Connecticut Seal

House Bill No. 6518

Public Act No. 03-258

AN ACT CONCERNING VOLUNTARY PATERNITY ESTABLISHMENT AND THE JOHN S. MARTINEZ FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 17b-27 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

(a) Each hospital or other institution where births occur, and each entity that is approved by the Commissioner of Social Services to participate in the voluntary paternity establishment program, shall, with the assistance of the commissioner, develop a protocol for a [hospital-based] voluntary [acknowledgment of] paternity establishment program as provided in regulations adopted pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, which shall be consistent with the provisions of subsection (a) of section 46b-172 and shall encourage the positive involvement of both parents in the life of the child. [Such] Each such protocol shall assure that the participants are informed, are competent to understand and agree to an affirmation or acknowledgment of paternity, and that any such affirmation or acknowledgment is voluntary and free from coercion. Each such protocol shall also provide for the training of all staff members involved in the voluntary paternity establishment process so that such staff members will understand their obligations to implement the voluntary paternity establishment program in such a way that the participants are informed, are competent to understand and agree to an affirmation or acknowledgement of paternity, and that any such affirmation or acknowledgment is voluntary and free from coercion. No entity may participate in the program until its protocol has been approved by the commissioner. The commissioner shall make all protocols and proposed protocols available for public inspection. No entity or location at which all or a substantial portion of occupants are present involuntarily, including, but not limited to, a prison or a mental hospital, but excluding any site having a research and demonstration project established under subsection (d) of section 1 of public act 99-193, may be approved for participation in the voluntary paternity establishment program; nor may the commissioner approve any further site for participation in the program if it maintains a coercive environment or if the failure to acknowledge paternity may result in the loss of benefits or services controlled by the entity, which are unrelated to paternity.

(b) The Commissioner of Social Services shall adopt regulations in accordance with chapter 54 to implement the provisions of subsection (a) of this section. Such regulations shall specify the requirements for participation in the voluntary paternity establishment program and shall include, but not be limited to, provisions (1) to assure that affirmations of paternity by the mother and acknowledgments of paternity by the putative father are voluntary and free from coercion, and (2) to establish the contents of notices which shall be provided to the mother and to the putative father before affirmation or acknowledgment. The notice to the mother shall include, but not be limited to, notice that the affirmation of paternity may result in rights of custody and visitation, as well as a duty of support, in the person named as the father. The notice to the putative father shall include, but not be limited to, notice that: [he] (A) He has the right to: (i) Establish his paternity voluntarily or through court action, or to contest paternity; [, including the right to] (ii) appointment of counsel; [,] (iii) a genetic test to determine paternity [,] prior to signing an acknowledgement or in conjunction with a court action; and (iv) a trial by the Superior Court or a family support magistrate, and [that] (B) acknowledgment of paternity will make him liable for the financial support of the child until the child's eighteenth birthday and may result in rights of custody and visitation being conferred on the father. In no event shall the mother's failure to sign an affirmation of paternity in the hospital or with any other entity agreeing to participate in the voluntary paternity establishment program be considered failure to cooperate with the establishment of support for the purposes of eligibility for temporary assistance for needy families.

(c) The Department of Public Health shall establish a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity system consistent with the provisions of subsection (a) of section 46b-172.

Sec. 2. Subdivision (5) of subsection (a) of section 17b-745 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

(5) (A) Said court or family support magistrate shall also have authority to make and enforce orders for the payment by any person named herein of unpaid support contributions for which any such person is liable in accordance with the provisions of subsection (b) of section 17b-179, or section 17a-90, 17b-81, 17b-223, 46b-129 or 46b-130 or, in IV-D cases, to order such person, provided such person is not incapacitated, to participate in work activities which may include, but shall not be limited to, job search, training, work experience and participation in the job training and retraining program established by the Labor Commissioner pursuant to section 31-3t.

(B) In the determination of child support due based on neglect or refusal to furnish support prior to the action, the support due for periods of time prior to the action shall be based upon the obligor's ability to pay during such prior periods, as determined in accordance with the child support and arrearage guidelines established pursuant to section 46b-215a. The state shall disclose to the court any information in its possession concerning current and past ability to pay. [With respect to such orders entered on or after October 1, 1991, if] If no information is available to the court concerning past ability to pay, the court may determine the support due for periods of time prior to the action as if past ability to pay is equal to current ability to pay, if current ability is known. [or, if not known, based upon assistance rendered to the child. ] If current ability to pay is not known, the court shall determine the past ability to pay based on the obligor's work history if known, or if not known, on the state minimum wage that was in effect during such periods, provided only actual earnings shall be used to determine ability to pay for past periods during which the obligor was a full-time high school student or was incarcerated, institutionalized or incapacitated.

