By way of introduction, I am the Administrative Hearing Officer for Expedited Child Support and Paternity cases filed by the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA). These cases are heard on Mondays and Thursdays at 8:30 A.M. in room 2002 in the County Courthouse. This article is intended to acquaint the DuPage County attorneys with the function of the expedited child support hearings for any custodial parent, and the public aid programs for day care, health insurance and visitation mediation available to low income single parents. The project is known as the IV-D program and is designed to aid anyone with a child support problem, regardless of income or financial status.
Almost all attorneys practicing in the domestic relations field are faced with post judgment or paternity support problems. Some custodial parents have sufficient money to pay for legal representation but most do not. Usually attorneys are forced to handle these types of cases on a pro bono basis. The IV-D program is a way to avoid the "guilt feelings" an attorney may have in declining to take on this type of representation. Hopefully, this article will show how to direct a client to the IDPA for a quicker and easier method of obtaining, enforcing, or increasing support.
The first thing is that although anyone may have the IDPA file a petition to set, increase or enforce an order of support, only those custodial parents who qualify by a lower income are eligible for subsidized day care payments and health insurance. Therefore, if a custodial parent wants an increase in support or wants to enforce an order of support, direct that person to the DuPage IDPA office and they will process a petition for that person for no charge. There have been custodial parents from some of the more affluent communities in DuPage County who have contacted the Department of Public Aid asking them to file a petition for an increase in child support under this program, so don’t feel hesitant to recommend it to anyone.
After the client is interviewed by the IDPA, a petition is filed and a summons or a notice is sent to the Respondent non-custodial parent. The case is returnable to room 2002 where an informal hearing is conducted. In the case of non-payment of support that is set in a divorce judgment, IDPA usually petitions for leave to intervene and asks for entry of a judgment on the delinquency or arrearages. If the Respondent appears, a hearing is held, however, if he fails to appear, a default judgment is entered, notice is sent to him and he has 14 days from the date of the notice to move to vacate the default. In the case of a default judgment that is not vacated, IDPA sends a copy of the judgment and a withholding notice to the Respondent’s employer.
When a hearing is held on a petition for support or an increase, the parties must agree to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation before Judge Dudgeon, in room 2003, can sign the order. If they do not agree, that case is sent to Judge Dudgeon for a de novo hearing. This same format is followed for IDPA petitions to establish paternity. There are facilities in the courtroom conference room for DNA testing if the Respondent so requests. The mother, child and Respondent are usually tested at the same time. If paternity is established, then set support is set.
I cannot overemphasize the public aid benefits that are available to custodial parents who qualify financially. Theoretically, a custodial parent who has a high income but is not receiving court ordered support payments could request IDPA to file a IV-D program petition for arrearages or an increase. As a practical matter, almost all cases filed by IDPA are for custodial parents who are living on the edge of the poverty level. It is for these struggling parents that the following aid programs were designed.
Affordable day care is the cornerstone of the "back to work program" designed to get mothers off of welfare and into the workplace. Child Care is a State of Illinois Department of Human Services funded program available to working families with a child or children under the age of 13. There are no waiting lists for State funds for all families who fall within the following income categories: Family size of 2 (parent and child), Maximum gross annual income $17,663 or less; 3, Gross $21,819; 4, Gross $25,975; 5, $30,131 et cet. All of these families pay a portion of the day care cost as a co-payment. The IDPA petition usually requests a one-half contribution of the co-payment from the Respondent. The local Child Care Resource Agency is located at YWCA Child Care Resource & Referral, 739 Roosevelt Road, Bldg. 8, Suite 210, Glen Ellyn, Illinois 60137, 630/790-8137. This agency not only sets up State funds but can also help parents find the nearest child care facility. A caseworker is available to assist applicants.
"Kidcare" is a State and Federally funded health insurance program for children 18 or younger and pregnant women. There are 4 plans available under this program.
1. Rebate Plan: If there is health insurance through an employer, the parent can obtain a rebate for some or all of the premiums for the child’s share.
2. Share or Premium Plan: The plan the children will be enrolled in will be determined by the family’s income. Under the Share Plan, there is a $2.00 co-pay for each doctor or hospital visit, clinic or prescription. Under the Premium Plan, there is a $3.00 or $5.00 co-pay and a monthly premium of $15.00 for one child, $25 for 2 children and $30 for 3 or more.
3. Moms and Babies Plan: This plan covers health care for pregnant mothers and baby up to one year.
4. Assist Plan: If the family has a very low income, for example under $22,210 per year for a family of four, Kidcare Assist plan will pay for the children’s health care at no cost to the family.
For information, applications and assistance in completing applications call 1/800/226-0768.
A note of interest about this program:
Illinois receives $122 million in federal funds each year for Kidcare, but it must be spent within three years. To date, Illinois has spent $38 million from its 1998 allocation. Unless the remaining $84 million is spent by September 30, 2000, it will have to be returned to Washington. There are approximately 100,000 children without health insurance in Illinois according to the figures of the Illinois Hunger Coalition. To date, there are 104,000 children and pregnant women covered by Kidcare. However, State officials say that at least another 86,000 are eligible. If you know of any family or single parent in need of health insurance for the children, please have them apply for this program.
In DuPage County, there are not many Respondents who appear in court without employment. However, for the few who are not employed, the Illinois Employment Training Center (IETC) is available for them. Anyone who is unemployed can apply for a job at his or her local center. The center in DuPage is located at 837 S. Westmore-Myers Road, Lombard, IL. 60148, 630/495-4345. Everyone that I have referred to IETC has obtained a job with a salary in the $8-$10 per hour range. These people are now able to contribute support to their children.
P.A.K. VISITATION MEDIATION:
P.A.K. stands for Parents and Kids. PAK is a psychological and mediation service designed to build and enhance relationships between parents and their children. This service is available to parents who have never been married but is not open to those persons who have been divorced. Usually this service would cost hundreds of dollars, but is free to those persons who are parents but have never been married to each other. The obvious aim of the program is to not only provide the child with a healthy relationship with both parents but also to have the non-custodial parent interact with the child so that the support payments appear less onerous. The PAK program is available in courtroom 2002 or at 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton, Illinois 60187—630/682-7548 or 682-7933.
I hope this article will assist attorneys in helping lower income families find the extra money and services that are available to them for the mere asking. It is frustrating to see available money taken away from deserving families simply because no one is aware of the program or no one knows how to obtain their benefits. IDPA is standing by with the IV-D program; USE IT.
Anthony F. Mannina is a sole practitioner in Wheaton, Illinois. He received his Undergraduate Degree from Loyola University in 1953 and his Law Degree from The John Marshall Law School in 1961.