support order, to participate in employment, educational, or training related activities if the court finds that participation in such activities would assist in addressing the causes of the default. The court may also order the parent to participate in substance abuse or other counseling if the court finds that such counseling may assist the parent to achieve stable employment. Activities ordered under this section shall not be inconsistent with any requirements of a state or federal program in which the parent is participating. For the purpose of this subsection, "employment, educational, or training related activities" shall mean:
(1) unsubsidized employment;
(2) subsidized private sector employment;
(3) subsidized public sector employment;
(4) work experience (including work associated with the refurbishing of publicly assisted housing) if sufficient private sector employment is not available;
(5) on-the-job training;
(6) job search and job readiness assistance;
(7) community service programs;
(8) vocational educational training (not to exceed 12 months with respect to any individual);
(9) job skills training directly related to employment;
(10) education directly related to employment, in the case of a recipient who has not received a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalency;
(11) satisfactory attendance at secondary school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence, in the case of a recipient who has not completed secondary school or received such a certificate; and
(12) the provision of child care services to an individual who is participating in a community service program.
Sec. 8. 15 V.S.A. § 660(a) is amended to read:
(a) On motion of either parent or any other person to whom support has previously been granted, or any person previously charged with support, and upon a showing of a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances, the court may annul, vary or modify a child support order, whether or not the order is based upon a stipulation or agreement. If the child support order has not been modified by the court for at least three years, the court may waive the requirement of a showing of a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances.
Sec. 9. 15 V.S.A. § 781 is amended to read:
§ 781. WITHHOLDING WAGES UPON ISSUANCE OR MODIFICATION OF
SUPPORT ORDER AFTER JULY 1, 1990
(a)]* All orders for child support made or modified on or after July 1, 1990 shall include an order for immediate wage withholding in an amount equal to the support obligation and any obligation to pay support arrearages, unless the court finds good cause not to order immediate wage withholding or the parties have entered into an alternative arrangement by written agreement which is affirmatively stated in the order. In determining good cause, the court may consider a history of financial responsibility toward the family and the absence of any threat by the obligor to withhold financialsupport from the family.
(b) If the court does not include an order for immediate wage withholding, the court shall order wage withholding to take effect under the expedited procedure set out in section 782 of this title.]*
Sec. 10. 15 V.S.A. § 782(f) is added to read:
(f) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section to the contrary, the office of child support may notify an employer to initiate wage withholding without obtaining a modification of the court order if any amount due under the order has accumulated to one-twelfth of the annualized amount of child support after:
(1) verifying the arrears based on a sworn statement of the obligee or, if the office of child support has maintained the financial records, an employee familiar with the financial records; and
(2) notifying the obligor of the withholding pursuant to subsection 783(b) of this title and giving the obligor an opportunity to object and request a hearing in family court to contest the withholding on the grounds that the withholding or the amount withheld is improper due to a mistake of fact.
Sec. 11. 15 V.S.A. § 783(b) is amended to read:
(b) The petition shall be served by the court or the office of child support by personal service or by mailing to the obligor, at one or more of the addresses supplied by the obligor, by certified mail, return receipt requested and delivery restricted to the addressee, the expense being paid by the petitioner. If acceptance of service is refused, the court or the office of child support may serve the obligor by sending the petition to the obligor by ordinary first class mail and by certifying that such service has been made. In the alternative, the court or the office of child support may provide for mail service as provided in VRCP *[
Sec. 12. 15 V.S.A. § 788 is amended to read:
§ 788. PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY
(a) Any parent subject to a child support or parental rights and responsibilities order shall notify in writing the court which issued the most recent order and the officeof child support of his or her current mailing address and current residence address and of any change in either address within seven days of the change, until all obligations to pay support or support arrearages, or to provide for parental rights and responsibilities are satisfied. For good cause the court may keep information provided under this subsection confidential.
