For a Colorado parent who is awarded custody of a child, obtaining an order requiring their former spouse to pay child support is sometimes only half the battle. If the other parent defaults on the payments, collection of the delinquent payments can sometimes be difficult. Recently the state of Maryland instituted changes in its efforts to enforce child support obligations, with dramatic results. The lessons learned there may be of interest to readers in Colorado.
The new tactics were instituted in response to a very critical audit of the state agency charged with enforcing child support collections. As a result of the audit, the state legislature withheld funding until the agency could document improvements.
The agency began making more aggressive use of the tools and penalties at its disposal, including the ability to garnish bank accounts, withhold wages and suspend occupational licenses of delinquent parents. The effort has been paying off: so far this fiscal year the state has collected about $20.7 million more than it had collected at this time last year – an improvement of about 4.8 percent.
Another reason for the improvement is that the state began looking at the individual circumstances of those who were falling behind in their payments. The state looked at whether the individual was simply unable to make the payments, due to unemployment or income loss, or whether they had the ability to pay but chose not to do so. The state then tailored their collection efforts accordingly. For those unable to pay, the state helped the delinquent parent by offering financial counseling and job search assistance. Even for those who just refused to pay, the state was still careful how they went about collecting – revoking an occupational license, for example, may simply render the parent unable to make a living and therefore unable to pay child support.
Colorado parents who are unable to meet their child support obligation due to job loss or other circumstances do have options. If the change in circumstances is substantial and continuing, the court may grant a modification. An experienced family law attorney can help the parent prepare the request and argue for a support obligation that reflects the change in circumstances.
Source: Baltimore Sun, “Md. child support collections on the rise after audit,” Yvonne Wenger, Aug. 29, 2012