senate Bill S6707

2013-2014 Legislative Session

Relates to sanctions for willful failure to comply with court orders for child support

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Archive: Last Bill Status - In Committee


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor

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Mar 03, 2014 referred to judiciary

S6707 - Bill Details

Current Committee:
Senate Judiciary
Law Section:
Family Court Act
Laws Affected:
Amd §§454 & 456, Fam Ct Act

S6707 - Bill Texts

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Relates to sanctions for willful failure to comply with court orders for child support.

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BILL NUMBER:S6707

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the family court act, in relation to
sanctions for willful failure to comply with court orders for child
support

This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of
the Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of her Family
Court Advisory and Rules Committee.

To realize the statutory goal of providing adequate support to New
York's children, Family Court must be able to rigorously enforce its
orders. It must be able to secure compliance through imposition of a
diverse array of sanctions appropriate in severity and responsive to
the individual problems presented. License suspensions, Department of
Taxation and Finance referrals, lottery and tax refund interceptions,
sequestration of property, imposition of income deduction orders and
referrals to rehabilitative or work programs, where available, are all
useful tools in particular cases. See Family Court Act § 454, et seq.
However, in particularly intractable cases of willful violations of
court orders for child support, including those involving child
support obligors who are self-employed or who are paid in cash or "off
the books," the ultimate sanction of incarceration may be the only
meaningful sanction currently available to the Court. Clearly,
incarceration, which at least temporarily cuts off a support obligor's
earning capacity altogether, is a costly, sometimes self-defeating
option that must be reserved for cases in which lesser sanctions have
been exhausted or are not efficacious.

Along the continuum of sanctions for willful violations, there must be
a means of providing regular, in-person monitoring by someone in
authority who can compel a change of behavior under threat of a more
serious sanction and who may be able, at the same time, to provide
services and rehabilitative assistance to the support obligor that
will facilitate compliance with child support obligations. That vital
in-person monitoring and provision of individualized assistance may
best be provided by placing a support obligor on probation. However,
while explicitly authorized in the Family Court Act, probation has
been only sporadically utilized in Family Court child support cases,
frequently in some counties and not at all in others. Moreover, there
is no authorization in the Family Court Act to combine either a
probation sanction or a requirement to participate in a rehabilitative
program with a sentence of incarceration, even though such a
combination may present the most promise in some cases to compel the
change of an offender's behavior necessary to correct the violation
and ensure consistent, future provision of child support to the
offender's family. We have identified statutory impediments to the
effective use of probation in child support cases and we now submit
this measure to address these problems.

First, to make probation less costly for local probation departments
and fairer to probationers, this measure would impose a limit on the
duration of probation more commensurate with probation in other
contexts. Alone among probation provisions in both the Family Court
Act and Criminal Procedure Law, section 456 of the Family Court Act
permits a child support obligor to be placed on probation for an
extended period of time, i.e., the entire duration of a child support


or visitation order or order of protection. Since a child support
order may last until the youngest child reaches the age of 21, this
may mean more than two decades of probation four times greater than
the duration of probation for all but the most serious felonies. Cf.
Penal Law § 65(3). This disproportionate degree of supervision is
beyond the capacity of most local probation departments to provide,
particularly in times of fiscal constraint, and may explain the
reluctance of probation departments to become involved in child
support matters. This measure, therefore, would impose the same time
limit that exists for orders of protection in family offense cases in
Family Court - i.e., not more than two years or, where the court finds
aggravating circumstances, a period of not more than five years. Cf.,
Family Court Act § 842. This period may be extended, after notice to
the support obligor and an opportunity to be heard, for an additional
year upon a finding of exceptional circumstances.

Second, this measure would provide needed flexibility to the menu of
sanctions available for willful violations of child support orders by
adding authorization to combine a sentence of probation or a sentence
of participation in a rehabilitative program with a sentence of
incarceration. Section 454(3)(a) of the Family Court Act already
permits a sentence of intermittent incarceration to be imposed,
including, for example, weekend incarceration so that an offender may
work or seek gainful employment during the week. The effectiveness of
this sanction, as well as sanctions of short periods of incarceration,
would be significantly enhanced if the Family Court had the ability to
combine it with probation supervision.

