Child support collections have increased from $12 billion in 1996 to $14.4 billion in 1998, thanks to 1996 laws that made it harder for deadbeat parents to evade financial responsibility for their children. The 1996 laws, included in a larger package of welfare laws, allow states to punish parents who don’t pay child support by revoking various state-issued licenses or by subtracting child support payments from an employee’s paycheck.
Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Olivia Golden noted that although she is happy to see the recent progress, better collections procedures are still necessary for “the millions of children who don’t receive child support.” The percentage of cases in which child support was paid remained a paltry 22% in 1997.
HHS officials are confident that child support collections will increase as more states establish the computerized child support records that are necessary to track down child-support evaders. Under federal law, states are required to send computerized lists of individuals who have outstanding child support payments to a national clearinghouse, which then compares the states’ lists with national employment records. When the national office finds a match in its records, it then instructs employers to automatically subtract child support payments from a deadbeat parent’s paycheck.
Nine states still lack the statewide computerized child support systems called for under the 1996 law. The states of New Jersey and Arizona both credit increases in child support collection to the national clearinghouse’s work.