When a custodian receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and/or Medicaid for the child(ren), the District pays for the benefits that are provided to the family. In return for the TANF or Medicaid assistance, the child(ren)'s caregiver assigns (or transfers) to the District the right to receive some or all of the incoming child support payments as reimbursement for the benefits paid out.
Current Child Support
By accepting TANF, the child's custodian assigns to the District the right to receive child support payments made for current support. Because of this assignment, except for the child support payments received from the $150 Pass-Through, current support payments are halted to the family until the family no longer receives TANF.
When a parent, who is ordered to pay child support, falls behind in making payments, that person accrues arrears. The child(ren)'s custodian may be entitled to receive arrears payments depending on when the arrears accrued (that is, depending on when they became due).
Frequently Asked Questions -- Assignment of Rights
How does a person assign rights to child support payments?
The assignment of rights takes place automatically when a person applies for TANF benefits. The TANF application includes a section that addresses the assignment of the right to receive ongoing child support during the TANF period. Instead, while receiving TANF, the right to receive current support amounts passes to the District as reimbursement for the TANF benefit. A person who chooses not to sign the assignment of rights section will not receive TANF benefits.
How long does an assignment of rights last?
The assignment of rights ends when the custodian no longer receives public assistance for the child(ren). When public assistance payments end, the family will begin to receive all of the current support amounts that are paid. Beginning at that point, current support will go to the family first before any assigned arrears are paid to the District.
Although receiving TANF, the family may be entitled to receive child support arrears that accrued before or during the TANF period.
- Any arrears that are owed to the family may be called "unassigned arrears" or "never assigned arrears".
- Any arrears that the District keeps are called "assigned arrears".
Will a parent receive support arrears that accrued before the start of public assistance?
The child(ren)'s custodian often is entitled to child support arrears for the time period before receiving TANF. However, some arrears that accrued before the TANF period may be assigned to the District. In those instances, though, the District is only entitled to reimburse itself up to the total amount of public assistance benefits it paid out to the family.
Is a parent paid for support arrears that accrued after public assistance ended?
Any arrears that accrue after the public assistance period has ended will belong to the family. These arrears (called "never assigned arrears") will be paid to the family before the amount assigned to the District is paid, unless the payment source is federal tax intercept.
Will a parent be paid support arrears while receiving public assistance?
While the child(ren)'s custodian is receiving TANF, the District keeps track of the amount of public assistance benefits it provides. To pay itself back for this assistance, the District is allowed to keep the current child support payments (less the pass-through) and support arrears. If the amount of the support arrears collected is greater than the amount of assistance the family receives, the District will only keep the amount of support arrears that is equal to the TANF benefit amount. The rest of the support arrears will go to the family.
The amount of public assistance benefit received by a family that has not been repaid to the District by current support payments or by support arrears is called "unreimbursed assistance". The arrears that accrued before and during the public assistance period may be used to repay the government for this unreimbursed assistance; however, any support payments that are more than the unreimbursed assistance amount will be paid to the family.
What happens if a parent receives child support from multiple payors?
TANF assistance is based on a family grant. A "family grant" is assistance in the form of a block grant given to benefit all members of the custodial parent's immediate family.
Federal law prohibits a family grant from being calculated per child or per an individual family member. Thus, the total amount of support owed to the custodian for all of the children is assigned to the District.
Once the custodian assigns support rights, the District keeps support received from any noncustodial parent (NCP) in order to repay itself for the TANF benefits provided to the family. Each NCP has an obligation to pay child support, and the assignment of rights includes the support owed by all NCPs. The past-due support money from any NCP also will be applied to the repayment of the family grant once those payments are made. Any arrears left over, after the family grant is repaid, will be paid to the family.