Finally, section 456 of the Family Court Act is entirely silent
regarding procedures to be followed in the event of a violation of
probation. All too often, the burden falls upon custodial parents to
take time off from work to prepare, file and arrange service of
violation petitions. Again comparable to other probation violation
provisions, this measure would instead require the local probation
department to file a verified probation violation petition and would
provide an opportunity for the probationer and parties to be to be
heard as prerequisites to revocation of probation in the event of a
willful violation. As in criminal, juvenile delinquency and PINS
proceedings, this measure would provide that the period of probation
would be tolled as of the date of filing of the violation petition.
See Penal Law § 65.15(2); Family Court Act §§ 360.2(4), 779-a.
Further, in the event the violation petition is not sustained, the
tolling period would be credited to the period of probation. Providing
a mechanism consistent with due process to bring alleged child support
violators to the attention of the Court would benefit the families as
well - taking the onus off of custodial parents to initiate and
prosecute violation proceedings that should instead be handled by
local probation departments.

Enactment of this measure would afford Family Court essential,
flexible tools with which to address willful violation of its child
support orders so as to spur offenders to modify their behavior and
live up to their child support obligations. It would make probation a
viable alternative for probation departments by limiting its duration
and delineating procedures to be utilized in the event of a violation
of its terms and conditions. Further, the measure would augment the
effectiveness of both probation and the requirement for respondent to


participate in a rehabilitative program by authorizing these sanctions
to be combined with a sentence or suspended sentence of incarceration.
In so doing, the proposed statute would improve the collection of
child support for the children in the State, would make the probation
provisions fairer for support obligors and would greatly enhance the
Court's capacity to respond effectively to serious instances of
willful violations of child support that are so detrimental to
children in New York.

This measure, which would have no fiscal impact upon the State, would
take effect immediately.

2007 Legislative History:

OCA 2007-57
Senate 5139 (Sen. DeFrancisco) (com to Rules).

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                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  6707

                            I N  S E N A T E

                              March 3, 2014
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sen.  DeFRANCISCO  -- (at request of the Office of Court
  Administration) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to
  be committed to the Committee on Judiciary

AN ACT to amend the family court act, in relation to sanctions for will-
  ful failure to comply with court orders for child support

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Paragraph (c) of subdivision 3 of section 454 of the family
court  act,  as amended by chapter 892 of the laws of 1986 and as relet-
tered by chapter 699 of the laws of 1996, is amended and a new paragraph
(d) is added to read as follows:
  (c) place the respondent on probation [under] PURSUANT TO SECTION FOUR
HUNDRED FIFTY-SIX OF THIS PART UPON such conditions  as  the  court  may
determine  and  in accordance with the provisions of the criminal proce-
dure law[.]; OR
  (D) COMBINE A SENTENCE OR A SUSPENDED SENTENCE OF INCARCERATION PURSU-
ANT TO PARAGRAPH (A) OF THIS SUBDIVISION WITH  A  REQUIREMENT  THAT  THE
RESPONDENT  PARTICIPATE  IN  A  REHABILITATIVE  PROGRAM  OR BE PLACED ON
PROBATION PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH (B) OR (C) OF THIS SUBDIVISION,  RESPEC-
TIVELY.
  S  2.  Section 456 of the family court act, subdivision (a) as amended
by chapter 809 of the laws of 1963, is amended to read as follows:
  S 456. Probation. (a) No person may be placed on probation under  this
article  unless  the  court makes an order to that effect, either at the
time of the making of an order of support or under section four  hundred
fifty-four  OF THIS PART.  THE ORDER OF PROBATION MY CONTAIN SUCH CONDI-
TIONS AS THE COURT MAY DETERMINE. The MAXIMUM period  of  probation  may
[continue  so  long as an order of support, order of protection or order
of visitation applies to such person] NOT BE GREATER THAN TWO YEARS  OR,
WHERE THE COURT FINDS THAT AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES EXIST, A PERIOD NOT
GREATER  THAN  FIVE  YEARS. IF THE COURT FINDS, AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE
ORIGINAL PERIOD, UPON NOTICE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD, THAT EXCEP-
TIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRE AN ADDITIONAL YEAR OF PROBATION, THE  COURT
MAY  CONTINUE  PROBATION  FOR  A  PERIOD  NOT GREATER THAN ONE YEAR. FOR

