ASUME to have new guidelines for child support payments in a month
By The Star Staff
At a time when inflation is affecting Puerto Rican families, the Child Support Administration (ASUME) announced Monday that by December, it should have draft guidelines for calculating child support payments.
ASUME officials made the remarks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Child support guidelines have not been revised since 2014.
ASUME head Nicole Martínez said the draft for the new guidelines, based on a study conducted by consulting firm Estudios Técnicos Inc., is not ready yet.
Preliminary data, however, show that inflation is causing drastic changes to the social and economic situation of Puerto Rico. Therefore, ASUME asked Estudios Tecnicos to review the formula and the tables used to calculate child support.
Likewise, the new guidelines must consider the minimum wage criteria; analyze new ways of computing the reserve of the non-custodial party, among other assignments.
“Puerto Ricans juggle to be able to fulfill their obligations and to be able to satisfy their needs. This reality requires us to be extremely cautious when modifying child support,” Martínez said during her presentation.
ASUME currently has 174,502 active child support cases, of which 114,940 have some arrears in payment. The average child support established by the dependency is $416.68.
Martines, who took over the agency in June, indicated that budget cuts and understaffing has impacted case management. Since May, ASUME has opened calls for 29 vacant case manager positions, of which only three have been filled.
Once the draft is available, ASUME will hold public hearings in the ten regions around the island to receive citizen input on the new regulations. In addition, the Standing Committee for the Revision of the Mandatory Guidelines, made up of 14 members with a multidisciplinary background, will evaluate the draft and issue its recommendations.
Committee Chairman Orlando Aponte Rosario asked to know the identity of the people who make up the Permanent Committee but ASUME denied the request arguing that the information is confidential.
However, she said some members are specialists, including Court Administration Office (OAT) head Sigfrido Steidel Figueroa, Bar Association President Manuel Quilichini; a family relations judge; an administrative judge from ASUME; and a child support examiner; among others.
Martínez also refused to make public the minutes of the six meetings that the committee has held since it resumed its work in June 2021 but agreed to share the information in a closed hearing.
The administrator also said she considers confidential information the cost of raising children, possible simulations, reformulation, and other possible scenarios related to the revision of child support guidelines.
“Precisely, that is what we want to know: the possible scenarios... I think it is good for the country and the committee itself that we are interested in knowing how we can collaborate with the work,” said Aponte Rosario.
According to the information provided by ASUME, as of June 2021, the Permanent Committee has met six times. The last meeting occurred on October 6, while the next one is in December.