On Child Support Enforcement
Last August was Child Support Awareness Month in Arizona. If you are a non-custodial parent owing back child support or a custodial parent seeking enforcement of unpaid child support, then this article is for you.
The federal system of child support enforcement falls under the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). According to the OCSE, 69% of child support is paid by income withholding. Overdue child support can be collected from federal and state tax refunds, liens on property, and even the sale of property.
With its goal as the “nation’s Child Support Enforcement Program is a Federal/State/Tribal/local partnership to help families by promoting family self-sufficiency and child well-being,” the federal government has many powerful tools to choose from:
– Credit reporting bureaus may be notified automatically of unpaid child support.
– Suspension of licenses, including drivers, professional, occupational, and recreational.
– U.S. State Dept. passport denial when applicant owes over $2,500 in back child support.
– By agreement with child support agencies, financial institutions freeze and seize accounts.
– Criminal action against chronically delinquent obligor-parents.
Administering the enforcement program is cost effective, and it works. Here’s some program data for fiscal year 2007:
– $25 billion collected.
– 15.8 million child support enforcement cases.
– Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) returned employment and address information for 4.9 million individuals.
– Multistate Financial Institution Data Match (MSFIDM) program located a quarterly average of 2.6 million accounts containing financial assets owned by over 1.3 million obligors.
– 1.7 million paternities established.
– 1.2 million new support orders established.
Also in fiscal year 2007, the U.S. government provided $3.7 billion to the states for child support collection programs. The result? About $25 billion collected at a combined state/federal cost of $5.6 billion–that is, for every dollar spent, $4.73 was collected. Tribal collections were almost $18 million. Approximately $3.8 billion was provided to the states in fiscal year 2009. Make no mistake, child support enforcement and collection is a very serious business.
Arizona increased its child support collections in fiscal year 2010. Eleven counties operate programs under Arizona’s child support enforcement system. Out of 54 participating states and territories, Arizona was 32nd in support collection. The national average was $4.80 per dollar spent. Arizona’s collection average was $4.97 per dollar spent–amazing given that Arizona ranked 50th in collections back in 2000.
The state’s figures show $689 million in collections, $205.9 million collected from Maricopa County alone. For comparison, that’s $189 million more than was collected in 2001.
The state program involves two different collection cases: those under a specific Social Security Administration provision (Title IV-D) and those independent of SSA (Non-Title IV-D).
What’s the difference between Title IV-D and Non-Title IV-D? The cases are enforced differently, but enforced none-the-less. Under Title IV-D, county attorneys are empowered to file bank liens, property liens, reach unemployment and insurance settlements, and block passports. Those on government assistance are in this caseload. The Non-Title IV-D cases involve court orders of child support with the state acting as the clearinghouse for payments.
Four Arizona counties receive federal funding for child support enforcement programs: Gila, La Paz, Navajo, and Pinal introduced programs in the early 1990s. Keeping the operation local is efficient and serves communities well–reading local papers, watching local news, and listening to area residents improves collection rates.
County enforcement statistics include review of paternity establishment and acknowledgment, current child support enforcement, collection of back child support, cost effectiveness, and support-order management. Aggressively collecting for the past 17 years, Pinal is a success story. The county attorney collected $3.9 million in 1993, the first year of its program. In fiscal year 2010 collections soared to $21.6 million, a 4% increase over the previous year.
What tools are in the county attorney’s enforcement arsenal?
How about intercepting tax returns and refunds, unemployment checks, Social Security payments, Lottery winnings, wages, even personal injury lawsuits. The big hammer? Jail time.
And who are they going after?
Michelle Krstyen, deputy Pinal County attorney, says: “We have a great deal of people who are unemployed, underemployed and self-employed, and it’s that group we focus on to get before the court.” In Pinal County alone, there are as many as 450 warrants outstanding at any given time.
So many circumstances and events can result in delinquent child support. If you’re behind in your child support payments, don’t risk the consequences. If you’re not receiving child support on time, don’t delay seeking enforcement. Contact the family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart before unpaid child support obligations get out of hand.