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TENNESSEE COMPILATION OF SELECTED LAWS ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, 2011 EDITION

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

Title 71 Welfare

Chapter 3 Programs and Services for Children

Part 1 Aid to Dependent Children - General Provisions

71-3-124. Assignment of support rights to state - Enforcement and collection of rights - Collection service fee - Attorneys - Caretaker relative eligibility - Standing to petition.

(a) (1) Each applicant or recipient who receives or authorizes payment of public or temporary assistance pursuant to Title IV-A or IV-E of the Social Security Act or any successor program providing temporary assistance or foster care or adoption assistance shall be deemed to have assigned to the state any rights to support from any other person such applicant or recipient may have:

(A) In the applicant's own behalf or in behalf of any other family member for whom the applicant is applying for or receiving aid; and

(B) That have accrued at the time such assignment is executed.

(2) Each payment shall constitute “receipt” for purposes of determining when the assignment is executed.

(3) During the terms of such assignment, the department shall be subrogated to the rights of the child or children or the person having custody to collect and receive all child support payments.

(4) The department has the right to initiate any support action in its own name or in the name of the recipient under existing laws of this state and to recover any payments ordered by the courts of this or any other state.

(5) In the exercise of its subrogation rights, the department shall give the person having custody prior notice of any action taken to enforce or modify support and shall inform the custodian of the right to intervene to protect any future interest; provided, that failure to provide such notice shall not be a defense to the obligor in any proceeding.

(6) (A) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, neither the department of human services, nor any Title IV-D child support contractor of the department, nor any recipient of public assistance in this or any other state or territory, shall be required to demonstrate to a court or administrative tribunal in this state that the caretaker of the child for whom child support is sought is vested with any more than physical custody of the child or children in order to have standing to petition for child support from the legal parent of the child or children for whom support is sought, or to seek enforcement or modification of any existing orders involving such child or children.

(B) Legal custody of a child to whom a child support obligation is owed shall not be a prerequisite to the initiation of any support action or to the enforcement or modification of any support obligation, whether or not the obligation has been assigned to this state or any other state or territory by operation of law.

(b) The department shall certify to the clerks of the appropriate state courts that an assignment of any and all rights, title and interest in support rights has been made to this state by a public assistance or temporary assistance recipient of this state. The department may also, in its discretion, certify to the clerk of the appropriate court in this state that a recipient of public assistance or temporary assistance in another state has assigned support rights to that state pursuant to federal law. Upon receipt of this certification, the clerks of the appropriate state courts shall transmit support payments that they receive on behalf of such public assistance or temporary assistance recipient. The clerk shall transmit the amount directly to the agency specified by the department in accordance with § 36-5-101(a)(4). The clerks are to identify these payments by the names of the parties involved in the cause of action and by the docket number of the cause of action. These support payments shall be transmitted to the department or the specified agency continuously until the department notifies the clerks of the appropriate state courts that it is no longer necessary to do so. The department shall send to each recipient notice of payments received in such recipient's behalf quarterly.

(c) (1) Upon the filing of an application by an individual not otherwise eligible for support services under this section, the department may initiate support actions for an individual, in accordance with the provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, as amended.

(2) The department or any entity, public or private, that contracts with the department to establish paternity or to establish, modify or enforce child or spousal support pursuant to the provisions of Title IV-D of the Social Security Act shall have authority and standing to file any legal actions to establish paternity or to establish, modify or enforce child or spousal support in any judicial or administrative proceeding on behalf of the department and the state for persons who have assigned rights of support to the department pursuant to this section, or who have otherwise applied for child or spousal support services pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (c)(1) or Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. The department or its contractors may file such legal actions without the necessity of intervening in an existing action or naming the state as a party to the action. The department or its contractors shall not be required to provide proof that the obligor, the obligee or the child has applied for or is receiving Title IV-D child support services in order to meet the requirements for conducting Title IV-D child support judicial or administrative actions.

(d) The provision of services under a child support enforcement program that includes services by an attorney or an attorney's representative employed by, under contract to, or representing the department shall not create an attorney-client relationship with any party other than the state. Attorneys employed by or under contract to the department shall have an affirmative duty to notify individuals applying for child support services or temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) recipients or recipients of any successor program providing temporary assistance whose rights to support have been assigned, who contact or are contacted by the attorney or other child support enforcement program staff that any legal services provided by the child support enforcement program are solely on behalf of the state, and that no incidents of the lawyer-client relationship, including the confidentiality of lawyer-client communications, exist between the attorney and the applicant or recipient. No such duty shall exist when the applicant for services is another governmental agency acting on behalf of an individual and there is no direct contact between the child support enforcement program and the individual seeking support.

(e) (1) As a condition of eligibility for consideration of the caretaker relative in the request for assistance under the TANF program or any successor program providing temporary assistance, each applicant for or recipient of benefits under this program shall cooperate, unless good cause not to cooperate is shown to exist in accordance with 45 Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 232.40 through 232.49 as they may be amended, with the department and its Title IV-D contractors in:

(A) Identifying and locating the parent of a child for whom aid is claimed;

(B) Establishing the paternity of a child born out of wedlock for whom aid is claimed;

(C) Obtaining support payments for the applicant or recipient and for a child for whom aid is claimed; and

(D) Obtaining any other payments or property due the applicant or recipient of the child.

(2) Cooperation with the department and its Title IV-D contractors shall be defined by the department in rules that are consistent with federal regulations.

(3) If a caretaker relative fails to cooperate with the department or its Title IV-D contractors under subdivision (e)(1), the department shall, consistent with federal regulations, deny assistance to that caretaker relative of a child or children who are otherwise eligible for TANF or any successor program providing temporary assistance and it shall, consistent with federal regulations, provide assistance to the eligible child in the form of a protective payment, but such assistance will be determined without regard to the needs of the caretaker relative.

(4) The commissioner shall promulgate rules to carry out the provisions of this section.

Acts 1977, ch. 110, § 1; T.C.A., § 14-324; Acts 1982, ch. 764, § 1; 1985, ch. 477, §§ 9, 10; 1986, ch. 890, § 15; T.C.A., § 14-8-124; Acts 1988, ch. 938, § 3; 1994, ch. 987, § 16; 1996, ch. 950, § 28; 1998, ch. 1098, § 68; 2000, ch. 922, § 38.

Compiler's Notes. Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, referred to in this section, is complied in 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq.

Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, referred to in this section, is complied in 42 U.S.C. § 651 et seq.

Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, referred to in this section, is complied in 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.

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