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Maryland addresses child support issues

The Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) says it has corrected seven out of 11 problems identified by auditors during an assessment of the state's handling of child support. It stressed that it plans to resolve the remaining issues by the beginning of May 2013 and enhance its ability to collect payments from noncustodial parents. However, the Office of Legislative Audits, which initially reported on the state's failure to adequately enforce child support orders, must approve the corrections before the DHR's Child Support Enforcement Administration can collect $100,000 of its 2013 budget appropriation.

State auditors found that child support collectors in Maryland made a number of serious mistakes between 2007 and 2010. For instance, officials reportedly failed to withhold wages from many delinquent payers and did not make use of their ability to seize funds from noncustodial parents' bank accounts when they refuse to pay court-ordered child support. The state even repeatedly sent child support payments to deceased parents, some of which were wrongfully cashed by the recipients' surviving relatives.

A new secretary began overseeing Maryland's Human Resources Department in 2011, promptly resolving several of the problems raised by the auditors. For instance, he spearheaded the creation of a new database aimed at keeping track of dead custodial parents and preventing the fraudulent cashing of payments and supported work programs for noncustodial parents who cannot afford their child support obligations. In 2012, his department collected a $544 million in child support, a state record.

Following his success, the secretary asked auditors to stop withholding the DHR's funds, but they stressed that they would only do so once the agency successfully addressed all of the issues detailed in the audit.

While Maryland has taken measures to assist noncustodial parents, thousands of people across the state still struggle with unaffordable obligations. However, such individuals may be able to secure child support modifications with the assistance of a qualified family law attorney.

Source: Daily Record, "Child support agency makes progress on reforms," Llana Kowarski, March 6, 2013

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