Idaho House Committee Vote Imperils Ratification Process of Treaty on Child Support

Law Firm Newswire




Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) June 10, 2015 – Pact would enforce judgments across international borders, facilitate tracking of scofflaws.

State capitals are not usually associated with the fate of international treaties. But the fate of an important international treaty on child support hangs in the balance after a key legislative committee in Boise, Idaho, voted on April 10 to reject the measure that must be passed by all 50 state legislatures in order for the U.S. ratification process to proceed.

With only hours left in the state Legislature’s session, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee voted 9-8 to kill a bill that international negotiators at The Hague, Netherlands, took five years to hammer out. Under the terms of the multinational child support treaty, participant governments would agree to honor child support judgments across borders and officials would enjoy facility in tracking delinquent parents around the world.

Notwithstanding the practical applications of the treaty, conservative Republicans who dominate the Legislature and are already wary of the federal government’s weight in state affairs were more concerned with what they perceived as foreign intrusion over domestic matters that the treaty represented to them. Many lawmakers even raised the specter of Shariah, the Islamic legal code, being imposed on the United States should Idaho and the other 49 states approve the treaty.

“Family law, including the important issue of child support, has always been determined by individual states,” said Lisa McDevitt, a prominent attorney in Fairfax, Va., whose firm specializes in family law. “The Idaho lawmakers who rejected this treaty have overreacted with misplaced concerns about the possibility of Shariah-guided foreign tribunals telling them what to do, which is really a red herring.”

Before its defeat in Idaho’s House, the measure found clear sailing in the state Senate, where it passed unanimously. Nineteen states had already approved the treaty prior to its rejection in Idaho. In addition, at least 32 countries along with the European Union have ratified the agreement.

As expected, Gov. C.L. Otter on April 29 called the Legislature back into its first special session since 2006 in order to reconsider the child support bill. Ostensibly to address the concerns of the measure’s opponents, the Republican chief executive’s move was also motivated by alarm over the prospect that if the state is not brought into compliance with federal rules, it could lose access to $46 million in federal funding — $16 million would be cut off within 60 days of the bill’s tabling — as well as face the dismantling of Idaho’s child support enforcement systems.

“Lawmakers who are champions of states’ rights may think that they have scored a victory with the tabling of this child support bill,” McDevitt said. “However, if the measure does not pass the special session, that victory will have been scored at the expense of the parents in Idaho who will no longer be able to depend on an enforcement system that collects payments from another jurisdiction and distributes it to them.”

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