The TAFDC Child Support rules require all recipients to "cooperate" in identifying and locating the absent father (or mother) of each child. Child support cooperation has always been part of the TAFDC program. You must make a good faith effort to help identify and cooperate with child support enforcement unless you have a good cause reason not to.
1. Do you have to tell DTA anything about the father of your child?
Unless you have good cause, you have to cooperate with the Child Support Enforcement Unit of the Department of Revenue (DOR) to get child support from the child's father, prove he is the father (establish paternity), and get a support order. You will be asked for specific information about the child's father. If you do not have specific information, you will have to provide all the information you have and a sworn statement documenting your efforts to get the information. Once you provide this information, DTA will give it to the Department of Revenue (DOR) and DOR will check to see if it is accurate. You may also have to go to court if there is a court proceeding. However, you may have good cause for not doing this if you are afraid it will cause you or your child any physical or emotional harm or if you got pregnant by rape or incest. SEE "good cause" below.
Note that the support rules apply to mothers as well as fathers. A mother who does not live with the child can also be ordered to pay child support. Nonparent caretaker relatives must also meet child support cooperation rules for at least one of the child's parents. If a child is living with other relatives because both parents are absent, the relative must give whatever information she has on the parents.
You cannot be sanctioned (lose benefits) if you do not have the information as long as you cooperate in good faith.
2. What is "good cause" not to cooperate?
You are not required to cooperate if you have one of the following "good cause" reasons:
- the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest,
- you are planning to give up your child for adoption, or
- you or your child would suffer from "serious emotional or physical harm" by cooperating with these rules. For example, if you know who the father is and he was abusive or has threatened you, you can claim good cause. You can prove that cooperating will be harmful to you or your child with a copy of a restraining order (209A) or medical records or a written statement from a social service agency or shelter, or someone else who knows your situation, or in other ways (contact a Legal Services or battered women's advocate for help).
Your DTA worker has the duty to explain to you what "good cause" is and the benefits of cooperation. Your worker must also help you get the proofs needed if you need help.
DOR may try to seek support from the father even if you are not required to cooperate because of good cause. You should get notice of this. Check with an advocate if it is a problem for you.
3. What if you don't have information about the father?
Thanks to a court ruling, DTA cannot cut your benefits or sanction you just because you do not have information about the father. Contact your local Legal Services right away if DTA or DOR threatens to cut you off for lack of information of if DOR unreasonably requires you to track down information you don't have.
4. How can you challenge the loss of benefits?
If you think you may have good cause to not cooperate, tell the DTA worker. You have a right to provide any information you have that shows why it would harm you or your child to cooperate. You have the right to see the records from your child support file and get copies of any documents about you.
You have the right to appeal any denial or reduction of benefits. If you get a written notice saying you have failed to cooperate with the child support rules, you can request a hearing.
If your benefits are being reduced and you appeal within 10 days of the date of the notice or at least 24 hours before the reduction is due to take effect, your benefits will continue until your hearing. Bring with you to the hearing any proofs that might help your case. You have a right to see your case record and make copies of any documents in your file. You also have the right to bring a friend or advocate with you to the hearing.