(Revised 4/1/11 ML #3163)
The requirement to cooperate may be waived when a legally responsible caretaker relative has "good cause" not to cooperate.
All legally responsible caretaker relatives must be given the opportunity to claim "good cause". Applicants are notified of their rights to claim good cause in the SFN 405, Application for Assistance, DN 405, the Application for Assistance Guidebook, and the SFN 502, Application for Health Care Coverage for Children, Families and Pregnant Women. Applicants can indicate their request to claim good cause in either application. Recipients who become subject to the cooperation requirements may be notified by providing each legally responsible caretaker with SFN 443, "Notice of Right to Claim 'Good Cause'" (05-100-45). The notice briefly summarizes the legislative intent of child support enforcement, defines the caretaker's responsibility to cooperate in the support enforcement effort, and advises them of their right to claim "good cause". The notice also describes circumstances under which cooperation may be "against the best interests" of the child or caretaker and cites the kinds of evidence needed to substantiate a claim.
A legally responsible caretaker wishing to claim "good cause" may do so by completing SFN 446, "Request to Claim 'Good Cause'" (05-100-50).
If "good cause" is claimed, the caretaker relative can be eligible for Medicaid while the decision is pending.
The determination of whether there is "good cause" is made by the county agency. The county agency may waive the requirement to cooperate if it determines that cooperation is against the best interests of the child. A county agency may determine that cooperation is against the best interests of the child only if:
The applicantís or recipientís cooperation in establishing paternity or securing medical support is reasonably anticipated to result in:
(1) Physical harm to the child for whom support is to be sought;
(2) Emotional harm to the child for whom support is to be sought;
(3) Physical harm to the parent or caretaker relative with whom the child is living which reduces such personís capacity to care for the child adequately; or
(4) Emotional harm to the parent or caretaker relative with whom the child is living, of such nature or degree that it reduces such personís capacity to care for the child adequately; or
At least one of the following circumstances exists, and the county agency believes that because of the existence of that circumstance, in the particular case, proceeding to establish paternity or secure medical support would be detrimental to the child for whom support would be sought.
(1) The child for whom support is sought was conceived as a result of incest or forcible rape;
(2) Legal proceedings for the adoption of the child are pending before a court of competent jurisdiction; or
(3) The applicant or recipient is currently being assisted by a public or licensed private social agency to resolve the issue of whether to keep or relinquish the child for adoption, and the discussions have not gone on for more than three months.
There must be evidence to substantiate a claim of "good cause." Exemptions on the basis of physical or emotional harm, either to the child or to the caretaker relative must be of a genuine and serious nature. Mere belief that cooperation might result in harm is not a sufficient basis for finding "good cause." Evidence upon which the county agency bases its finding must be supported by written statements and contained in the case record.
It is the caretaker relativeís responsibility to provide the county agency with the evidence needed to establish "good cause." The caretaker is normally given twenty days from the date of claim to collect the evidence. In exceptional cases, the county agency may grant reasonable additional time to allow for difficulty in obtaining proof. Records of law enforcement, social service, or adoption agencies may be readily available to document instances of rape, physical harm, or pending adoption, perhaps without requiring further investigation. Documentation of anticipated emotional harm to the child or caretaker, however, may be somewhat more elusive. Whenever the claim is based in whole or in part on anticipated emotional harm, the county agency must consider the following:
The present emotional state of the individual subject to emotional harm;
The emotional health history of the individual subject to emotional harm;
The intensity and probable duration of the emotional impairment;
The degree of cooperation to be required; and
The extent of involvement of the child in establishing paternity or health insurance coverage.
Upon request, the county agency is required to assist the caretaker in obtaining evidence necessary to support a "good cause" claim. This, however, is not intended to place an unreasonable burden on staff, shift the caretakerís basic responsibility to produce evidence to support the claim, or to delay a final determination. The county agency must promptly notify the caretaker if additional evidence is necessary and actively assist in obtaining evidence when the individual is not reasonably able to obtain it.
The county agency is directly responsible for investigating a "good cause" claim when it believes that the caretaker's claim is authentic, even though confirming evidence may not be available. When the claim is based on a fear of serious physical harm and the claim is believed by county agency staff, investigation may be conducted without requiring corroborative evidence by the caretaker. It may involve a careful review of the case record, evaluation of the credibility of the caretakerís statements, or a confidential interview with an observer who has good reasons for not giving a written statement. Based on such an investigation, and on professional judgment, the county agency may find that "good cause" exists without the availability of absolute corroborative evidence.
While conducting an investigation of a "good cause" claim, care must be taken to ensure that the location of the child is not revealed.
Except for extenuating circumstances, the "good cause" issue must be determined with the same degree of promptness as for the determination of other factors of eligibility (45 days). The county agency may not deny, delay, or discontinue assistance pending the resolution of the "good cause" claim. In the process of making a final determination, the county agency is required to give Child Support Enforcement staff the opportunity to review and comment on the findings and basis for the proposed decision. It is emphasized, however, that responsibility for the final determination rests with the county agency.
The claimant and the child support agency must be informed of the "good cause" decision.
Claimants Ė The caretaker must be informed, in writing, of the county agencyís final decision that "good causeí does or does not exist and the basis for the findings. A copy of this communication must be maintained in the case record. If "good cause" was determined not to exist, the communication must remind the caretaker of the obligation to cooperate with child support if he or she wishes to be eligible for Medicaid, of the right to appeal the decision, and of the right to withdraw the application or have the case closed. In the event the caretaker relative does appeal, Child Support must be advised to delay its activity until the results of the appeal are known.
Child Support Enforcement Ė The automated referral process notifies Child Support of the status of all "good cause" claims by:
(1) Informing them of all caretaker relatives who claim "good cause" exemptions which suspend child support activity pending a determination;
(2) Informing them of all cases in which it has been determined that there is "good cause" for refusal to cooperate. Once the exemption is established, no child support activity may be pursued unless at a future time it is determined that "good cause" no longer exists; and
(3) Informing them of all cases in which it has been determined that "good cause" for refusing to cooperate does not exists and that child support enforcement activity can begin or resume.
The county agency must review the "good cause" decision at least every twelve months. If "good cause" continues to exist, the caretaker must again be informed in writing. If circumstances have changed so "good cause" no longer exists, the caretaker must be informed, in writing, and given the opportunity to cooperate, terminate the caretakerís assistance, close the case, or appeal the decision. When "good cause" no longer exists Child Support will commence its child support activity.