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State and local agencies work on child support collection

Through federal law, each state has the authority to enforce child support payments. The Child Support Enforcement Program was enacted in 1975 and since that time states have created their own methods of collecting child support and enforcing payments.

Michigan's system actually dates back all the way to 1919 but the collection system is not faring so well. Michigan has a very high child support caseload, the fourth largest in the nation. But it is only doing an average job of collecting payments. The state currently ranks 20th in child support collection and process roughly $1.4 billion in child support annually.

The recession may be partly to blame for the non-payments of support, especially in the most recent years. Michigan does offer a program that helps supporting parents who fall on hard times. The arrears forgiveness program works with the court system and creates a new payment schedule for the parent. Parents who receive public assistance enrolled into the program automatically. The automatic enrollment also helps establish paternity in many cases.

Budget cuts may also be contributing to the slow collection numbers. There are decreased staff numbers, which means higher caseloads and perhaps less time for follow-up.

The Michigan Department of Human Services child services department has about 120 employees who field telephone calls from parents. Many of the calls are referrals from other agencies but anyone who needs help with child support enforcement can call.

If a parent is seeking child support but does not yet have a court order to that affect, it may be advisable to speak with a family law attorney and find out all the options available.

Source: EH Extra, "States' role in child support," Penny Mullins, June 5, 2013

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