Tribal-State Child Support Collaboration - Inyo Superior Court and Bishop Paiute Tribal Court

Technology/Tribal-State icon Project Name: Tribal-State Child Support Collaboration
Court: Inyo Superior Court and Bishop Paiute Tribal Court
   Documents: Bishop Tribe Proclamation
    Employer of the Year Bishop Paiute
   Links: Bishop Paiute Tribe Enforcement of Child Support Orders/Judgments

Overview/Program Description:

The Tribal-State Child Support Collaboration project facilitated the first tribal acknowledgement in the State of California, (the Bishop Paiute Tribe) that honors child support orders originating out of a California State Court.

The Inyo Superior Court and Bishop Paiute Tribal Court have concurrent jurisdiction over child support cases. The Bishop Paiute Tribe does not operate its own title IVD, child support program. In 2013, however, in collaboration with the state court, all child support orders, whether issued by the tribal court or the state court began to be processed for enforcement and directed against the wages of a tribal employee enforced by the Bishop Paiute Tribe under the Tribe’s December 2012 Enforcement of Child Support Orders/Judgments tribal ordinance (link to PDF).

Before adoption of the 2012 ordinance, both the Presiding Judge of the Inyo Superior Court and the Chief Judge of the Bishop Paiute Tribal Court met to forge this collaboration. The Eastern Sierra Child Support Services was also an integral partner in this program. The Bishop Tribal Council engaged in a very thoughtful and deliberative process, including outreach and engagement of the tribal community. The state court provided the Tribal Council with the dates of their title IV-D child support calendars, and invited them to attend unannounced. Some Tribal Council members did attend the state court proceedings, and were actively engaged in learning about the state court process and how child support amounts are determined. With the parties consent, the IV-D commissioner projected the Child Support Guideline calculations on the courtroom wall to aide in understanding. A Tribal Council member advised the Presiding Judge of the Inyo Superior Court that as a result of attending state court proceedings, he found that many rumors about due process, or lack thereof, in state court proceedings were not true. Tribal representatives also met with the Family Law Facilitator and Child Support Staff. They obtained information as to the approximate number of cases that would be involved and number of affected Native American children.

With this project, the court and tribe were able to address the lack of enforcement of child support orders on tribal lands. By improving child support enforcement, this collaboration increased family self-sufficiency, reduces child poverty, and has a positive effect on a child’s educational and other life achievements.

Program Benefits/Savings:

A benefit is that the program respects tribal sovereignty, while also providing appropriate child support to children whose parents are employed by the Tribe. Before this collaboration, enforcement of the state court orders through wage assignment was only possible on a voluntary basis. Also, the tribal court is in a position to ensure that the state court orders are consistent with tribal traditions. While the tribal court does not modify the state court order per se, it has jurisdiction to modify how much, if any, of the state ordered amount is enforceable by tribal wage assignment. The tribal court can modify the order after hearing mitigating circumstances and order either a reduction in amount or an in-kind support payment. The state court cannot issue an order for in-kind child support.

The Tribal-State Court Child Support Collaboration project also demonstrated an increase in monthly child support collections. The Bishop Paiute Tribe’s ordinance was passed in December 2012. Statistics from June 2013 through June 2014 showed that 53 percent of cases in which the non-custodial parent was employed by a tribal entity were paying monthly child support when the project began. As of June 2014, 100 percent of the cases with non-custodial tribal members who are employed by tribal entities are paying on their monthly child support. The average increase in collection per month for tribal families with non-custodial parents employed by tribal entities increased $1,639.00 per month. The increase in collections per case per month increased by $68.29 over this same period. Annually, this totals an increase of distributed child support of $19,668.00.