Child Support Collection Methods

I read an editorial piece from The Baltimore Sun about Maryland’s efforts in collecting child support from non-custodial parents. Basically, Maryland was frustrated with the results the standard practices were yielding, put some thought into it, and changed things up. And they’re getting results.

I, of course, was interested. Better child support collection methods? Do tell.

This program has been in development for a couple of years and so far this year is showing a 4.8% increase in collections over last  year. Personally I’m not sure that’s a product of better collection methods or an improving economy but after reading the significant changes they’ve made I’m inclined to have a bit of faith in what they’re doing and wish Florida, and other states, would take a look.

What’s so different? A tailored approach. It has occurred to the good people of Maryland that child support collections are not a one size fit all sort of deal. They decided to sort their non-paying, not-custodial parents into two categories: those who can afford it but choose not to and those who would love to but can’t afford it.

Once that categorization is made, the state makes a plan unique to that parent’s situation. The focus on the piece is mostly on those that cannot afford to pay.

In such cases, department social workers could help them back on their feet by offering job search and job-training assistance, helping them sort out hospital and medical bills and counseling services to assist them through the crisis.

Out of $530 million in child support that is due, Maryland has paid out $350 million of it. That means they’re collecting about 66% of what is due. Not bad, but not awesome. I imagine as long as the state continues pouring funding into these efforts, and the economy improves, the numbers will steadily increase.

I see one major pitfall in other states adopting this sort of strategy and that is money of course.

Take, for example, Miami-Dade county. When you call child support at the clerks office, you get a recording that informs you a reduction in funding means you can only call from 9-12 Monday through Friday with your child support questions.

The other day, when I was on the phone with the State District Attorney’s office, I was informed that the average case passed on to the State for enforcement can take up to twelve months for the state to actually take it on and begin enforcement efforts. Because I’d already been to court and a child support order existed as well as an arrears amount declared, I might be able to get it going in two months– maybe.

Two months is not great– that is after waiting about a month for my paperwork to be processed and going through the interview. It’s ok but if someone is asking for enforcement, it’s usually because a situation is desperate. So imagine being asked to wait twelve months for enforcement. That’s absurd. And it is only because of a lack of staff. Can I really expect the state of Florida to even consider Maryland’s approach when it is failing to even tread water? Of course not.

Maryland’s efforts succeed because they have manpower. If they increase manpower and reduce the caseload ratios I am sure they’d see even better results. But Florida, and other states, are far from even that stage. And of course, during the time we need it the most.

What are your thoughts on child support collection efforts? Are states doing the best they can and just dealing with crappy parents? Are states overwhelmed in the current economic downturn? What are some ideas you have that states can improve these efforts?

Edited to add: This post has been featured at BlogHer if you’d like to show some support over there.


26 thoughts on “Child Support Collection Methods

  1. In addition guess what county has the worst record in the entire country for the time it takes for social security disability to be processed and granted ? Yep, Miami Dade. The first 3 applications in the first year are automatically denied without consideration. Forclosures take a minimum of two years to get to the first hearing. I guess that helps the delinquent mortgagee but hurts the lender. I think part of the reason in Miami Dade is that 52% is now foreign born and many people have risen to low and mid level bureaucratic positions in government, utilities and hospitals and the work ethic does not exist. They just file papers and collect a pay check. The third world mentality has invaded the system. The father of one of my daughter’s children is illegal immigrant and has 2 felony convictions and by law must be deported. Since he is not paying anyway the child support division of state attorney contacted federal immigration who told the county to get lost as they also have a back load of cases ! If you can get to court some judges require the payor to show weekly proof of job search at status hearings. Some judges put the delinquent person on work release where the person goes to work and returns to jail each evening as jail now becomes his residence. Any income tax refund or lottery winnings are supposed to be garnished but fed and local rarely connect for this. At this point your best bet is to get affiliated with single parent advocacy group and if your income is low enough your may qualify for food stamps, medicaid for children and a health card for yourself. Your county should have social workers for this. Another way to get help from social worker is to make appt with one at county hospital as a start.

  2. Where I live, the child support collection process is awful. Even worse when the the non-custodial parent leaves the state.
    Just yesterday, I called the support office to see how far along our interstate referral is and was told that he has 10 more days to comply (complaint means he needs to make ANY monetary payment) before it can go to the next step.
    When I questioned why I didn’t receive anything from the sale of his company, she responded with, “I don’t know, when did that happen.”
    It is really hard to get money from a parent who owns a company, because they can not do income withholding.
    My son is almost 3 and I have been dealing with this process since he was 2 months. Maybe someday my son will actually receive his child support.

    • Yup, self-employed parents are some of the hardest to collect from. This is one of those things that behooves the government to improve. More child support being paid out to custodial parents means less reliance on government. The feminist in me is pretty sure this reluctance to truly address this problem properly has something to do with the disproportionately large number of male non-custodial parents. If it was reverse, I bet they’d have this child support collection process down pat. But that’s my cynic talking.
      I hope your son gets his child support soon too. At least he’s still young and there’s time to get it straightened out before the huge stuff starts coming in. Good luck!