(b) When a wage withholding order is in effect, either parent shall notify in writing the registry of the name and address of a new employer within seven days of commencing new employment. If the registry has received information *[
about new employment of a parent]* that a parent has changed employment it shall notify the other parent of the fact of the change but shall not disclose the identity or the location of the employer. On request of *[ either]* a parent, the registry shall provide *[ the name and address of the other parent's employer and]* information on the other parent's wages.
(c) In all cases in which a temporary or final order for relief from abuse has been entered, information provided under this section shall be kept confidential by the court. The court, for good cause shown, may release such information.
Sec. 13. 15 V.S.A. § 789 is amended to read:
§ 789. WAGE WITHHOLDING EXEMPTIONS; PRIORITIES AND
(a) A wage withholding order for a current support obligation or an obligation to pay support arrearages shall not be subject to Rule 4.2(j) of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure or 12 V.S.A. §§ 3167, 3169, 3170(a), (b) and (d). It shall be subject to section 303(b) of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1673(b)).
(b) A wage withholding order under this chapter shall have priority over other legal process against the same wages and shall be at least in the amount of the current support order. A wage withholding order for a current support obligation shall have priority over periodic payments to be applied to unpaid support arrearages, but shall not preclude withholding for both*[
, provided that the claim for arrearages has been reduced to judgment]*. No withholding for an arrearage may occur unless there is available income which is not exempt under section 303(b) of the Consumer CreditProtection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1673(b)).
(c) Wage withholding shall cease upon the termination of the obligation to pay current support or upon the repayment of all arrearages, whichever is later.
(d) If wage withholding is sought for repayment of outstanding arrearages in addition to support previously ordered, the additional amounts withheld for repayment shall not exceed twenty-five percent of the obligor's support obligation existing at the time of issuance of the wage withholding order.
(e) If arrearages exist after termination of the obligation to pay support, the amount withheld shall *[
remain unchanged]* not be reduced until all arrearages are paid in full.
(f) If an obligors outstanding arrearage increases by one-twelfth of the annual obligation, the office of child support may notify an employer to withhold an additional amount for repayment of any outstanding arrearage which has accumulated since the issuance of the most recent court order. The total wage withholding for arrearages shall not exceed 25 percent of the obligors support obligation unless an additional amount is requested by the obligor.
(g) The office of child support shall not notify an employer to withhold an additional amount under subsection (f) of this section without first notifying the obligor of its intention to do so at the obligors last known address as provided pursuant to section 783(b) of this title and giving the obligor 20 days to contest the withholding pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 4108 on the grounds the increase would be improper due to a mistake of fact.
Sec. 14. 15 V.S.A. § 791(a) is amended to read:
(a)(1) A judgment issued by the court for support arrearages in excess of one-twelfth of the annualized amount of support shall constitute an arrearage judgment lien, if properly recorded under this section. The court shall also issue an order that payment of support shall be made through the registry.
(2) If payments are being made through the registry, a sworn affidavit of the office of child support, establishing an arrearage in excess of one-quarter of theannualized amount of support attached to the underlying court order shall constitute an arrearage lien, if properly recorded under this section.
(3) Before filing a lien provided for in subdivision (2) of this subsection, the office of child support shall serve the obligor pursuant to section 783(b) of this title with notice of the amount of the past due child support, the consequences of the filing of the lien, and the procedure for contesting the arrearage and challenging the lien pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 4108. If the obligor does not contest the notice of lien within 20 days of service, the office may record the lien under this section. For the purposes of this section such a lien shall be considered an arrearage judgment lien.
(4) A copy of any document recorded under this subsection shall be sent to the parties by certified mail.
Sec. 14a. 15 V.S.A. § 791(h) is added to read:
(h) Upon compliance with subsection (a) of this section, this state shall accord full faith and credit to arrearage liens that arise in another state if the other state accords reciprocity to this states arrearage liens.
