Why the States Don't Try To Collect Child Support and Never Will
Jeff aka sarge
Why the States Don't Try To Collect Child Support and Never Will
[You can find child support calculators for every state online. Play around with them sometime. You will quickly see the time a parent has with their children, or lack of, has the greatest impact on the child support award. Clever, isn’t it?]
Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 5:07pm
True Equality Network’s (TEN)
As most of True Equality Network’s (TEN) readers know we are a group with over 3,250,000 members worldwide, comprised mainly of women. The women of TEN live and breathe the problems with child support issues every day of our lives. Some as recipient custodial parents, others as the significant others of non-custodial child support obligors, and others as the parents of the prior two groups.
There is no doubt our child support system has major problems and it has become one of the most polarized issues of present day debate. We understand that there is a wide range of concerns that affects everyone involved. But no group suffers more than our children.
Objective research -- and the fact that every state has cut funding for child support enforcement since 1999 by as much as 32% -- provides concise evidence that the Federal incentives under the failed “Child Support Incentive and Performance Act” (CSPIA) actually pays the states more money not to collect child support arrearages than is does for collecting them. Most of the people screaming about the problems with child support are missing the most critical point; the fighting is all about the money, not about our children.
There are real “dead-beat parents,” but by and large their numbers are exaggerated and the reasons they fall behind is grossly misrepresented. Between the misrepresentation of the problems and the emotional rationalization supporting idiotic and counter-productive enforcement, the bias against non-custodial parents has reached critically dangerous levels in both public perception and within government policy.
CSPIA is an extremely complicated incentive system that could barely be described in a series of reports, never mind the sound bites we Americans are accustom to getting our information through. Therefore, in that spirit here are a few points in compact communiqué format;
1. The US Census Bureau reports that 90% of fathers with joint custody, 79.1% of fathers with visitation rights, and 44.5% of father with no visitation rights pay their child support on time and in full.
2. Parents who are denied visitation with children don’t pay child support regardless of the enforcement actions taken over 50% of the time.
3. Less than 5% of male and less than 15% of female child support obligors who legitimately qualify for federally required downward modifications in their child support orders are granted reductions.
4. The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) reports that over 80% of all outstanding child support arrearages are owed by obligors’ earring less than $10,000.00 per year. Most, over 80% of the arrearages from this group remain unpaid after ten years.
5. DHHS-OCSE reports that approximately 5% of all outstanding child support arrearages are owed by obligors earning over $40,000.00 per year and 100% of the arrearages owed by this group are paid within ten years.
6. US Census Bureau figures show only 57 percent of non-custodial moms and 68 percent of non-custodial dads required to pay child support pay all they owe on time.
7. The most effective and cost effect method of child support enforcement is enforcement of custody and visitation orders.
8. Since 1999, every state has cut state level funding for child support enforcement by as much as 32%.
9. The most common method of wrongly reducing a parent’s time with their children is through false claims of abuse.
10. False claims of abuse are so pervasive our states have started passing laws making it a criminal act to do so in the course of a custody or divorce action (The sad thing is; filing false claims of abuse in a court is perjury and perjury has always been a crime).
Now that the basics are covered, covering some of the details is in order. A detailed review of the structure of federal child support incentive programs can found in the TEN report, “Abuses by the States of the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act (CSPIA).” An outline/abstract/ oversimplificati on follows that by no means discloses all the money the states make abusing everyone involved.
Some of the incentives for collected child support are allocated in an “incentive payment pool” found in 42 USC 658(b)(2)(A) as follows;
IPP = Incentive payment pool =
(i) $422,000,000 for fiscal year 2000;
(ii) $429,000,000 for fiscal year 2001;
(iii) $450,000,000 for fiscal year 2002;
(iv) $461,000,000 for fiscal year 2003;
(v) $454,000,000 for fiscal year 2004;
(vi) $446,000,000 for fiscal year 2005;
(vii) $458,000,000 for fiscal year 2006;
(viii) $471,000,000 for fiscal year 2007;
(ix) $483,000,000 for fiscal year 2008; and
(x) for any succeeding fiscal year, the amount of the incentive payment pool for the fiscal year that precedes such succeeding fiscal year, multiplied by the percentage (if any) by which the CPI for such preceding fiscal year exceeds the CPI for the second preceding fiscal year.
