State, County and Baja California Officials Strengthen Child Support Agreements

(L-R) Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Baja California Jorge Armando Vasquez; Director for California Department of Child Services, Alisha Griffin; ICDCSS Director Gustavo A. Roman, and Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Jack Terrazas

EL CENTRO – In efforts to strengthen alimony and inter-institutional agreements between the two border counties, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors held a meeting Friday morning with the State and Imperial County Departments of Child Services and the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Baja California, Jorge Armando Vasquez.

On December 18, 2014, the Imperial County Department of Child Services and the Baja California Department of Child Services (DIF) entered into an agreement to facilitate child support for those families that live on opposite sides of the border.

“We are seeking to expand on the previous agreements to explore the opportunities of collaboration in both departments,” said Gustavo Roman, ICDCSS Director. “We are seeking collaboration from both counties that will ultimately benefit families and especially children on both sides of the border and by doing so we are improving the lives of our communities.”

According to Imperial County Department of Child Support Services Assistant Director Liza Barraza, the annual number of child support solicitations the County receives from Mexicali and Baja California areas have increased significantly in the last few years.

“The goal is to expand services to those families on both sides of the border in addition to keeping those families properly informed of their rights,” said Barraza. “We have families living in Imperial County with one parent living in Mexicali that are unaware of the existing agreement between both countries, that helps facilitate their child support solicitation. People need to be informed.”

The child support process for those families living in Imperial County and a parent in Mexicali are as follows: the interested party must apply with the Imperial County Department of Child Support Services who review and transmit the documents to the courts in Mexico to file proceedings through DIF and establish and enforce child support services.

“Part of today’s discussion was to find a smoother transition for the money to make its way to the parent living in California and vice versa,” said Barraza. “This is the first binational agreement between the two countries and already we have received various calls from northern counties in California also interested in creating similar models.”

Imperial County Chairman Jack Terrazas expressed his gratitude to all entities for their collaboration, dedication and efforts.

“This is the first time we have had so many dignitaries from both sides of the border in our work place,” said Terrazas. “I am honored.”

“Our presence here is an acknowledge that the members of this cross border community have a common future and that only through a mutual cooperation will we reach our goal of providing access to and justice for all,” said Diane Altamirano, Assistant Presiding Judge, Superior Court of California, County of Imperial.  “The Imperial County Superior Court looks forward to revitalizing this commitment to increase access to justice along the border through continued cooperation with the Consulate of Mexico in Calexico, the State Governor of Baja California, and the Child Support Services.”

Referred to as an “historical” meeting, both countries agreed the meeting was long overdue and necessary.

“A year ago we signed a memorandum of understanding between Imperial County and DIF of Baja that was a great step forward for the mutual benefit of all children and families of our border,” said Alisha Griffin, director of the California Department of Child Support Services. “We own the responsibility to do our best no matter where the children and/or families are, and to make sure our children grow up safe and sound.”

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Baja California Jorge Armando Vasquez explained the phenomena of migration forces parents to move in search for a better way of living, which has generated a series of legal consequences in the international arena.

“The goal is to implement the agreement in three main aspects: alimony, legal training (for judicial personnel on both sides of the border on international law), and partnership agreements between Baja California and California courts,” said Vasquez.

The memorandums of understanding is expected to be reviewed and approved by all entities from both sides of the border and will be put in effect in the next few months.