947 F.2d 332 (8th Cir. 1991), 90-2604, Jackson v. Rapps

Docket Nº:90-2604, 90-2605.
Citation:947 F.2d 332
Party Name:Glenda JACKSON, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Appellee, v. William R. RAPPS, individually and as Director of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, Appellant. Terry SKELTON, Appellee, v. William R. RAPPS, Individually and as Director of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, Appellant.
Case Date:October 17, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 332

947 F.2d 332 (8th Cir. 1991)

Glenda JACKSON, individually and on behalf of others

similarly situated, Appellee,

v.

William R. RAPPS, individually and as Director of the

Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, Appellant.

Terry SKELTON, Appellee,

v.

William R. RAPPS, Individually and as Director of the

Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement, Appellant.

Nos. 90-2604, 90-2605.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 17, 1991

        Submitted April 11, 1991.

        Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc

        Denied Jan. 9, 1992.

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        B.J. Jones, Jefferson City, Mo., argued, for appellant.

        Jim R. Bruce, Kennett, Mo., argued, for appellee.

        Before JOHN R. GIBSON and BOWMAN, Circuit Judges, and HANSON, [*] District Judge.

        JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judge.

        The issue in this case is the validity of the policy and practice of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement to seek reimbursement from noncustodial parents of the entire amount of payments made under the Aid to Families of Dependent Children program in the absence of a court-ordered support obligation, rather than using the formula in the federal regulations to calculate the amount owed. Glenda Jackson and Terry Skelton filed separate actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988) against the former and present directors of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement challenging the directors' policy of attempting to collect the full benefits paid under the AFDC program and alleging that the policy violated federal regulations. The district court 1 granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, holding that the federal regulations preempted the directors' policy and practice of attempting to collect the total amount of AFDC benefits paid. The court also denied the directors' cross-motions for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims for damages, ruling that the directors were not entitled to absolute or qualified immunity. We affirm on the ground that the supremacy clause prevents the implementation of a reimbursement policy other than one in compliance with existing federal regulations.

        The State of Missouri participates in the joint state-federal AFDC program authorized by Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-615 (1988). As a condition of federal funding, the state must comply with the requirements of federal statutes and regulations governing the AFDC program. The State is required to submit a state plan providing written assurances to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services that its plan complies with the requirements of the federal statutes and regulations governing the AFDC program. 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-602. The State is required to adopt a child support enforcement program in "substantial compliance" with Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-665. 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(27). The Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement is responsible for the enforcement of child support obligations. See Mo.Rev.Stat. § 454.400 (1986). The Director of the Division is responsible for adopting policies and regulations for implementing the state's plan and for ensuring compliance with the federal program.

        To become eligible for AFDC benefits, an applicant must assign "support rights" to the state. 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(26)(A); Mo.Rev.Stat. § 208.040.2(2) (Supp.1990). Support rights assigned under section 602(a)(26) constitute an obligation owed to the State. 42 U.S.C. § 656 (1988). The amount of the obligation is set by a court order for support, unless there is no court order covering support rights. 42 U.S.C. § 656(a)(2). In that instance, the obligation shall be "determined by the State in accordance with a formula approved by the Secretary."

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42 U.S.C. § 656(a)(2)(B). 2 The formula adopted by the Secretary for setting the amount of the support obligation in the absence of a court order setting the amount is contained in 45 C.F.R. § 302.53(a) (1990), which provides that the formula must take into consideration:

        (1) All earnings, income and resources of the absent parent including real and personal property;

        (2) The earnings potential of the absent parent;

        (3) The reasonable necessities of the absent parent;

        (4) The ability of the absent parent to borrow;

        (5) The needs of the child for whom the support is sought;

        (6) The amount of assistance which would be paid to the child under the full standard of need of the State's IV-A plan;

        (7) The existence of other dependents; and

        (8) Other reasonable criteria which the State may choose to incorporate.

        Missouri's state plan for child support enforcement originally stated that when no court order addressed the duty to provide support, the State would administratively establish support arrearages. The amount of support arrearages was called the "state debt." Mo.Rev.Stat. § 454.465 (1982 Supp.) The original Missouri statute did not require the use of a formula in establishing the amount of the state debt, but defined "state debt" as the "amount equal to the amount of public assistance" paid out. Id. In 1984, the Missouri General Assembly amended the 1982 enactments, and at that time, authorized the Director to set the state debt in "an amount not to exceed the amount of public assistance" paid. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 454.465.1(2) (1986). The policy of the Division is to designate the full amount of public assistance paid out over the last five years as state debt unless a lower amount is negotiated with the noncustodial parent.

        Both Terry Skelton and Glenda Jackson are divorced or separated parents who do not have custody of their children, and whose children received AFDC benefits. Neither Skelton nor Jackson had been ordered to pay child support. Each received a notice and finding of financial responsibility from the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement. The notices each set the amount of the state debt owing at the total amount of public assistance paid out to their minor children. Jackson received notice that she was responsible for repaying the state $11,064.00 as state debt. Skelton's state debt was administratively set at $4,072.00. Neither responded to the notice and both received an administrative default order setting liability for the state debt in amounts equal to the public assistance paid out to their minor children.

        Skelton and Jackson brought separate actions against Rapps and Henry, former and present directors of the Division of Child Support Enforcement of the Department of Social Services. Skelton and Jackson each sought relief from the administrative orders establishing the amount of state

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debt as the total amount of public assistance paid on behalf of their children. Skelton and Jackson sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages against the directors, claiming that Mo.Rev.Stat. § 454.465.1(2) and the directors' policy and practice of setting the state debt at the total amount of AFDC benefits paid violated the provisions of 45 C.F.R. §§ 302.50 and 302.53 and the due process and supremacy clauses. Jackson later brought a class action, and the court certified a class consisting of non-custodial parents whose children receive or have received AFDC benefits through the State of Missouri pursuant to the post-1984 amended statute, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 454.465, whose support obligations have not been established by a court order, and whose "state debt" was set by the Director without consideration of the formula mandated by 45 C.F.R. §§...

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