Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly reported both the name of the measure that lays out federal child-support collection rules and the number of states agreeing to amendments to that act. It is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, not the Uniform Interstate Family Security Act, and as of Thursday, 23 states, rather than 19, have agreed to amendments to the act. The following version has been updated.
IT WOULD be hard to find people more adept at cutting off their noses to spite their faces than the members of an Idaho legislative committee who balked at bringing the state into compliance with federal child-support collection rules. Not wanting to be told what to do could well cost the state $46 million in direct federal aid. What’s most unfortunate, though, is that the harm will extend to single mothers and fathers beyond Idaho unable to collect on child-support orders. Moreover, if Idaho doesn’t come to its senses, the United States risks being disqualified from an international convention that would ease overseas collections of child support.
In the waning hours of the legislature’s 2015 session, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee, on a 9-to-8 vote, killed an update to a long-standing interstate compact that governs the collection of child-support payments. Part of the changes to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act would conform with an international treaty that is aimed at enforcing child-support rulings across borders in nearly 80 countries. American ratification depends on all 50 states agreeing to the terms; as of Thursday, 23 have given their approval.
The measure sailed through the Idaho Senate with unanimous approval but hit a wall of bluster and misinformation in the House committee. There was worry that state sovereignty would be subject to international interference and resentment about the federal requirement tying funding for the state’s child-support and welfare programs to enactment of the legislation. Most ridiculous was the fear-mongering about opening the door to the application in Idaho of sharia law. Never mind that none of the countries that are part of the treaty operate under sharia law or that there are extensive provisions protecting due process as well as the right of Idaho courts not to recognize foreign orders contrary to Idaho public policy.
In the days since Idaho has been in the national spotlight over this issue, it seems — thankfully — that the facts are beginning to sink in. The Office of Child Support Enforcement has made clear it will cut off federal child-support funding in June if no fix is made. Legal experts have pointed out that the international treaty would strengthen the rights of Americans trying to get child support from parents in other countries — and how devastating it would be if the state’s single parents and their children find themselves without the tools to get child-support orders enforced outside of Idaho.
“People are realizing the dimensions, and it’s blowing wide open,” a divorced mother who depends on child support told the New York Times. Accordingly, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R) has called a Wednesday news conference to discuss the next steps in rectifying the situation; doing nothing, he said, is not an option when the orderly processing of payments for tens of thousands of Idaho parents and children is at stake.