Sec. 15. 15 V.S.A. § 793 is amended to read:
§ 793. CREDIT REPORTING
(a) Information regarding the amount of arrearages owed by an obligor may be made available by the office of child support to any consumer credit bureau organization upon the request of the organization, only if the amount of the arrearages is at least *[
$1,000.00]* one-quarter of the annual support obligation and the office of child support has notified the obligor *[ has been notified]* by first class mail or other means likely to give actual notice of the proposed action and given a period not to exceed 20 days to contest the accuracy of the information with the office of child support. In computing the amount of an arrearage, any arrearage accumulated after a motion to modify has been filed shall not be included.
At such time as the obligor has reduced the amount of arrearages to less than $1,000.00 or is in full compliance with a repayment plan approved by the office of child support or agreed to by the parties, the]* The office of child support shallimmediately notify each credit bureau organization to which information has been furnished of any increases or decreases in the account balance.
Sec. 16. 15 V.S.A. § 795(a) and (b) are amended to read:
§ 795. LICENSES OR GOVERNMENTAL CONTRACTS
(a) As used in this section:
(1) "Agency" means any unit of state government, including agencies, departments, boards, commissions, authorities or public corporations.
(2) "License" means any license, certification or registration issued by an agency to conduct a trade or business, including a license to practice a profession or occupation, or a license required to engage in recreational activities, including the license to hunt, fish, or trap.
(3) "Contract" means a contract for the provision of goods, services or real estate space.
(b) Every applicant for a license shall sign a statement that the applicant is not *[
under an obligation to pay]* subject to a child support *[ or]* order, or if subject to a child support order is in good standing with respect *[ to]* thereto or in full compliance with a plan to pay any and all child support payable under a support order as of the date the application is filed. A license may not be issued or renewed without such a statement.
Sec. 17. 15 V.S.A. § 798 is amended to read:
§ 798. ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS; SUSPENSION OF
(a) Upon noncompliance with an order issued under section 606 of this title, a motion may be filed seeking an order for suspension of licenses under this section. The motion shall be scheduled for hearing in accordance with the Vermont Rules of Family Proceedings within 30 days of the filing of the motion. At a hearing under this subsection, the obligor shall have the opportunity to present evidence relating to the reasons for noncompliance. An inability to comply shall be a defense in an action brought under this subsection. The noncomplying party shall have the burden of demonstrating inability to comply. An order issued under subsection (b) of this sectionis in addition to other remedies available at law.
(b) Upon a finding of noncompliance with an order issued under section 606 of this title and a delinquency of at least *[
two-twelfths]* one-quarter of the annual support obligation, a family court judge or magistrate, if assigned by the presiding family court judge, may order a civil suspension of a noncomplying party 's motor vehicle operator's license issued under chapter 9 of Title 23 or commercial driver license issued under chapter 39 of Title 23, recreational license, and any other license certification or registration issued by an agency to conduct a trade or business, including a license to practice a profession or occupation.
(c) Upon receipt of a license suspension order issued under this section, the *[
department of motor vehicles]* license issuing authority shall suspend the license according to the terms of the order. Prior to suspending the license, the *[ department of motor vehicles]* license issuing authority shall notify the license holder of the pending suspension and provide the license holder with an opportunity to contest the suspension based solely on the grounds of mistaken identity or compliance with the underlying child support order. The license shall be reinstated within five days of a reinstatement order from the court or notification from the office of child support or the custodial parent, where the rights of that parent have not been assigned to the office of child support, that the parent is in compliance with the underlying child support order. The *[ department of motor vehicles]* license issuing authority shall charge a reinstatement fee as provided for in section 675 of Title 23, or as otherwise provided by law or rule.
(d) The *[
department of motor vehicles]* license issuing authority shall adopt procedural rules in accordance with the provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3 to implement the provisions of this section.
Sec. 17a. 15 V.S.A. § 799 is added to read:
§ 799. TRUSTEE PROCESS
(a) As used in this section, "trustee" means any person, institution, or entity, holding any money, personal property or real property which belongs to or is owed tothe obligor, including judgments, settlements, lottery winnings, funds held in financial institutions, and any voluntary contributions to public and private retirement funds.
