Audit: More Could Be Done To Collect Child Support

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A state agency should strengthen methods to maximize child support payments from noncustodial parents who haven’t been paying as much as they are supposed to, a state audit released Monday said.

The audit by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services examined the Maryland Department of Human Services’ Child Support Enforcement Administration from Sept. 1, 2007 through Oct. 20, 2010.

The audit found the agency has not fully used wage withholdings, occupational license suspensions and seizure of bank accounts to make parents pay up.

For the last reporting year that ended Sept. 30, 2010, child support collections totaled $530 million, while unpaid child support added up to $1.72 billion, according to the audit.

The audit notes that the withholding of wages accounts for the largest portion of collections. However, the audit found that CSEA did not ensure that local child support offices followed up on cases in which noncustodial parent wages were identified by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement for possible wage withholdings. The audit also said CSEA did not ensure that employers were reporting new hires to the state’s new hire registry.

“We determined that wage withholding had not been established for 8,763 noncustodial parents with child support arrearages totaling $88 million whose wages totaled $43 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2010,” the audit said. “Our tests of 22 of these accounts disclosed that, in 12 cases, wages should have been withheld.”

In a response, the department said it agreed with the finding. However, the department said it was important to note that a report of wages sometimes lists cases where it is not appropriate for a wage withholding order.

“We tested a daily match report of wages where out of 61 total cases, none required any action because the cases were already paying or were shared cases with another state already enforcing the order,” the department said.

The audit also noted that CSEA only obtained occupational licensing data from 7 out of 15 state licensing authorities to look for possible licensing suspensions. Because matching data was not properly designed, only a few people were referred to authorities for license suspension, the audit said.

The audit identified 6,966 licenses of people who owed $47 million in child support.

“Our tests of 25 of those individuals disclosed that 17, who owed $966,000, were eligible for license suspensions,” the audit said.

The department said it will work with other state agencies to exchange data as necessary to enforce occupational license suspension for past-due child support.

“We will phase in the automated data exchange with agencies beginning September 2011 and expect to be complete May 2012,” the department said.

The audit also pointed out that state law allows CSEA to seize bank account funds if someone owes more than $500 in child support and has not paid for more than 60 days. However, the audit found CSEA only used the collection method for people who owed more than $2,500.

The department said it plans to reduce the threshold from $2,500 to $500. The reason for the discrepancy was due to automation of the administrative garnishment process in April 2010.

“In an effort to ensure the system program logic was accurate, we proceeded with caution and established the arrears threshold at $2,500 instead of $500 to meet criteria for garnishment,” the department said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Precious Redz

    I agree i have been fighting for this over a year there is no excuse why they cannot force these procedures and make the noncustodial parent be pursued to follow through on a court order and have them be liable for their lack of responsibility for their children especially if they are not envolved in their lives.

  • Karen

    They should also require that all monetary settlements received by a plaintiff MUST be reported to Child Support Enforcement BEFORE disbursement to the plaintiff… and hold attorneys liable for failure to do so… this way Child Support can attach the settlement and receive the payment for any arrears …they do this in NJ and I was able to collect $12,000 in arrears several years ago…. SECOND, there needs to be a link with Social Security… for years my son’s father did not pay support and was an absent father… I later found out after he died that for 11 years he was collecting disability… my son and I could have received $144,000 in arrears over that period, but because there was no link to my son by social security (even though his father signed the application for Socical Security, and also my son’s birth certificate) I was never sent the child support money, and now I will never recieve those arrears… Social Security needs to advise the custodial parents and/or have a link with Child Support Enforcement that benefits are being paid to the non-custodial parent so that the child can get paid the support from the Social Security Benefits!!!!

  • Don't Hold Your Breath

    The state has very little incentive to allocate funds and man-hours in the persuit of child support payments. None of the money that is intended for the custodial parent goes to the state. As a result, it is a losing battle (for the state).

    Federal budget cuts, and reduced tax revenue due to high unemployment numbers, complicate the matter. The state has already begun phasing-out countless programs “across the board”, in response to impending financial shortages that are inevitable.

    Custodial parents, such as Karen (above) would do well to seek private collection avenues such as hiring a private investigator to identify monetary sources available to non-custodial parents with child-support debt. Otherwise, they may never get the financial support they need.

    • Persistance Pays

      Another alternative, is to use the court process more effectively. Non-custodial parents who fail to pay child support are “breaking the law”, and may be found “in contempt of the court” when brought before a judge.

      It is a simple matter to file a motion for a hearing at the local court house. It can be written “by hand” on a form provided by the Clerk of the Court. In most cases, staff members are willing to help those who are unfamiliar with the process, which requires less than 30 minutes.

      There is little chance that the custodial parent will obey a “second” court order to pay child support, if they have disregarded the first. However, remember that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. By repeatedly filing for hearings to address the non-custodial parents failure to follow a court order, the court has no choice, but to aggressively deal with the defendant. In most cases, jail-time serves as a “wake-up call” for the dead-beat parent, and acts as an incentive to pay as ordered, lest they return to jail the next time that you file for a “failure to pay” hearing.

  • JustaMom

    It took 3 & 1/2 years ,$30,000 in arrearages and numerous letter’s to the Govenor’s office to get CSE moving on my case.Since then there’s been 1 contempt hearing and 6 license suspension’s and still we have the same issue’s.It’s a very slow,frustrating process.If a custodial parent wasn’t providing adequately for their children they’d be charged with neglect but these joker’s get away with it for years sometimes and who suffer’s for it …the children.I’m kind of tired of dealing with it now ,it’s just become more of an aggravation than anything else but giving up wouldn’t be fair to the kids.Oh and the 30 day thing is a load of bs..31/2 years is a long 30 days!!

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