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Proposed HHS system would centralize child support collection

When Congress passed the Family Support Act in 1995, lawmakers in California and other states were tasked with putting systems into place to ensure that court-ordered child support obligations are met. However, these efforts have been hampered in many parts of the country by technological challenges and bureaucratic obstacles, and some states have given up after struggling with these issues for years. However, the federal 2017 budget proposal released contains a provision that would relieve states of this burden by setting up a central child support enforcement system.

The White House wants to put $63 million into the Child Support Technology Fund to develop the system, but the budget proposal does not indicate what type of technology will be used or how the information it holds will be kept up to date. A representative from the Department of Health and Human Services did reveal that none of the options being considered were based on a system currently in use.

Officials were more forthcoming about the amount of money that a centralized child support enforcement system could save taxpayers. State systems cost $120 million on average to set up, and 66 percent of these costs are reimbursed by the HHS. These reimbursements have added up to about $1 billion so far, but the HHS claims that the savings offered by a centralized system would recoup most of this money within the space of 10 years.

Noncustodial parents in California who are delinquent in their child support obligations sometimes seek to avoid detection by working under aliases or finding employers who are willing to pay them off the books. Experienced family law attorneys may have encountered such situations; they might ask investigators to use skip tracing methods when conventional inquiries have been unsuccessful.

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