DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE O/B/O SAKEENA A. GAINES, Appellant,
QUINN A. CURTIS, Appellee.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Lake County, Mark A. Nacke, Judge.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Carrie R.
McNair, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for
Appellant, Department of Revenue.
Appearance for Appellee.
Department of Revenue (Department) appeals the denial of its
petition to enforce an administrative support order that
required Quinn A. Curtis (Father) to pay child support to the
Department for the benefit of his son, Q.A.C. The trial court
denied the petition because Sakeena A. Gaines (Mother) was
not present at the hearing. The Department argues that
because this is a Title IV-D child support case, it serves as
Mother's attorney in fact and, further, that Mother's
testimony was not required to enforce the existing
administrative support order. We agree and reverse.
Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, Congress required
states choosing to participate in the Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) federal welfare block grant to
provide assistance to custodial parents, whether the parent
is receiving TANF assistance or not, in obtaining and
enforcing child support orders against noncustodial parents.
42 U.S.C. §§ 651-669 (2017); § 409.2563(1)(f),
Fla. Stat. (2017); Dep't of Rev. v. McLeod, 96
So.3d 443, 446 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012).
Florida opted into TANF and designated the Department to
provide assistance to custodial parents in obtaining and
enforcing child support orders. § 409.2557(1), Fla.
Stat. (2017); McLeod, 96 So.3d at 446 (citing §
409.2557(1), Fla. Stat. (2012)). A child support case becomes
a Title IV-D case for which the Department has enforcement
responsibilities in two situations: (1) "when either
party or the child is receiving public assistance" or
(2) "when the obligor has failed to make support
payments and [the Department] is called upon by the custodial
parent to assist in enforcing a child support order."
McLeod, 96 So.3d at 448. This case involves the
second situation. As such, the Department has the authority
to enforce and collect Title IV-D support obligations and
then disburse them to the custodial parent. §§
409.2557(2), 409.2558(1) Fla. Stat. (2017).
Department is considered a party to the enforcement action
"only for those purposes allowed under Title IV-D of the
Social Security Act, " and the Department's attorney
is the attorney of record "solely for the purposes of
support enforcement as authorized under Title IV-D."
§ 409.2564(5), Fla. Stat. (2017) (footnotes omitted).
Although the Department's attorney represents the agency
and not the custodial parent, see §
409.2564(5), Fla. Stat. (2017), a recipient of public
assistance, whether financial or in the form of assistance in
obtaining or enforcing the support order, "appoints the
department as her or his attorney in fact to act in her or
his name, place, and stead to perform specific acts relating
to the . . . enforcement of support obligations, including,
but not limited to . . . [p]ursuing civil and criminal
enforcement of support obligations . . . ." §
409.2561(2)(b)4., Fla. Stat. (2017).
case, the petitioner was the Department acting on
Mother's behalf to enforce the administrative order.
Mother was not listed as a party. The Department collects the
child support payments directly from Father for disbursement
to Mother. §§ 409.2557(2), 409.2558(1), Fla. Stat.
(2017). While the statute is clear that the Department's
attorney represents only the agency and not Mother, this is
not material because the Department is Mother's attorney
in fact for purposes of enforcing the administrative child
support order. §§ 409.2561(2)(b), 409.2564(5), Fla.
Stat. (2017); see also Fla. Fam. L. R. P.
12.040(c)(2) (requiring notice to custodial parent in Title
IV-D support cases that Department's attorney represents
only Department and "may only address issues concerning
determination of paternity, and establishment, modification,
and enforcement of support obligations").
all the Department was seeking here was an order from the
circuit court enforcing the administrative support order.
See § 409.2563(10)(b), Fla. Stat. (2017). At
most, all that was required for this order was evidence that
Father was not paying the child support and the
administrative support order. See id. As the
Department collected the child support directly from Father,
Mother would not have been able to testify concerning
Father's nonpayment of the child support. Thus, while
Mother's testimony would have been necessary to establish
or modify the child support award, see Johns v.
Richards, 717 So.2d 1103, 1105 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998)
(citing Finley v. Scott, 707 So.2d 1112, 1118 (Fla.
1998)), there was no need for her testimony in the
enforcement action. Therefore, because Mother was not a party
to the petition and her testimony was not required to enforce
the administrative child support order, we reverse and remand
for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
EVANDER, BERGER and ...