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Some Noncustodial Parents To Benefit From Attorney General's Opinion

April 7, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. – Noncustodial parents who are disabled and whose children receive dependent benefits directly from the Social Security Administration stand to gain from an opinion issued March 31, 2004 by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Affected parents will no longer have to hire attorneys and obtain court orders to receive credit from the child support enforcement program for the SSA payments to their children.

The Department of Human Services, which is responsible for the state child support disbursement unit, sought the opinion. Generally, child support payments must be received by the state disbursement unit before a noncustodial parent receives credit for meeting his or her obligation.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Carol K. Olson, executive director of the human services department. “Families receive the support they need; noncustodial parents who are disabled receive credit for support that has already been paid to their children; and the department can focus resources on cases where child support obligations are not being met.”

The legal opinion applies to benefits paid after January 1, 1995. The number of individuals affected by the decision has not been determined.

“We sought the opinion because we want to be fair to noncustodial parents,” said Child Support Enforcement Division Director Mike Schwindt. “We encourage noncustodial parents with disabilities whose children have received Social Security dependents benefits since January 1, 1995 to contact the appropriate clerks of court or their child support caseworkers to receive credit for the benefits.”

Schwindt said about $200 million is owed to children impacted by the North Dakota child support enforcement program. The attorney general’s opinion may reduce this amount by about $1 million.

Information about child support enforcement services in North Dakota is available on-line at www.nd.gov/dhs/services/childsupport/ or by phone at (701) 328-3582 or
TTY: (800) 366-6888, or by e-mail at socscs@nd.gov.


Heather Steffl (701) 328-4933


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