(b) Upon noncompliance with a child support order in excess of one-quarter of the annual support obligation, the office of child support may seek to attach assets owned by an obligor and held by a trustee. Prior to attaching assets held by a trustee, the office of child support shall notify the obligor of the delinquency and of the offices intent to take administrative enforcement action for liens and trustee process and shall provide the obligor with an opportunity to contest the claimed delinquency and enforcement action pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 4108. If the obligor fails to contest the claimed delinquency within 20 days after notification, or upon a final determination of a delinquency after hearing, the office of child support may issue a summons to a trustee as provided in subsection (c) of this section.
(c) If no timely contest is made or upon a final determination of nonpayment of child support equal to or greater than one-quarter of the annual support obligation, the office of child support may issue one or more summons to the trustee. The sum of the amounts for which the goods, effects or credits of the obligor are attached on trustee process shall not exceed the amount determined to be delinquent under subsection (b) of this section. The office of child support shall serve on the trustee and the obligor a disclosure form and a notice of the exemptions under subsection (f) of this section. If at any time the office finds the outstanding arrearage has been satisfied in whole or in part, the office shall discharge any trustee process which is outstanding or reduce the amounts for which the goods, effects or credits of the obligor are attached so the sum of all such amounts does not exceed the amount that remains unsatisfied. The office shall promptly notify the trustee and obligor of the change.
(d) In the event the obligor or other aggrieved person contests the summons to the trustee pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 4108 or appeals the proposed action to the family court within 20 days of the summons and is found not to be in arrears by more than one-quarter of the annual support obligation on the date the summons to the trustee was issued, the office, within two business days, shall discharge the trustee processand notify the trustee and the obligor. In addition, the office shall pay to the obligor or other aggrieved person the sum of $500.00.
(e) Upon receipt of a summons, the trustee shall secure and hold the assets in its possession up to the amount specified in the summons, and shall serve a disclosure under oath on the office of child support and the obligor. If no timely contest is made or upon a final determination of any contest sustaining the trustee process, the trustee shall tender to the office of child support the assets of the obligor in its possession up to the amount specified in the summons. If the trustee fails to disclose or fails or refuses to tender the property as directed, the office of child support may file an action with the family court to determine the trustees liability. A trustee shall not be liable to the obligor for complying with this section.
(f) The exemptions from attachments and executions in 12 V.S.A. § 2740 shall apply to the trustee process provided for in this section except as follows:
(1) the exemption in 12 V.S.A. § 2740(15) shall not exceed $400.00;
(2) the exemption in 12 V.S.A. § 2740(16) shall not exceed $5,000.00; and
(3) the exemption in 12 V.S.A. § 2740(18) shall not apply.
(g) Upon notifying a trustee to attach voluntary retirement funds, the office shall give the obligor an opportunity to have the attachment removed by making alternate payment arrangements satisfactory to the office within 30 days of issuance of the summons.
Sec. 18. 18 V.S.A. § 5071(e) is added to read:
(e) The name of the father shall be included on the birth certificate of the child of unmarried parents only if the father and mother have signed a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage or a court or administrative agency of competent jurisdiction has issued an adjudication of parentage.
Sec. 19. 21 V.S.A. § 1314(e)(2) is amended to read:
(2)(A) The department of employment and training shall disclose, upon request, to officers or employees of any state or local child support enforcement agency, any wage information or other information material to the location of an individual, theindividuals assets, or the individuals place of employment or other source of income contained in the departments unemployment compensation claim records with respect to an identified individual which is contained in *[
its]* those records.
(i) The term "state or local child support enforcement agency" means any agency of a state or political subdivision thereof operating pursuant to a plan described in section 454 of the Social Security Act, which has been approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under part D, Title IV of the Social Security Act.
