Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program. How Successful Was SHARE in Reestablishing Support?


Reestablishing child support payments, the main objective of SHARE, often required substantial effort. In this section, we use information from program records to examine how long YCPA staff were involved with referred cases, how often they were able to reestablish child support payments, and why they sometimes were unable to reestablish payments.

In many cases, referral to SHARE did not lead to reestablishment of child support payments. According to YCPA records, 449 (or 78 percent) of the 574 cases referred to them were closed and referred back to DCS when no further action by YCPA staff was deemed possible or warranted (Table II.3). In 111 of these 449 cases, the NCPs had resumed payments and were released from court supervision. In the remaining 338 cases closed, YCPA staff had been unable to reestablish child support. These overall statistics nevertheless mask important differences in the resolution of cases referred to SHARE and the paths that NCPs followed through the initiative.

Table II.3
Resolution of SHARE Cases That Reached Closure (Number of Cases)
All Cases Closed by YCPA and Referred Back to DCS Cases Closed by YCPA, Paying
Child Support
Cases Closed by YCPA,
Not Paying
Child Support
All NCPs Referred by DCS (n = 574) 449 111 338
NCPs Who Were Never Issued a Citation to Appear at YCPA Hearing (n = 7) 7 1 6
NCPs Who Were Issued a Citation to Appear at YCPA Hearing (n = 567) 442 110 332
      Never Appeared at YCPA Hearing (n = 287) 255 18 237
      Appeared at YCPA Hearing (n= 280) 187 92 95
  • Referred to WtW program (n = 172)
102 52 50
  • Not referred to WtW program (n = 108)
85 40 45
Source: Office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA), SHARE database (as of February 28, 2002).
DCS = Division of Child Support; NCP = noncustodial parent.

The further the SHARE process went, the greater the likelihood of reestablishing child support payments. NCPs who never appeared at a hearing almost always had their cases closed without having resumed child support payments (Table II.3). However, when NCPs appeared for their hearings, YCPA staff achieved better results. NCPs who appeared for their hearings were about equally likely to have their cases closed with child support being paid as with child support not being paid. At first, the cases of NCPs who appeared at hearings seemed somewhat more likely to be closed with child support being paid if the NCP was referred for WtW services than otherwise (52 of 102 cases, compared to 40 of 85 cases  Table II.3). As we discuss later, however, some of the 85 closed NCP cases not referred to WtW were deemed ineligible for the program; among the remaining WtW-eligibles not referred, YCPA staff also seemed to achieve a positive child support outcome in most cases.

YCPA staff remained involved for about two years in the cases of NCPs who appeared for hearings. On average, almost five months elapsed from the date of referral by DCS to the NCP's appearance at a court hearing (Table II.4). YCPA staff usually remained involved with these cases for nearly two years, whether or not the NCP was referred to WtW services. This degree of involvement is not surprising  after the initial hearings, YCPA staff continued to conduct review hearings and monitor child support payments to ensure that the NCP was meeting his obligations. The prolonged involvement of YCPA staff may have been an important factor in the successful outcome of many of these cases.

The cases of NCPs who did not come to hearings were resolved quickly. YCPA staff continued to try to establish contact with NCPs who failed to appear at their hearings, in order to engage them in the program. However, these cases generally were closed (as far as the SHARE program was concerned) and referred back to DCS within an average of six months (Table II.4).

Table II.4
Tenure of Referred Cases with YCPA (In Months)
  Time Since DCS Referral and
Child Support Hearing Case Closed,
Referred Back to DCS
Case Closed, Paying
Child Support
Case Closed,
Not Paying
Child Support
All NCPs Referred by DCS n.a. 12.4 15.2 11.5
NCPs Never Issued a Citation to Appear at YCPA Hearing n.a. 4.0 3.2 4.2
NCPs Who Never Appeared at YCPA Hearing n.a. 6.2 9.4 6.0
NCPs Who Appeared at YCPA Hearing 4.6 21.2 16.4 25.8
      Were referred to WtW program 4.4 18.7 20.3 17.0
      Were not referred to WtW program 4.8 24.2 11.4 35.6
Source: Office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA), SHAREdatabase (as of February 28, 2002).
DCS = Division of Child Support; n.a. = not applicable; NCP = noncustodial parent.

