California Child Support and Native American Tribes

An interesting article published by the Huffington Post details the problems California parents can experience when trying to collect California child support from an ex who is a member of one of the state’s 103 recognized Native American nations. According to the investigation, some “tribal governments and businesses are shielding them from court-ordered payments, records and interviews show.”

The investigation was conducted by California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Quoting the Chief Judge of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, it notes that of the 100+ tribal governments in the state “only about 20… have official child support enforcement systems in place.” State – and some tribal – officials express frustration with this situation, but note that since the tribes are sovereign nations (i.e. legally-speaking they are as separate from the United States as the governments of France or Japan) the state’s options are limited.

The article notes that the exact extent of the problem is difficult to define, since the state “does not systematically track which businesses, tribal or otherwise, honor support orders.” It is clear from the details offered in the article, however, that enforcement of California support orders can be an issue throughout the various tribal legal systems.

As an Orange County child custody and visitation lawyer these are the sort of complex, and often delicate, legal issues a Costa Mesa, Anaheim or Santa Ana family law attorney confronts almost every day. The fact that legal remedies are sometimes limited – and that achieving justice can be unusually complicated – in California international custody and child support cases does not mean that they don’t exist.

Custodial parents deserve – and are legally entitled to – child support. As the Huffington Post article notes, tribal judges and elders do not dispute this. Indeed, they support it. As one tells California Watch: “Traditionally, Native peoples are taught that we take care of our children and elders. Taking care of our children means child support.” An experienced Orange County family law attorney can help clients navigate the complexities of overlapping legal systems to get the support, and justice, they need.

Huffington Post/California Watch: Native American tribes’ child support difficult to collect