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD13807-01-4

S. 6707                             2

PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, "AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES" SHALL INCLUDE, BUT
NOT BE LIMITED TO: (I) A PRIOR WILLFUL  VIOLATION  OF  A  CHILD  SUPPORT
ORDER  OR OF A PRIOR ORDER OF PROBATION IN CONJUNCTION WITH A PROCEEDING
UNDER THIS ARTICLE; (II) A PRIOR INCIDENT OR INCIDENTS OF THE RESPONDENT
CONCEALING  HIS  OR  HER  WHEREABOUTS  AND  BEING PRODUCED INVOLUNTARILY
PURSUANT TO THE ISSUANCE OF A WARRANT; OR (III) ACTIONS BY THE  RESPOND-
ENT OR A LEVEL OF ARREARAGES SO HIGH THAT A LONGER PERIOD OF SUPERVISION
IS NECESSARY TO ENSURE LONG TERM CONTINUING COMPLIANCE WITH THE ORDER OF
SUPPORT.
  (b)  [The]  IF THE court [may at any time, where circumstances warrant
it, revoke an order of] FINDS, AFTER A HEARING, THAT  A  PARTY  WHO  HAS
BEEN  PLACED  ON probation[. Upon such revocation, the probationer shall
be brought to court, which may, without further hearing,] IN  ACCORDANCE
WITH  THIS  SECTION,  HAS  WILLFULLY  VIOLATED  ANY TERM OR CONDITION OF
PROBATION, THE COURT, AFTER GIVING NOTICE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD
TO THE PARTIES AND THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD, IF ANY, MAY  REVOKE  SUCH
ORDER  OF PROBATION AND MAY make any order [that might have been made at
the time the order of probation was made]  AUTHORIZED  BY  SECTION  FOUR
HUNDRED  FIFTY-FOUR  OF  THIS PART. NO SUCH FINDING MAY BE MADE UNLESS A
VERIFIED PETITION SUBSCRIBED TO BY THE PROBATION SERVICE OR  THE  APPRO-
PRIATE  GOVERNMENT  AGENCY  HAS  BEEN  FILED  AND  DULY  SERVED UPON THE
PARTIES.  THE PETITION MUST STIPULATE THE CONDITION OR CONDITIONS OF THE
ORDER VIOLATED AND A REASONABLE DESCRIPTION  OF  THE  TIME,  PLACE,  AND
MANNER IN WHICH THE VIOLATION OCCURRED. NON-HEARSAY ALLEGATIONS OR ALLE-
GATIONS  MADE  UPON  INFORMATION  AND  BELIEF OF THE FACTUAL PART OF THE
PETITION OR OF ANY SUPPORTING DEPOSITION MUST ESTABLISH, IF TRUE,  EVERY
VIOLATION  CHARGED. THE PERIOD OF PROBATION SHALL BE DEEMED TOLLED AS OF
THE DATE OF FILING OF THE PROBATION  VIOLATION  PETITION,  BUT,  IN  THE
EVENT THAT THE COURT DOES NOT FIND THAT THE ORDER OF PROBATION WAS WILL-
FULLY VIOLATED, THE PERIOD OF SUCH INTERRUPTION SHALL BE CREDITED TO THE
PERIOD OF PROBATION.
  S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.

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