(B) The requesting agency shall agree that *[
such]* information provided under this subsection is to be used only for the *[ purpose of]* following purposes:
(i) establishing and collecting child support obligations from, and locating, individuals owing such obligations which are being enforced pursuant to a plan described in section 454 of the Social Security Act which has been approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under part D, Title IV of the Social Security Act; and
(ii) establishing parentage and expediting procedures relating to establishing parentage pursuant to section 466(c)(1) of the Social Security Act as added by section 325(a)(2) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-193).
* * *
Sec. 19a. 21 V.S.A. § 1314(e)(5)(A) is amended to read:
(5)(A) The department of employment and training shall disclose*[
, upon request,]* to officers or employees of the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) or National New Hire Directory any employment, wage and unemployment compensation claim information *[ which is]* contained in its claim records *[ with respect to an identified individual]* which may be useful in locating an absent parent or the parent's employer solely for purposes of administering the child support enforcement provisions of Title IV of the Social Security Act.
Sec. 19b. 23 V.S.A. § 2001(7) is amended to read:
(7) "Security interest" means an interest in a vehicle reserved or created byagreement and which secures payment or performance of an obligation. The term includes the interest of a lessor under a lease intended as security. The term also includes a nonpossessory attachment issued by a court of competent jurisdiction within this state. The term also includes liens obtained by the commissioner of taxes pursuant to the provisions of Title 32. Notwithstanding subdivision 2041(2) of this title, the term also includes arrearage liens obtained by the office of child support pursuant to the provisions of Title 15. A security interest is "perfected" when it is valid against third parties generally, subject only to specific statutory exceptions.
Sec. 20. 32 V.S.A. § 5936(b) is amended to read:
(b) The final determination of any claimant agency regarding the validity and amount of any debt may be appealed within 30 days to the superior court of the county in which the taxpayer resides, except that if the claimant agency is the office of child support the appeal shall be to the family court. Upon appeal the provisions of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure or the Vermont Rules for Family Proceedings, as appropriate, shall apply and the court shall proceed de novo to determine the debt owed.
Sec. 21. 33 V.S.A. § 113 is amended to read:
§ 113. DESERTION AND NONSUPPORT, INFORMATION FROM
GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES AND PUBLIC UTILITIES
(a) To assist in locating the address, assets or income of parents who have deserted their children, and other persons liable for support of dependents or are in violation of a parental rights and responsibilities order, the *[
department]* office of child support may request information from the records of all governmental officials, departments and other governmental agencies of this state. The officials, departments and other agencies shall provide all information to the department necessary for the purpose of locating the parents or other persons or their assets or income. Only information directly bearing on the identity and whereabouts of parents or persons or their income and assets may be requested, used or transmitted by the *[ department]* office of child support under this section.
The department shall make information]* Information gathered under *[ subsection (a) available only to public officials and agencies of this state and other states seeking to locate parents who have deserted their children, and other persons liable for support of dependents, for the purpose of enforcing their liability for support]* this section shall be subject to the limitations in section 4105(c) of this title.
(c) A public utility company as defined in section 201(a) of Title 30, or cable television company as defined in section 501 of Title 30, when requested by the office of child support, shall provide the address, as it appears in its customer records, of a parent or person named in the request.
Sec. 22. 33 V.S.A. § 115 is added to read:
§ 115. ACCESS TO FINANCIAL RECORDS OF DEPOSIT ACCOUNTS OF
INDIVIDUALS WHO OWE OVERDUE CHILD SUPPORT
(a) As used in this section:
(1) "Depositor" means an owner of an account in a financial institution and includes "share account holders" of credit unions.
(2) "Financial institution" means a trust company, savings bank, industrial bank, commercial bank, savings and loan association or credit union organized under the laws of this state or authorized to do business in this state.
(3) "Match" means an automated comparison by name, Social Security number, and, if available, date of birth of a list of obligors provided to a financial institution by the office and a list of depositors of a financial institution.
(4) "Obligor" means a person who owes child support.
(5) "Office" means the office of child support.