Many of the cases of NCPs who did not appear were closed without reestablishment of child support because YCPA staff could not locate the NCPs or could not engage them in SHARE. YCPA staff were unable to locate 128 (54 percent) of the 237 NCPs who failed to appear at hearings (Table II.5). Twenty-four other NCPs (10 percent) could not participate in SHARE because they were incarcerated. Another common reason for case closure among NCPs who had failed to appear at hearings was that the NCPs had moved out of YCPA's jurisdiction (22 NCPs, or 9 percent); people in this group included NCPs who had moved out of Yakima County, moved out of the state, or had been deported.

Reasons for Case Closure with No Child Support Being Paid (Number of Cases)
  NCPs Who Appeared at Hearing
Reason NCPs Who Never
at Hearing
to WtW
Not Referred
to WtW
All NCPs
by DCSa
NCP Could Not Be Located 128 0 1 130
NCP Was Incarcerated 24 16 9 50
NCP Was Living Outside of YCPA Jurisdiction 22 3 1 26
NCP Did Not Qualify for WtW Services 17 10 17 45
      Child/children living with NCP 1 6 5 12
      NCP and custodial parent reconciled 1 2 9 12
      Child/children not receiving TANF 6 0 1 8
      Child/children emancipated, older than 18 2 2 0 4
      NCP owed arrears only 3 0 1 4
      NCP cannot work legally in the United States 0 0 1 1
      NCP did not qualify (reason unspecified) 4 0 0 4
NCP Was Receiving TANF 13 9 6 29
Other Reason 17 6 3 27
No Reason Noted 16 6 8 31
Total 237 50 45 338
Source: Office of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney (YCPA), SHARE database (as of February 28, 2002).
DCS = Division of Child Support; NCP = noncustodial parent; TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; WtW=Welfare-to-Work program.
a Includes six of the seven referred NCP cases that did not have contempt citations issued.

Even when NCPs appeared at their hearings, a variety of circumstances sometimes led to case closure without reestablishment of child support. Subsequent incarceration was the most common or second most common reason for a poor outcome among NCPs who appeared at their hearings, whether they were referred for WtW services (16 cases) or not referred for WtW services (9 cases). As mentioned earlier, some of the NCPs who appeared were determined ineligible for SHARE at their hearings (24 NCPs not referred to WtW, including 1 living outside of YCPA's jurisdiction and 6 receiving TANF) or after having been referred for WtW services (22 NCPs). In some of these cases, however, although child support payments were not reestablished, the reasons for case closure suggest somewhat equivalent outcomes. In 22 cases, either the dependent children were living with the NCP (11 cases), or the NCP and custodial parent had reconciled (another 11 cases).

The majority of SHARE-eligible NCPs who appeared had their cases closed with child support being paid, whether or not the NCP was referred for WtW services. Of the 280 NCPs who appeared for hearings, 172 were referred for WtW services (Table II.3). Of these 172 cases, 102 had been closed by YCPA staff by the time of our data extract, and just over half of these  52 of the 102 cases  were closed with child support having been reestablished. Of the 108 cases of NCPs who appeared for hearings but were not referred for WtW services, 85 had been closed by the time of our data extract  40 with child support being paid and 45 without (Table II.3). However, 24 of the 45 cases closed without child support being paid were for NCPs who were deemed ineligible for SHARE at their hearings (Table II.5). This suggests that the majority of closed cases among NCPs who appeared and opted to find employment or pay child support on their own  40 of 61 closed cases  also had child support reestablished.

WtW eligibility criteria or difficulties with their application may have prevented some NCPs from participating in SHARE. In 45 cases, when the NCP first appeared at a hearing or during other contacts, YCPA staff found that the NCP was ineligible or no longer eligible to participate in SHARE (last column in Table II.5). In 24 of these cases, either the children for whom the support orders were issued were living with the NCP, or the parents had reconciled. In eight cases, because the dependent children were older than age 18, the NCP owed only arrears. These NCPs were ineligible for SHARE, as WtW regulations stipulated that the children who are owed child support must be minors. YCPA records indicated that the dependent children in another eight cases were not current TANF recipients. Under the revised WtW regulations, NCPs could qualify for services if their children had received TANF during the past year, or if the children simply were eligible for a variety of public assistance programs. However, many SHARE referrals occurred before the revised regulations took effect and, hence, YCPA staff generally determined NCPs as eligible for WtW only if they could confirm that the NCPs' dependent children were current TANF recipients. Difficulties in substantiating eligibility under the liberalized options may have also been a factor in eligibility decisions.

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