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Proposed HHS system would centralize child support enforcement

Noncustodial parents in North Carolina and around the country can face severe penalties when they fail to make court-ordered child support payments, but the systems put into place to keep track of them and enforce the rules are often not as effective as they could be. States were tasked by Congress to set up child support monitoring systems with the passage of the Family Support Act in 1995, but lawmakers in many parts of the country are still grappling with technology issues more than two decades later.

The problem affects taxpayers as well as custodial parents. States pay an average of $120 million to set these systems up, and two-thirds of this money is reimbursed by the Department of Health and Human Services. This situation has already drained about $1 billion in federal funds with often disappointing results, but a proposal contained in the 2019 budget could save the public approximately $80 million per year for the next 10 years.

The budget proposes spending $63 million to set up the Child Support Technology Fund. The money would be used to create a single centralized child support enforcement system that could then be accessed at the state level. The White House provided few solid details about what kind of technology would be employed or who would be tasked with keeping the information current, but a DHHS spokesperson did say that none of the approaches being considered were currently being used.

Attorneys with experience in child custody and support cases may have encountered situations where a federal monitoring system would have been useful to track down noncustodial parents who avoid their responsibilities by working off the books or under an alias. Until the authorities can provide a reliable solution to such problems, attorneys may rely on conventional investigative and skip tracing techniques.

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