(6) "Overdue support" means a debt of one-quarter of the annual support obligation or more for maintenance and support of a child or children and the obligor had prior notice of the debt and a prior opportunity to contest the amount owed. "Overdue support" includes spousal support or alimony being collected in conjunction with child support.
(b) Upon written request from the director of the office of child support andprovided the institution has the technological capacity to perform a match, a financial institution shall perform a match of obligors who owe overdue child support. The office shall make its computerized information necessary for a match available in a form that is compatible with the technology used by the financial institution that will perform the search. A financial institution shall not be required to perform a match under this section more often than once every quarter.
(c) After completing a match requested under subsection (b) of this section, a financial institution shall notify the office of child support. The notification shall contain the following information, if available to the financial institution through its matching procedure, for each account identified:
(1) The full name, date of birth, and address of the obligor.
(2) The Social Security number of the obligor.
(3) The obligors account number.
(4) The amount of deposits contained in the obligors account.
(d) A financial institution shall send a match list compiled under this section to the office at the address designated by the office.
(e) The financial institution shall not provide notice in any form to a depositor contained in a match list submitted to the office under subsection (d) of this section. Failure to provide notice to a depositor shall not constitute a violation of the financial institutions duty of good faith to its customers.
(f) A financial institution may charge the office a fee for services provided under this section; provided that the fee shall not exceed the actual costs incurred by the financial institution.
(g) The information provided by the office to a financial institution under this section shall be confidential and shall be used only for the purpose of carrying out the requirements of this section.
Sec. 23. [There is no Sec. 23.]
Sec. 24. 33 V.S.A. § 4105 is amended to read:
§ 4105. ACCESS TO INFORMATION; DISCLOSURE AND CONFIDENTIALITY
If the]* The office of child support *[ has certified to a financial institution that the obligor's arrearages are in excess of one-twelfth of the annual support obligation, the financial institution shall furnish the office information in the possession of the institution with reference to any person if the person]* may subpoena from any person or business any information needed to establish, modify, or enforce a child support or parental rights and responsibilities order. The subpoena shall be signed by the director of the office of child support or a designee of the office of child support. It shall be attached to an affidavit which certifies that the person about whom information is sought is the parent of a child *[ and]* based on either a court order or a statutory presumption, that the office of child support has been requested to provide financial information under section 4102 of this title*[ . The information provided shall be limited to deposit and other account balances and loan balances in the sole name of one or the other of the parents]*, and that the information sought is needed to establish, modify, or enforce a child support or parental rights and responsibilities order or to determine if such action is necessary.
The commissioner of taxes or the commissioner's designee, when requested by the office of child support, shall furnish the office information with reference to any person if the person is the parent of a child and the office of child support has been requested to provide financial information under section 4102 of this title. The information furnished shall be limited to tax filing status and taxable income attributable solely to one or the other of the parents from wages, interest and dividends and income reported on Schedule C (business income) or Schedule E (income from rents, royalties, partnerships, estates, trusts, etc.).]* The office of child support may request any information needed to establish, modify, or enforce a child support or parental rights and responsibilities order or to locate any person alleged to be a parent owing a duty of support from the records of all governmental officials, departments and other governmental agencies of this state without a subpoena. The officials andemployees of the departments and other agencies shall provide all such information requested. Only information directly bearing on the identity and whereabouts of parents or alleged parents or their assets or income may be requested, used or transmitted by the office of child support under this section. Any information provided by the tax department shall include information about assets held by or income attributable to the parent jointly with any other person but shall not include information about the sole assets or income attributed solely to a person not the parent.
Information]* Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, chapter 11 of Title 15 and Title 15B, information furnished the office of child support *[ under this section]* shall be made available only to the person requesting services or to the persons attorney, the person to whom the information relates and the family court. Any other use of the information shall be prohibited. A person who violates this subsection shall be fined not more than $500.00. Any individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may bring an action for civil damages, including punitive damages, equitable relief, including restraint of prohibited acts, restitution of wages or other benefits, reinstatement, costs, reasonable attorneys fees and other appropriate relief.
