The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe recently announced that it is be joining 75 other tribes throughout the country in establishing a Child Support Enforcement Unit.
The tribal court will be phased in over the next six years to be able to handle cases of child support involving tribal members within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
These Child Support Enforcement Units are a part of the Child Support Enforcement program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 1975, the United States government founded the program, also known as the IV-D program covering all 50 states and U.S. territories. But it wasn’t until 1996 that tribes officially became apart of the program with the passing of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA).
PRWORA allowed tribes to join the program, authorize the operation of tribal CSE programs and cooperative agreements between tribal and state agencies handling IV-D according to the National Tribal Child Support Association (NTCSA).
The NTCSA was established in 2001 to be a national provider of information and resources to tribes.
“This will be the first Tribal Child Support Enforcement Unit in New York State,” said Tribal Court Administrator Dr. Barbara Gray.
The tribe received funding from the DHHS that will be split across three phases for the unit.
“The start-up phase of this grant will involve establishing the program, purchasing equipment and hiring staff,” remarked Chief Judge Peter J. Herne.
The second or operational phase will begin in the third year followed by a full comprehensive phase in the final year. Federal funding across the phases will be 100 percent in phase one, 90 percent in two and 80 percent in three.
“We currently have about 300 child support cases here in Akwesasne and parents pay about $1.2 million in child support payments,” said Herne. “As in any community, a number of cases need to be settled here.”
For most child support cases, parents filing the case will need to find an attorney, now the majority of the issues involved with child support cases will be addressed at the tribal court according to a tribal press release.
“The biggest plus for the court and the children who will benefit from child support payment enforcement is that our court orders get full faith and credit across the country,” observed Herne.
This gives the tribal court orders the ability to be enforced throughout the U.S. Other benefits stemming from establishing the unit are the surrounding communities, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties, caseloads will be allievated.
“This has been a long process,” said Herne in the press release. “We began two years ago when I approached Tribal Council with the idea and they were very responsive and supportive.”