Why can DHHS keep some of my child support?
Whenever you get TANF, you give the State of Maine a temporary claim to your child support. The State keeps some of the child support it collects, and sends some of it to you. The amount that you get depends on your other income, including TANF, and the amount your child's other parent pays each month. The money the State keeps is used to help pay for the TANF program.
While you are getting TANF, you may get one or both of these child support payments:
- the (up to) $50.00 "pass-through" payment
- the "gap" payment
This worksheet will help you figure out how much of each you should get.
If you do not get TANF, this information does not apply to you. Contact DHHS, Division of Support Enforcement or Pine Tree Legal if you think DHHS is not sending you all of your child support.
If my only income is from TANF and child support, how do I figure what I should get in child support?
(If you have other income, skip to the next section.)
If DHHS collects no child support for you during this calendar month, then you will not get a child support payment this month.
If the State does collect child support during the month, then you should get:
- the first $50 of any current support collected (called the "pass-through" payment); and
- a "gap" payment.
The amount of your "gap" payment depends on the size of your family and how much support money DHHS collected. Find your family size (the number of people in your household receiving TANF) on this chart. The number underneath it is your maximum "gap" payment.
|Maximum "gap" payment (with an adult on TANF grant)||
Your "gap" payment should be this amount or the amount DHHS actually collected last month (in addition to the $50 pass through), whichever is less.
You receive TANF for yourself and one child. You have no other income. In February, your child's other parent pays $250 in child support. You should receive $50 ("pass-through") plus $100 ("gap") for a total of $150. The State gets to keep the remaining $100. If the other parent paid less than $150, you should get all the money that was paid.
If I have other income besides TANF and child support, how do I figure my child support?
If you receive TANF, you should always get the first $50 of current support paid to the State by the child's other parent in that month. This is the "pass-through" payment. However, if you have other income, your "gap" payment may be less than shown on the "maximum gap" chart.
If you get less than the maximum TANF grant for your family size, then you will not get a "gap" payment. Look at the chart of maximum TANF grants below.
The standard TANF amount is in the top row of the chart below. If your housing costs are more than 50% of your income, you will get the $300 "special housing need" supplement - from the bottom row of the chart.
|Maximum TANF amount (with adult on TANF grant)||$463||$755||$950||$1,141||$1,334||$1,528||$1,722|
|Maximum grant plus the "special housing need"||$763||$1,055||$1,250||$1,441||$1,634||$1,828||$2,022|
If you are getting less than the amount shown on the chart for your family size because you have other income (like earnings), then you will not get a "gap" payment. This is because your other income already "fills the gap."
The "gap" is the difference between the maximum TANF payments and a higher "standard of need" amount.
You have one child and you work part-time. You do not qualify for the TANF "special housing need." Because of your earnings, you got a $300 TANF check in February. This is $163 less than the maximum grant for a family of two. In February your child's other parent paid $250 in child support to the State. You will get the $50 pass-through payment. The State will keep the rest of the child support. According to DHHS rules, your earnings already "filled the gap" amount.
If you have other income, but you still get the maximum TANF grant, you should still get a "gap" payment. Here is how to figure out the amount.
- Step One
You need to know how much other income was counted in figuring your TANF grant for this month. If you are working, for example, some of you earnings are "disregarded." That is, a portion of you earnings will not be counted against your TANF grant. Ask your DHHS worker to tell you the amount of "countable income" for the current month.
- Step Two
Subtract last month's "countable income" from the Maximum Gap Payment for your family shown in the "maximum gap" chart. The answer will be your gap payment for this month.
What if the state collects more child support than I get from TANF?
Sometimes DHHS may collect more in current support than it pays you in TANF benefits, plus the pass through and gap payments. In these cases, the State should not keep more current child support than it pays you in TANF plus the pass through and gap payment.
If this "excess" child support payment continues, you will become ineligible for TANF. Then you will begin to receive all of the current child support. However, if it only happens once in a while, you should continue to get TANF. In months where DHHS collects more current support than you got in TANF, they should send you any "excess over" payments.
What if the paying parent pays late?
Child support is late if the paying parent does not pay it during the month that it is due. If a payment is late (or early) so that two payments fall within the same month, you will only get one $50 pass-through and one gap payment for that month. You will get nothing for the month when nothing was paid.
If you can, try to get your child's other parent to make regular payments every month. Then you will get regular payments, too. If payments are late and doubled up, you lose "gap" and "pass-through" payments.
If your child's other parent paid on time but DHHS got it late, then you should still get a payment.
- The other parent works and his wages are attached regularly. But his employer sent the payment in late.
- The other parent is out of state and made the payment on time. The out of state agency delayed in sending it to Maine DHHS.
In these cases, you should still get your regular payment, but it may be late.
What if two different parents are paying child support into DHHS for my children, do I get double payments?
No. While you are getting TANF, the most you can expect to get each month is one gap and one pass-through payment.
What do I do if I think I got the wrong amount?
Contact DHHS by calling 1-800-371-7179 or 624-7830. (24 hour automated voice response system) and requesting to speak with a representative. They are supposed to give you prompt answers to your questions about your child support. Note: Representatives are only available to answer live questions from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (Monday through Friday). You can also get in touch with DHHS through their new user portal.
You can also go to their website to get more information. They offer an interactive Child Support Questions form, for asking questions about the status of your case.
If you are still not satisfied, you can ask for a fair hearing. There is a deadline. Request a fair hearing within 30 days of the date you think you were underpaid. Call or write to your TANF worker or send your request to the address on the check stub. If you miss the 30-day deadline, you may lose the right to appeal on that payment.
If you need more help, contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
Updated November 2020
PTLA # 716