As used in this section, "financial institution" includes a state chartered bank, savings bank, savings and loan association, credit union, a federal savings bank, federal savings and loan association, national bank, national credit union and a brokerage house.]* Any person objecting to a subpoena may request an administrative review of its issuance by the office of child support or may request that the subpoena be modified or vacated pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 809b. A request for review under this subsection shall be brought in family court. Failure to comply with a subpoena may result in enforcement pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 809a.
Sec. 25. 33 V.S.A. § 4106(a) is amended to read:
(a) When an assignment of the right to support is in effect pursuant to section 3902 of Title 33 or pursuant to this section, or when payments are being made through the registry, the custodial parent shall be considered to have appointed the director of theoffice of child support as his or her attorney in fact to perform the specific act of endorsing over to the registry all drafts, checks, money orders, or other negotiable instruments for support of the child or to transfer any payments received by the registry to the registering tribunal of another state, as defined in 15B V.S.A. § 101(19), after a written request is received from the obligee or the other state on behalf of the obligee or under an assignment of rights.
Sec. 26. 33 V.S.A. § 4107 is amended to read:
§ 4107. OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT; ACCESS TO MOTOR VEHICLE
INFORMATION; CRIMINAL RECORD INFORMATION
The office of child support, for purposes of establishing and enforcing support and parental rights and responsibilities obligations, is designated as a law enforcement agency for the sole purpose of requesting and obtaining access to motor vehicle information and other information needed to identify or locate a person, including access to information maintained by the National Criminal Information Center. Such information shall only be used for collection of child support*[
, may only be released to the parties, and shall otherwise be kept confidential]* and is subject to the restrictions of section 4105(c) of this title.
Sec. 27. 33 V.S.A. § 4108 is amended to read:
§ 4108. GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE
(a) The office of child support shall adopt rules in accordance with the procedures set forth in chapter 25 of Title 3, the Administrative Procedure Act, to establish and implement a grievance procedure to contest decisions of the office of child support.
(b) The office of child support shall make widely available to the public information about its grievance procedure, including grievance forms, pamphlets explaining the procedure, and explanations of grievance rights.
(c) Upon issuing a wage withholding order, the office of child support shall notify the obligor pursuant to section 788 of Title 15 of the amount of the past due child support, the consequences of failing to meet a court ordered child support obligation, and the procedure for contesting the offices action under this section.
(d) All final decisions of the office of child support are appealable de novo to the family court magistrate.
(e) If the obligor contests the withholding within 20 days of the notice and is found not to be in arrears by more than one-twelfth of the annual support obligation on the date the notice is issued, the office, within two business days, shall notify the employer to cease withholding. In addition, the office shall pay to the obligor three times the amount erroneously withheld.
Sec. 28. 33 V.S.A. § 4110 is amended to read:
§ 4110. EMPLOYER OBLIGATIONS
(a) Where a parent is required by a court or administrative order to provide health coverage for a child, and the parent is eligible for dependent health coverage, which is available through an employer doing business in this state, the employer is required:
(1) To enroll under dependent coverage any child who is otherwise eligible for coverage without regard to any enrollment season restrictions or any seasonal restrictions on switching from one plan to another upon application of either parent, by the state agency administering the Medicaid program, by any state agency administering health benefits or a health benefit plan for which Medicaid is a source of funding, or the child support enforcement program.
(2) Not to disenroll or eliminate coverage of any such child unless the employer is provided satisfactory written evidence that:
(A) the court order is no longer in effect;
(B) the child is or will be enrolled in comparable coverage which will take effect no later than the effective date of disenrollment;
(C) the employer has eliminated dependent health coverage for all of its employees if allowed by law.
(3) To withhold from the employee's compensation the employee's share (if any) of premiums for health coverage and to pay this amount to the insurer. Any employer failing to withhold as required under this subdivision shall be liable for any premiums not withheld and paid over to the insurer.
