By Kathleen Ayers, Chief Attorney, Tulare County DCSS
What is a Quadragennial review? Well, you will have to wait until the end of this article to find out, along with other mathematically significant anniversary names. For now, I would like to focus your attention on the quadrennial review that is currently taking place regarding the California’s Statewide Uniform Guideline for calculating Child Support. As required by California Family Code section 4054 (hereinafter “FC 4054”), the uniform guideline shall be reviewed by the Judicial Council, “at least every four years…unless federal law requires a different interval.” Such a review is intended to result in recommended revisions to the guideline to be considered by the Legislature.
As part of this review process and as required by FC 4054, “[i]n developing its recommendations, the Judicial Council shall consult with a broad cross-section of groups involved in child support issues…” As such, the Judicial Council meets with different focus groups as part of the guideline review. On March 29, 2017, in Fairfield, California, a focus group comprised of representatives from 11 California counties/regions, Director of the California Department of Child Support Services, Alisha Griffin, and several other representatives from her office met. This meeting was facilitated by Kathy Sokolik and Wendy Gray in their roles with the Center for the Support of Families, Incorporated.
Specific information and data shared during the meeting is confidential at this time. However, topics which were discussed included whether the court should ever enter a zero dollar order and whether there are situations that merit a minimum amount of support, otherwise known as Threshold Orders. There was significant dialogue and feedback provided by those present on deviation from guideline, default orders, and imputation of income. Various methodologies of guideline calculation components from different states were also discussed. In addition, draft data related to county specific cost of living was explored, as was data related to counties’ average order amounts, number of zero orders, and number of orders at less than fifty dollars.
If there was any overarching theme, it was that everyone in the room understood the need to right-size the orders for both custodial and non-custodial parents alike, but that the “how” in doing this is where the important decision making will take place. Resources and consistency were recurring topics, expressed as potential challenges, when discussing how right-sizing might be accomplished.
The Judicial Council will be meeting with other focus groups to facilitate similar discussions, including a group of IV-D Commissioners and a group comprised of members from organizations that represent children and families. During the last phases of the Quadrennial review, a final report with recommendations will be published and available for public comment. In addition, the Department of Child Support Services and the Judicial Council will need to determine which recommendations might be considered for potential policy or legislative changes. As those recommendations are explored, more opportunities will arise for discussions about how to best create a guideline that meets the needs of the families we serve.
Given the ever changing needs of the families we serve, a review of the guideline every four years as opposed to every 40 years (which is what a Quadragennial review would be), is not only statutorily required but clearly critical to our program’s success.
Finally, because a promise is a promise, here are some other mathematically significant anniversary names: a 50th anniversary (Quinquagenary), a 75th anniversary (Septuagesiquintennial), a personal favorite, the 175th anniversary (Septaquintaquinquecentennial), and last but not least, the 400th anniversary (Quatercentenary).