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Maryland retools child support collection

It is common practice for states to levy harsh penalties against noncustodial parents who fail to pay child support, often garnishing their wages, revoking their professional licenses and even sentencing them to jail. However, such tactics often fail to actually help the custodial parents in need of support. For this reason, Maryland has begun implementing changes to the way it collects child support, changes that have shown promising results so far.

An official with the state Department of Human Resources says Maryland now distinguishes between noncustodial parents who have the means to pay but refuse to abide by their child support orders and those who simply cannot afford their obligations. Officials analyze each parent's unique circumstances to determine an appropriate course of action.

The DHR found that most parents who suddenly stopped making payments had lost their jobs or experienced another loss of income due to illness, eviction or some other financial emergency. Rather than punish these parents, the state-dispatched social workers to help them seek training and secure new jobs, as well as assisting them with the management of their medical bills.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the state's efforts paid off. Maryland collected 4.8 percent more child support this fiscal year compared to the previous year, resulting in $20.7 million in added collections. By the end of July, custodial parents across the state had received about $350 million of the total $530 million they were owed.

The DHR admits that "there will always be some parents who really do fit the description of incorrigible scofflaws," but that caution should be exercised even in those cases, explaining that revoking professional licenses, jail time and other similar measures can only make it harder to collect payments.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Collecting child support," Sep. 3, 2012

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