(4) To send written notice to the insurer within 10 days of receipt of a notice under subsection 663(d) of Title 15. The employer shall be liable for any child medical expenses that would have been covered under the employer's health plan had notice been given to the insurer according to this section.
(5) Notice to the employer under subsection 663(d) of Title 15, if given by first class mail, postage prepaid, or by any other method showing actual receipt, shall be presumptive evidence of its receipt by the employer to whom it is addressed. Any period of time which is determined under this section by the giving of such notice shall commence to run from the date of mailing if the notice is mailed, or the date of actual receipt if another method of transmitting the notice is used.
(6) For purposes of this section, "dependent coverage" shall have the same meaning as in subsection (a)(3) of section 4100b of Title 8.
(b) Effective October 1, 1998, all employers in the state of Vermont shall report all new hires to the department of employment and training, and reported information will be shared with the office of child support for the purpose of expediting compliance with court ordered wage withholding orders, and location of payers or parents with an obligation to provide parental contact.
(1) Employers shall report new hires within 20 days of hiring a new employee.
(2) Employers shall report the following data elements to the department of employment and training: newly hired employees name, address and Social Security number, and the employers name, address and federal identification number.
(3) Employers shall report the specified new hire data by way of a W-4 form(copy), or a form of their own with the specified data elements. It may be reported by fax transmission, first class mail, by magnetic tape, electronically or by inputting data elements via the telephone.
(4) If the failure to report is the result of collusion between employer and employee, the employer shall be liable to the obligee in the amount of the wages required to be withheld but not more than $500.00.
(c) As used in this section:
(1) "Employee" means
(A) an individual who is an employee within the meaning of chapter 24 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; and
(B) does not include an employee of a federal or state agency performing intelligence or counterintelligence functions, if the head of such agency has determined that reporting pursuant to this section with respect to the employee could endanger the safety of the employee or compromise an ongoing investigation or intelligence mission.
(2) "Employer" has the meaning given such term in Section 3401(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and includes any governmental entity and any labor organization.
(3) "New hire" means an employee for whom a W-4 filing is required and whose wages have not been reported by the filing employer to the department of employment and training during the last reporting quarter.
Sec. 29. REPORT
(a) On January 15, 1999 and annually thereafter, the office of child support and the court administrator shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary on the implementation, consequences, and effectiveness of this act.
(b) On January 15, 1998 and annually thereafter, the office of child support shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Health and Welfare on the following:
(1) The number of clients served by the office of child support during the preceding year.
(2) The total amount of child support arrearage due persons who were clients of the office of child support during the preceding year.
(3) The total amount of child support collected by the office of child support in the preceding year.
Sec. 29a. JOINT COMMITTEE TO STUDY CHILD SUPPORT
(a) A joint legislative committee to study child support issues is created. It shall consist of four members of the Senate, appointed by the Committee on Committees and four members of the House, appointed by the Speaker of the House.
(b) The committee shall inquire into issues related to:
(1) CHILD SUPPORT. How child support guidelines are developed, maintained, and used, whether or not the existing law and practice are realistic, fair, enforceable, in the best interests of the children, and duly respectful of the relationship between parents and their children.
(2) OTHER DOMESTIC RELATIONS ISSUES. Other domestic relations issues relating to parents and children after divorce, including parent-child contact and parental rights and responsibilities.
(c) The committee may request and shall receive assistance from any public or private agency in order to carry out its responsibilities under this section.
(d) The members of the committee shall be entitled to reimbursement of expenses and compensation for services as provided in 2 V.S.A. § 406 for not more than six meetings and shall have the assistance of the staff of the legislative council.
(e) The committee shall prepare appropriate legislation to implement any proposal recommended by the committee.
(f) The committees report shall consist of draft legislation that it deems necessary to implement any recommendation by the committee. The committee shall submit its report to the General Assembly on January 15, 1998.
Sec. 30. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect on September 1, 1997, except that this section and Sec. 29a shall take effect on July 1, 1997 and Sec. 16 shall take effect on January 1, 1999.
Approved: June 26, 1997