(C) Any finding [as to] of support due for periods of time prior to [the action which is made without information concerning past ability to pay] an action in which the obligor failed to appear shall be entered subject to adjustment. [when such information becomes available to the court. ] Such adjustment may be made upon motion of any party, [within four] and the state in IV-D cases shall make such motion if it obtains information that would have substantially affected the court's determination of past ability to pay if such information had been available to the court. Motion for adjustment under this subparagraph may be made not later than twelve months from the date upon which the obligor receives notification of (i) the amount of such finding of support due for periods of time prior to the action, and (ii) the right [within four] not later than twelve months from the date of receipt of such notification to present evidence as to such obligor's past ability to pay support for such periods of time prior to the action. A copy of any support order entered, subject to adjustment, that is provided to each party under subsection (c) of this section, shall state in plain language the basis for the court's determination of past support, the right to request an adjustment and to present information concerning the obligor's past ability to pay, and the consequences of a failure to request such adjustment.

Sec. 3. Subdivision (7) of subsection (a) of section 46b-215 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

(7) (A) Said court or family support magistrate shall also have authority to determine, order and enforce payment of any support due because of neglect or refusal to furnish support prior to the action.

(B) In the determination of support due based on neglect or refusal to furnish support prior to the action, the support due for periods of time prior to the action shall be based upon the obligor's ability to pay during such prior periods, as determined in accordance with the child support and arrearage guidelines established under section 46b-215a. The state shall disclose to the court any information in its possession concerning current and past ability to pay. [With respect to such orders entered into on or after October 1, 1991, if] If no information is available to the court concerning past ability to pay, the court may determine the support due for periods of time prior to the action as if past ability to pay is equal to current ability to pay, if current ability is known. [or, if not known, based upon assistance rendered to the child. ] If current ability to pay is not known, the court shall determine the past ability to pay based on the obligor's work history, if known, or if not known, on the state minimum wage that was in effect during such periods, provided only actual earnings shall be used to determine ability to pay for past periods during which the obligor was a full-time high school student or was incarcerated, institutionalized or incapacitated.

(C) Any finding [as to] of support due for periods of time prior to [the] an action [which is made without information concerning past ability to pay] in which the obligor failed to appear shall be entered subject to adjustment. [when such information becomes available to the court. ] Such adjustment may be made upon motion of any party, [within four] and the state in IV-D cases shall make such motion if it obtains information that would have substantially affected the court's determination of past ability to pay if such information had been available to the court. Motion for adjustment under this subparagraph may be made not later than twelve months date from the date upon which the obligor receives notification of (i) the amount of such finding of support due for periods of time prior to the action, and (ii) the right [within four] not later than twelve months from the date of receipt of such notification to present evidence as to such obligor's past ability to pay support for such periods of time prior to the action. A copy of any support order entered, subject to adjustment, shall state in plain language the basis for the court's determination of past support, the right to request an adjustment and to present information concerning the obligor's past ability to pay, and the consequences of a failure to request such adjustment.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2003) Notwithstanding any provisions of the general statutes, whenever a child support obligor is institutionalized or incarcerated, the Superior Court or a family support magistrate shall establish an initial order for current support, or modify an existing order for current support, upon proper motion, based upon the obligor's present income in accordance with the child support guidelines established pursuant to section 46b-215a of the general statutes.

Sec. 5. Section 52-362j of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2003):

For the purposes of sections 52-362d, 52-362e, 52-362g, and 52-362h:

(1) "Past-due support" means any one or a combination of the following: (A) Court ordered current support or arrearage payments which have become due and payable and remain unpaid; (B) unpaid support which has been reduced to a judgment or otherwise found to be due by a court of competent jurisdiction, whether or not presently payable; (C) support due for periods prior to an action to establish a child support order. [, provided such amounts are based upon the obligor's ability to pay during the prior periods if known or, if not known, on the obligor's current ability to pay if known, or, if not known, upon assistance rendered to the obligor's child. ]

(2) "Overdue support" means a delinquency accruing after the entry of an initial court order establishing a child support obligation.

Sec. 6. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2003) There is established within the Department of Social Services, within available appropriations, the John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative. Said initiative shall promote the positive involvement and interaction of fathers with their children with an emphasis on children eligible or formerly eligible for services funded by the temporary assistance for needy families block grant and shall identify those services that effectively encourage and enhance responsible and skillful parenting and those services that increase the ability of fathers to meet the financial and medical needs of their children through employment services and child support enforcement measures. The objectives of the initiative shall be to: (1) Promote public education concerning the financial and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood; (2) assist men in preparation for the legal, financial and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood; (3) promote the establishment of paternity at childbirth; (4) encourage fathers, regardless of marital status, to foster their emotional connection to and financial support of their children; (5) establish support mechanisms for fathers in their relationship with their children, regardless of their marital and financial status; and (6) integrate state and local services available for families.

Approved July 9, 2003