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Could one shared system help states collect child support?

All states, including Florida, have systems in place for tracking down parents who are behind on making child support payments and methods of trying to get the money they owe to the custodial parents. However, states have still struggled with keeping their systems current as technology has advanced.

Even though states have received federal money to reimburse them for system upgrades since the 1995 Family Support Act, some of these upgrade attempts have taken years and still not been successful. Last year, Indiana finally gave up.

Now the federal government seems to be ready to step in and create one system that can be used by all states. This may seem contradictory to the Trump administration's calls for cutting federal spending for domestic programs and giving more authority to the states. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as the White House are planning to include money for something called the Child Support Technology Fund in the budget for fiscal year 2019.

The plan is to use the $63 million currently earmarked for the fund to buy an IT system to track and enforce payments. HHS would make the system available to individual states and territories. HHS says that it's not looking at a particular state's system as a model for the shared system, but has reviewed "several new potential systems,"

Part of the money needed for this system would be offset by the money currently being given to states for their individual systems. The proposal estimates that this single shared system would save almost $800 million over the first decade.

There are still a number of important facets of the proposed system that have to be determined, such as who will be responsible for upgrades, who will maintain and host it and just how soon it could go live.

As we saw with the rollout of the health exchange systems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal government doesn't have a stellar track record with large system development. In the meantime, if you are having difficulty collecting the child support that is due you and your child, it's a good idea to talk with your Florida family law attorney to determine your best course of action.

Source: GCN, "A shared service for child support enforcement?," Troy K. Schneider, Feb. 13, 2018

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