We’ll call this incentive payment pool, “the big pie.” The states compete for their share of the big pie by adding up all the child support they collect, apply a dizzying calculation that basically takes the collected money and divides it by their administrative costs of collecting it. That resulting ratio is applied against a percentage table found at; 42 USC 658(b)(6)(E) .
If the cost-effectiveness performance level is:
At Least, But less than: The applicable percentage is:
5.00 ____________ _________ __100
4.50________ __4.99___ _______90
4.00________ __4.50___ _______80
3.50________ __4.00___ _______70
3.00________ __3.50___ _______60
2.50________ __3.00___ _______50
2.00________ __2.50___ _______40
0.00________ __2.00___ _______0
The state may then apply that percentage of their collected child support for the grab at the big pie each year, we'll call that, “their number.” For example; if a state collects 10 million dollars in child support and may apply 90% of that, their number is 9 million dollars and that amount can be applied toward the big pie grab. Each state figures out their number, the states’ "their number" are then added together, we'll call this “the big number.” Each state’s percentage their number represents of the big number is the percentage of the big pie each state gets.
So the states have an incentive to get their number as high as possible and motive to perpetrate widespread fraud and abuse to do so.
Arrearages; uncollected child support. Arrearage incentives are handled differently and there are several incentives for various alleged enforcement functions. Most comes from a match grant system that originally covered 66% of the states’ administrative costs for child support enforcement. In the 2005 federal budget cut that was changed so as to reduce the match to 50% over a five year period. The governors association raise the devil about this cut, even though the governors were cutting their own budget funding for child support enforcement by as much as twice the percentage the federal incentive were being cut. That is one of those things that makes you say, “WTF?!?”
Most, over 80% of child support is collected by automatic payroll deductions. These “collections” have extremely low administrative costs over the duration of the child support order. So any state that can't keep their number based on 80% or more of their state’s collected child support is clearly run by imbeciles. Arrearages on the other hand can cost 7 to 11 dollars in administration cost for each dollar collected. Once collected, those costs must be added to the states’ administrative costs of their collected child support, thus reducing their “cost-effective performance level” and therefore, their piece of the big pie.
Arrearages also have a cost effective rating system for incentives, however the arrearages are what they are and the cost are what they are, so the only effective way to contain administrative costs on arrearage collections is to cut enforcement funding and make no effort to collect the arrearages.
Well they can't actually just do this across the board. They do have to collect some arrearages. But which ones? CSPIA is primarily based on the amount of dollars collects, not so much on the percentage cases successfully collect (although that does play a minor role). The higher dollars accounts have a higher individual cost effective ratio, so they focus on these. As you go down the income range of obligors, each state hits a break point where they make more money not collecting an arrearage than they would collecting it. Moreover, at the bottom of the scale, they can actually loose incentive monies by collecting these accounts. This explains much of why 80% of all child support arrearages are owed by obligors earning less than $10,000 per year.
It is alleged that within this bottom tier of wage earners calculations are included an undetermined number of deceased obligors whose accounts were never taken off the books (Note: Dead people don't earn income, thus these cases have less than 10K income - get it?). In most states, if not all by now, child support accounts are automatically dropped when the child reaches the state’s age of maturity.
However, no state has systems in place to drop the account if the obligor dies before the child reaches the state's age of maturity. To date, the efforts by several groups, including TEN, to confirm or deny this allegation, including through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, have not been responded to. If true, this “dead money” serves to artificially inflate the arrearage numbers for the states and federal offices, helping to justify their ever increasing requests for funding.
The third “class” of child support monies is called, “Undistributed Collections” (UDC) That means the states actually collected the money, but did not pay it to the parent who was expecting it. This collective amount of collected but not distributed child support payments in every state is not a trivial amount (see: Net Undistributed Collections 2002-2006 and 2008, no data for 2007 was found on the DHHS-OCSE site).
