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Diplomacy in Action

94. U.S. reply note on South African child support initiative (December 11, 2006)


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06/ 1636

The Embassy of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa and has the honor to refer to the Department’s note number CONS/208/2006 of April 10, 20006. The note stated that the Minister of Justice of the Republic of South Africa has nominated the United States as a designated country in terms of the South African Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, 1963 (Act 80 of 1963). The note further asked whether the United States would make a corresponding designation of South Africa as a foreign reciprocating country for purposes of child support enforcement under United States law.

The Embassy is grateful for the Government of South Africa for this initiative, which is important to the protection of children in both of our countries. The United States Government would be pleased to discuss further with South African officials the possibility of our two countries entering into a reciprocal arrangement for the enforcement of child support obligations. Under U.S. law (Section 459A of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 659a), there are specific criteria that must be met before the Secretary of State may declare a foreign country to be a foreign reciprocating country for purposes of child support enforcement. The foreign country must have procedures in place, or must undertake to establish procedures that are substantially in conformity with the following standards: The foreign country must be able to establish new child support orders (including the establishment of paternity where necessary) for U.S. residents and to enforce existing U.S. child support orders. This must be done at no cost to the U.S. applicant, and the foreign country must designate a Central Authority responsible for ensuring compliance with these standards.

The South African legislation referenced in the note addresses recognition and enforcement of foreign child support orders. It does not, however, address establishment of new orders for residents of foreign countries. It also does not address the cost of procedures. Legislation does not permit the United States to enter into a reciprocal arrangement solely for the recognition and enforcement of existing orders. Any such arrangement must also provide for the establishment of a new order in cases where the United States has no jurisdiction to establish an order in this country. (In our experience, the vast majority of our international requests are for recognition and enforcement of existing U.S. orders; but, occasionally there is a need to request the foreign country to establish a new order in favor of a U.S. applicant.) U.S. legislation also requires that the services under any reciprocal arrangement (including legal assistance, if necessary) must be provided at low or no cost to the U.S. applicant.

If South Africa is interested in entering into a reciprocal arrangement with the United States that would meet all of the criteria outlined above, the United States Government would be very interested in discussing this further. U.S. officials will be participating in the Special Commission on the international recovery of child support that is to take place in The Hague in May 2007. South Africa has participated in previous meetings on this topic. If South Africa plans to attend the May Special Commission, the United States suggests that the two delegations meet in The Hague to discuss a possible bilateral arrangement.

The Embassy of the United States of America avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa the assurances of its highest consideration.

Embassy of the United States of America

Pretoria, December 11, 2006



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