South Carolina Supreme Court’s Suspension of Family Court Rule 24 for Title IV-D Cases

Two different family law attorneys have asked–nay demanded–that I blog about the July 19, 2012 South Carolina Supreme Court Administrative Order suspending application of South Carolina Family Court Rule 24 as it relates to the review and enforcement of Title IV-D child support payments paid through the clerk of court.  This suspension is based upon an Action Transmittal dated June 18, 2012 from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to all state agencies administering child support enforcement plans under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.  That Action Transmittal discusses the procedural components required for enforcing child support obligations in compliance with the United States Supreme Court decision in Turner v. Rogers, 564 U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 2507 (2011).

Turner found South Carolina’s procedures for enforcing child support failed to comport with due process.  Such a conclusion didn’t surprise me as it was a issue I had previously written and lectured on.  Without denying that the state needs a method for collecting child support, the defacto reinstitution of debtor’s prison in the guise of using civil contempt sanctions was an open and notorious civil rights violation that, excepting a few “fathers’ rights” organizations, no one seemed bothered by. Anecdotally none of my family law colleagues indicate that Turner changed the way family court judges employ incarceration as a method of enforcing support orders.  I presume this Action Transmittal is intended to force DSS to develop constitutionally-adequate procedures for enforcing child support.

Sadly, this Supreme Court order does not apply to all support enforcement proceedings and it leaves many custodial parents without a remedy to collect child support.  States have had over a year to develop procedures that comport with Turner.  My pre-Turner criticism of South Carolina’s child support enforcement procedures noted with approval a Florida court rule that addressed the constitutional violations Turner confirms existed within South Carolina’s enforcement procedures.  Too bad South Carolina didn’t use the past year to develop similar rules.

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