By Jackie Wise, Guest Columnist
For years, the term “Deadbeat Dads” has been coined as a phrase for child support payers nationwide and is a title that associates men and fathers with not supporting their children. This is not completely accurate and the following information helps demonstrate why.
Over the last 20-plus years the child support program has been changing and evolving routinely to make the program less punitive in nature and one that works for those families in need of support. It has become a program that works with both parties and demonstrates that families are more self-sufficient when the payments are received timely and regularly.
It is important to stress that child support payers are not deadbeat dads. Since the evolution of automatic withholding of child support payments back in 1994, approximately 75 percent of all child support is paid this way.
Other payments are collected through intercepting tax refund payments or withholding from unemployment benefits. That means the potential for a deadbeat dad is found in less than 15 percent of the child support obligors who do not have a regular place where payments can be withheld.
It is also important to know that child support payers come from all occupations and are men and women. In federal fiscal year 2013 (October 2012 through September 2013), Minnesota’s program collected $610.7 million in support.
Data from the 2013 Minnesota Child Support State Performance Report indicates that statewide 86 percent of all cases have a support order which serves approximately 270,000 children — 240,000 of those children are not on cash public assistance, which means the family receives no cash assistance other than child support. For those 13 percent of children on cash public assistance, the parent assigns their support to the state and receives a cash grant. The state then recoups the assigned support to help repay the public assistance payments made to the family. This has increased the demand for regular and timely payments of support to be critical to the families we serve and studies now show child support plays a big role in allowing families to attain and remain self-sufficient, without the need to receive cash assistance.
The State Department of Human Services now offers automated payment information 24 hours a day to custodial and non-custodial parents using Minnesota Child Support Online system. At any given time, case participants can check to see whether payments are being received and disbursed. For payers, it offers them the ability to use the system proactively to avoid becoming delinquent and at a minimum, reduce the types of enforcement actions that can occur because they can see when withholding payments are received and whether or not they are getting behind in support. Minnesota also offers an online web calculator for use by all members of the public to assist them in calculating what someone’s support payment may be.
Child support agencies use the most punitive remedies to enforce collections on the smallest portions of our caseloads.
Sometimes a person simply does not have an ability to pay due to a disability or receiving public assistance themselves. If they contact a child support officer, they can review their support to see if it qualifies to be reduced under the law.
Minnesota’s program has become one that has the tools and ability to work with parents who are unable to meet their obligations and to assist or refer them to the court when our policies do not support a parties’ ability to do so.
The stories of parents not paying support are the exception to the rule.
Jackie Wise is the collections supervisor with Morrison County Social Services.