How to Verify Alimony or Child Support Amount—and Reasonable Efforts to Collect
When certifying or recertifying households, you may encounter household members who get alimony or child support from ex-spouses or their children’s parents. Or it may be the case that a household member pays alimony or child support to someone else. Or a household member receives none or only a portion of what a court has awarded her for alimony or child support.
The HUD Handbook has guidelines on handling alimony and child support payments properly [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-6(F)]. We’ll discuss these guidelines and provide a child support affidavit in a Model Form: Get Written Verification of Attempts to Collect Payments Owed, which you can use to verify the amount of alimony or child support specified in the divorce settlement or separation agreement. The form also will help verify that the applicant has taken reasonable legal actions to collect amounts due if a household member or applicant isn’t receiving what the court has awarded.
When to Count Alimony or Child Support
The full amount of alimony or child support income is counted as part of household income when it is court ordered and received. In many cases, the household member will get these payments direct from the ex-spouse or parent, or in some cases, from the ex-spouse’s or parent’s employer [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-6 (F)].
If there’s a divorce decree with child support or alimony ordered, or if the custodial parent has filed with the court for support, you would count the fully ordered amount whether it’s received or not, unless attempts to collect have been made. HUD Handbook states, “Owners must count alimony or child support amounts awarded by the court unless the applicant certifies that payments are not being made and that he or she has taken all reasonable legal actions to collect amounts due, including filing with the appropriate courts or agencies responsible for enforcing payment” [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-6(F)].
Suppose the resident or applicant who’s supposed to be getting alimony or child support payments tells you that she isn’t getting some or all of the payments. If the Department of Child Services is involved it can be presumed that that agency will seek payment on the resident’s behalf. Payment history that’s often supplied by the Department of Child Services should be reviewed for recent payments. If there have been any recent payments, then child support income should be counted, averaging if need be. If payments aren’t received, you wouldn’t need to count the court-ordered support.
Remember that you may exclude these payments if, and only if, the household member documents in writing that she has tried to collect what’s owed to her. The household member must state or certify that she isn’t getting the payments (or the full payments) that a divorce settlement, separation agreement, or other court order requires to be paid to her; and that she has made “reasonable efforts” to collect the amounts she’s supposed to be getting.
To show reasonable efforts, she would have to show more than an email to her ex-husband threatening to take action if he doesn’t pay what’s owed. Reasonable legal actions to collect amounts due include filing with the appropriate courts or agencies responsible for enforcing payment.
You can use our Model Form: Get Written Verification of Attempts to Collect Unpaid Payments, when you need written documentation of the household member’s attempts to collect unpaid alimony or child support.
When Household Members Are Required to Pay
You may have applicants or household members who are required to pay alimony or child support and don’t make the payments voluntarily. In other words, a court probably ordered the household member’s wages to be “garnished,” meaning his employer has to deduct the monthly child support payments from his wages and pay them directly to the child’s mother.
The household may tell you that you shouldn’t include those deducted amounts in his income from wages because his actual salary is reduced by those amounts. In these cases, HUD says you do have to include those amounts in the household member’s income from wages: “There is no deduction for an amount paid to a person outside the assisted family for alimony or child support. Even if the amount is garnished from the wages of a family member, it must be included in annual income” [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-10(F)].
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Get Written Verification of Attempts to Collect Payments Owed|