  3. The feminist in you is absolutely correct. Some men brag about working under the table. They get away with it. If they have a girlfriend, new wife, or parents to help them cover earnings, they use it. If they can live free of any housing in their name, they can get away with saying they don’t make money.

    My ex sil did this with help of whole family. He worked for his brother with no record of employment while on temporary disability after surgery, lived with girlfriend. and all but one sister lied to my daughter about sil’s his work status. That sister had a husband who hated her brother. You need an ally like that.

    The first commenter is absolutely right about the mid-level positions having the power to delay, no matter what the laws say.

    I advise women with tiny babies to leave the husband out of the equation once they get the order for child support. Any man who will abandon a child in every way possible does not need to be included in the child’s life at all. Often these men who are forced (not yours) try to get custody to spite the mother when he has not been present since the child’s birth. I have taken flak for this position, but I have seen the agony caused by men who show up when the child is three, sees the kid for the first time ever, yet who fights the mother for custody when he lived three states away, has more money, a wife, and says he can be the better parent. Sometimes these guys win. Mothers and children are separated. Or, she has to put the child on an airplane to go to a place the child or mother has never seen. The child will be with a woman whose character and attitude toward the child is unknow. Your case is different, so not recommending this for you.

    This black box in which to type is very hard on my eyes. It is difficult to focus without watering eyes.

    • It is so crushing there is so much insanity revolving around children in this world. You’d think we’d be getting it figured out in the 21st century. So many advancements and so much still lagging.

  4. You have a three-minute commercial video? Disappointing! There are two blank boxes below this black box that are to check, but for what? I thought I would let you know there is no text to indicate whatever you want people to check–to follow or to follow comments. ???

    • I’ll take a look at what you’re seeing. It might look differently for some reason.

      I started running ads on the blog awhile ago but have no control on where they are placed design-wise and they are different for every theme.

      I’m trying to get to the point that I can self-host and have total control over ads and design but I’m not there yet. Baby steps and patience!

  5. Love the new look.

    I don’t know a darned thing about child support payments and won’t presume to comment on them, though I agree (based on the “it seems likely” metric) with the general sense that this problem hasn’t been prioritized precisely because it affects (mostly) women and children. And I agree that not paying child support it not OK. At the same time, I wonder at what threshold (how much effort) enforcement is worthwhile versus just, you know, having a better social safety net: which is more cost effective?

    Clearly the absence (or near absence) of both is totally unacceptable.

  6. I think with Arizona it’s direct deposit, or that’s my guess anyway. I know that I’m in a very fortunate position that I don’t need to ask for anything from my ex for my four children; I think that, as too often is the case, if I asked for something she’d want more time with them just to reduce how much she’d have to pay. For me it’s totally worth it to learn how to enjoy being frugal if the only reason she’d want more time is to reduce how much she’d have to pay.

    I think 12 month enforcement is the same as no enforcement at all. :-/

    • In Florida you can get direct deposit as well once everything is enforced. They also don’t really affect how much is paid unless the child stays with both parents 50% of the time. I am working really hard to get to the point where it doesn’t matter if my ex pays or not. I’m not there yet but it is mostly to do with needing to boost my income than reduce my expenses at this point. Expenses have been annihilated at my house.

    • I disagree. The courts do not always favor the women but they do always favor the custodial parent– as they should. I know many men have been unjustly put through the wringer because of the system, but so have many many many women.

    • Oh, Hs, your narcissitic naivete made me smile.
      As I sit here owed $40k or so in back child support from a dead beat dad who is also a family law attorney, may I ask, are you in arrears on child support?

  7. I wish the child support stuff was better here in Utah…it’s been a good 5 years since I’ve seen a dime. I really like the model of sorting the obligators into categories of who can pay and isn’t, and who truly can’t afford to pay then working out plans individually. I think that would solve a whole lot of issues and more mommas (or daddys) would get the support they need. There are days when even a spare $20 would help out ya know? Good luck in your child support quest…I’ll be crossing my fingers for you!

    P.S. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new blog design! Its awesome!

    P.P.S. I think I got the Captcha thing fixed on my comments…I didn’t even realize they were showing up when people tried to comment. I hate those! Let me know if it isn’t fixed next time you comment 🙂

    • Yes I think the tailored approach would definitely help many custodial parents regardless of sex. And yes I completely agree with that sentiment of even $20 would help. It’s true. I told my ex the same thing– even $50 will fuel my car so I can get the kids to school and I can get to work and to the grocery store. Anything. Please! I hope it all works out too. It has in the past but not for very long. And honestly I don’t want it to be something I need forever. I am really trying hard to get to a place where I don’t need his money at all and anything that does come in is automatically set aside into savings for the kids.
      Thanks for the compliments on the design. I’m going for fresh and clean. And thank you for fixing the captchas. They drive me crazy!!! I’ll double-check the next time I comment at your place.

  8. Pingback: Explosion of Updates | Mutant Supermodel

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