The states will tell you they have no idea where these parents are. They tell the parents expecting the money, it wasn't paid by obligor and it sits in interest bearing accounts and the states get to keep the interest. Another thing that makes you say, “WTF?!?” The flaw in this little scheme is that not all divorced parents argue endlessly with each other. Some do communicate, including on topics like, “… are your child support payments coming out of your paycheck every pay period?”
A smart group of women got together and sued the state of Maryland. The year the suit settled Maryland’s UDC level was one of, if not the lowest in the country! However, the next year Maryland's UDC was higher than ever. If major media really wanted to do a show on a problem with child support that would put more food in more children’s mouths than any other issue could in one series, they would produce a show that teaches women how to band together and sue their state for the child support they collected and are keeping, earning interest on instead of supporting their state’s children. Now that would be effective investigative journalism!
Every now and then the states round up a few delinquent child support obligors and parade them before the cameras so the electorate thinks they are actually trying to support their state’s children. This is a farce.
This child support system of ours is one of the core pieces of our welfare reform of the 1990’s. It was supposed to replace public assistance programs by collecting child support more effectively to help those in need. That is what public assistance program’s goals are, correct? There are two major failures of our welfare reform;
1. The parents who need the child support the most get the least amount of service, so our welfare reform is not replacing public assistance; it simply abandoned the neediest and their children.
2. Many critics of public assistance claimed that just giving out money without accountability creates illegitimate/ out-of-wedlock births. Under CSPIA, if the non-custodial parent makes a lot of money, the custodial parent will get a great deal more money from child support then from public assistance, with even less accountability. So one has to ask; if giving money to someone with out any accountability is the problem, how did Congress figure that giving them more money with even less accountability would fix the problem? It didn't, out-of-wedlock births are the highest in our nation’s history. Another colossal failure of welfare reform.
Why isn’t the major media interested in doing a show about these problems? They affect more children than non-payment of child support does. I’m sure there is a reason, but we’ll get to that another time.
In order for the states to get the biggest piece of the big pie as they can, they need a lot of child support to be collected. To that end, they need a lot of child support on their books. So, they must generate the maximum amount of child support per case and being that their budgets depend on those incentives, they have to find a way to maintain those levels in as many cases as they can.
Because most states child support system is based on an “income sharing” model and not a cost of child rearing model (although that does play a minor role) they are stuck working with the parents income, as they are what they are and the state cannot change that. The same applies for the costs the parents have, they are what they are. The only thing they can control is how much time each parent has with their children.
You can find child support calculators for every state online. Play around with them sometime. You will quickly see the time a parent has with their children, or lack of, has the greatest impact on the child support award. Clever, isn’t it?
This is covered in details in our Op-Eds; “How the Failures of Welfare Reform Created Our Lawless Courts” and “Congressional Guidelines for Abusing Women.”
You have more than likely heard or read countless communications telling you how false claims of domestic violence are the root cause of the failure of our child support system. This is absolutely true and is covered in great detail in the articles referenced above. Likewise with the matter of physical torture being used on delinquent child support obligors and those accused of fabricated arrearages.
The methods of torture include, “water-boarding,” hypothermic torture, and genital electrocution where stun guns are applied to the victim’s genitalia and then activated. Oddly, and most disconcerting, only a few short weeks after these heinous acts were reported to the United States Congress, they voted to approve their use on foreign detainees.
I am often asked why such a dysfunctional, abusive, and corrupt system is so broadly supported. That answer requires some understanding of who benefits from the continuation and expansion of the funding and how they get the funding.
Consider these questions. If all the fighting between separated parents magically ended tonight at midnight, how many tax dollar funded jobs would no longer be needed tomorrow morning? What effect would that have on custody decisions? What private sector companies would lose revenue as a result? The answers to these questions are far beyond the scope of this note and are equally as upsetting as what was covered.