Performance Improvement 2009. How Do States Reduce Unpaid Child Support Obligations?

01/01/2009

This study determined the prevalence, characteristics, and outcomes of programs used by State child support enforcement agencies to reduce child support arrearages (unpaid payments by non-custodial parents). In “ debt compromise,” a State agrees to accept reduction or elimination of child support debt owed to it by a non-custodial parent. Reviewers surveyed all States and conducted site visits to five, examining a sample of debt compromise agreements.

In States with debt compromise programs, cases were considered eligible based on a number of factors, including the amount of the arrearages, and willingness of local to negotiate agreements. Agency officials in States with programs reported a largely positive view of debt compromise, although a few expressed the concern that settling debt is contrary to the child support enforcement process. Agencies in 20 States operated fully implemented or pilot programs, 23 States settled arrearage debt on a case-by-case basis, and the remaining 8 States did not allow compromise of arrearages. Debt compromise resulted in an average of $9,383 settled per case. Non-custodial parents in 45 percent of sample cases made lump sum payments averaging $5,515 at the time of the agreements. Following debt compromise, 41 percent of cases closed, either after lump sum payments or with all debt settled. When cases remained open, four of five States did not routinely follow up when non-custodial parents paid irregularly.

Report Title: State Use of Debt Compromise To Reduce Child Support Arrearages http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-06-00070.pdf
Agency Sponsor: OS-OIG, Office of Inspector General
Federal Contact: Erin Lemire, 202-205-9523
Performer: Staff; Office of Inspector General
PIC ID: 8996

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