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Maryland fails to collect child support payments

A recent report from the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits has revealed that the state has failed to collect millions of dollars worth of owed child support payments over the last three years, amounting to more than $1.7 billion. The report blamed the Child Support Enforcement Administration, the agency responsible for making sure payments are received, for the mistake.

The report alleged that the agency did not make adequate use of all of its collection methods and tools. Specifically, it recommended that the CSEA take actions like suspending licenses, withholding wages, seizing bank accounts and claiming tax refunds in order to collect as much owed money as possible. While the state did receive more than $530 million in child support payments over the last three years, it failed to collect delinquent payments from more than 165,000 parents. Additionally, the CSEA failed to contact boards like the Maryland Insurance Administration to review cases, which might have resulted in $47 million worth of collected payments, according to the report.

A representative for the Maryland Department of Human Resources announced that the CSEA agrees with the findings and has already implemented changes in response to them. Previously, the CSEA waited until a parent owed more than $2,500 before taking action to collect payment, but state law dictates that collection efforts can begin when a parent owes at least $500 or is at least 60 days behind in payments. The CSEA says it will start taking action on parents who owe a minimum of $500.

The agency has also introduced an automatic system that tracks delinquent payments and garnishes bank accounts accordingly. After less than a year of operation, the system has contributed to a $1.4 million increase in child support collections.

The report also indicated that some payments had continued even after the custodial parent died. The Office of Legislative Audits stressed the importance of making sure child support payments are sent to the appropriate recipients.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Audit finds more than $1.7 billion in Md. child support unpaid," Mary Gail Hare, Sept. 15, 2011

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