Department of Human Services
Families First Online Policy Manual
Although locating and pursuing child support from all absent parents is the responsibility of IV-D, the caseworker must collect all possible information about the absent parent that will assist IV-D, as well as establishing that the child is deprived of parental support. The best method of determining that the child is deprived of parental support based on absence is to interview the absent parent. If the absent parent is in the same county, the caseworker should locate and interview the absent parent, whenever possible, to determine:
· Whether or not he/she is currently supporting.
· The amount and frequency of support.
· The method of support payment and any future plans to support the child or establish paternity, if applicable.
In single parent adoptions, absence of one parent exists because there is only one parent. There are no child support requirements on these cases. The fact that an adoption decree states that the adoptive parent is financially able to provide for the child has no bearing on the child or caretaker’s eligibility. It is an indication that the worker must thoroughly explore all financial circumstances to determine the facts of the current situation and what has happened to cause the need for Families First.
A child born during a marriage (either a valid legal marriage, an annulled marriage, or a bigamous marriage) is presumed to be the legitimate child of that marriage. Any child born in wedlock or within ten calendar months from the divorce or death of the mother’s legal husband is presumed to be the legitimate child of the mother’s husband. This presumption can be overcome only with strong and convincing proof that it would have been impossible for the mother and her husband to have cohabited at the time of conception. (For example, the husband was abroad in the armed services or in prison at the time of conception.)
Child Born out-of-Wedlock:
A child born to an unmarried mother with or without a known father is a child born out-of-wedlock.
Voluntary legitimation is accomplished through a petition to the court (usually the Juvenile Court) by the biological father (when he is not married to the mother and the mother is not married to someone else) with the acknowledgement that he is the child’s biological father and that he wishes to legitimate the child. The court then makes a decision as to whether he will be declared the legal father of the child. Also, the biological father may, at anytime, sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity which becomes a basis for the establishment of child support by the court without proof of paternity. Both parents must sign the sworn statement.
If the father of the child born out-of wedlock “holds the child out” as his and the parents are married to each other after the child’s birth, the child is legitimated at the point of the parent’s marriage. The parents may request legitimation by making application for a new Certificate of Birth to the Tennessee Department of Health and Vital Records. Both parents must sign the necessary forms in order for the change in records to be made. A certified copy of the marriage certificate and a notarized request on a form provided by Vital Records must be sent to Vital Records in order to change the child’s birth certificate to show his/her legitimate status.
A petition by the mother, the putative father, the Department of Human Services, or someone acting on the child’s behalf is filed in Juvenile Court seeking to have a child’s status legally determined. The burden of proof of paternity is on the petitioner. The court then makes a decision as to whether the man is to be declared the legal father.
Prior to very recent years, blood testing could only be used as evidence to disprove paternity. However, now that DNA testing can include or exclude an alleged father with 95 percent to 99 percent degree of accuracy, courts are accepting these tests in determining the biological father of a child and are issuing orders of paternity based on the results. Thus, these tests are being utilized with increasing frequency.
When an order of non-paternity, based on genetic testing, is issued for an individual legally declaring that the individual is not the parent of a particular child, make no further attempts to pursue the matter of paternity/child support against the individual.
In FF paternity cases handled by IV-D, a copy of the court order issued will be forwarded to FF staff so that the information can be recorded on the absent parent screens in the eligibility and case management system. The court order must be checked carefully by the caseworker when received so that prompt appropriate action can be taken (within 30 days).
If the order confirms that the alleged parent is the natural/legal parent, the FF family’s circumstances must be determined. If the parent is in the home with the child, the child is no longer eligible unless the parent is disabled or the AU meets unemployed parent criteria. If the parent is out-of-the-home, IV-D will follow up on securing support.
If the court order declares that the named alleged parent is not the natural/legal parent, further action by the worker is required promptly.
· Once such a court order is issued, no further referral to IV-D naming that man as the natural parent of that child can be made.
· The mother (other caretaker or grantee relative) must be interviewed and she must be informed that it is not acceptable for her to continue to name that man as the alleged parent, that she must name the true natural parent, explain why she named the previous man, and /or give a reasonable explanation of the true circumstances of the child’s parentage. If she does not do this, sanctions must be applied (see Sanctions Chapter).
· IV-D must be notified of the current status of the case and other appropriate changes (if any) must be made in the assistance unit/payment.
Interview held with the child’s mother (grantee relative) should always be face-to-face and conducted in privacy. If at all possible, the child in question/other children should not be present.
Sensitive but persistent probe interviewing will probably be required to elicit the kinds of information necessary to enable the caseworker to make a decision as to whether the client is cooperating in the matter of paternity/child support, whether the client chooses to claim good cause for failure to cooperate, whether good cause exists, and the appropriate action to take.
A glib naming of another man, or a statement of “I don’t know” is not acceptable by itself. Information about the circumstances surrounding the child’s conception, the mother’s life style, why the original man was named, whether the possibility of different parentage exists, and so on must be elicited and recorded.