On appeal from New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, HPW- 1214-00.
Before Judges King, Cuff and Winkelstein.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Winkelstein, J.A.D.
As amended January 4, 2002.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 12, 2001
S.D. appeals from a final order of the Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Family Development (DFD), affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denying her application for Work First New Jersey/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (WFNJ/TANF) benefits. This denial of benefits was based upon her failure to cooperate in good faith with the Child Support Program (CSP) by failing to identify and locate the father of her son, J.D., for purposes of enforcing his child support obligations. We conclude the decision that appellant did not cooperate in good faith was unsupported by the substantial credible evidence in the record and we reverse.
WFNJ/TANF is a program to provide assistance for needy families administered at the local level by the State's twenty-one County Welfare Agencies pursuant to DHS/DFD regulations and directives. See N.J.S.A. 44:10-55 to -78. WFNJ/TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program. N.J.A.C. 10:90. The predecessor AFDC Program established requirements for State AFDC plans and provided as a condition for eligibility for aid, that each applicant was required to cooperate with the State in establishing the paternity of a child born out of wedlock for whom aid was claimed. See 42 U.S.C.A. §602(a)(26). When AFDC was replaced by WFNJ/TANF on July 1, 1997, the cooperation requirement was carried forward. 42 U.S.C.A. §654(29). The State is required to determine whether an individual who has applied for or is receiving assistance under the State's program is cooperating in good faith with the State to establish the paternity of any child of the individual. 42 U.S.C.A. §654(29)(A). Should the custodial parent fail to cooperate by failing to furnish the State agency with certain information to help identify and locate the father of the child, the State may sanction the custodial parent by either reducing the benefits by at least twenty-five percent or denying all assistance. 42 U.S.C.A. 608(a)(2).
Conditions for eligibility for WFNJ/TANF include:
[a] recipient, as a condition of eligibility for benefits, shall, subject to good cause exceptions as defined by the commissioner, be required to: do all acts stated herein necessary to establish the paternity of a child born out-of-wedlock, and to establish and participate in the enforcement of child support obligations. . . [N.J.S.A. 44:10-45(b).]
Regulations further define the good faith cooperation requirement. N.J.A.C. 10:90-16.3; N.J.A.C. 10:90-16.4; 29 N.J.R. 3287, 3347 (July 21, 1997).
(a) To cooperate, a WFNJ/TANF applicant/recipient shall make a good faith effort to provide information as outlined in (b) and (c) below. The child support worker shall explain the child support cooperation requirements, the good faith standard set out in (b) and (c) below, and what constitutes a good cause claim as outlined at N.J.A.C. 10:90-16.5. An applicant or recipient shall be deemed to be making a good faith effort if he or she has provided all the information he or she has or can reasonably obtain as required by (b) or (c) below. Initial cooperation shall begin with the applicant/recipient signing the affidavit of cooperation.
(b) A WFNJ/TANF applicant/recipient shall provide sufficient information related to the non-custodial parent for each child for whom the applicant/recipient seeks assistance.
1. Information is considered sufficient if it meets the requirements of (b)1i or ii below:
i. The non-custodial parent's full name and three of ...