Recently, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Social Services announced that the state will no longer be responsible for collecting child support payments from delinquent parties. In most North Carolina cases, child support is calculated according to the Child Support Guidelines. In the past, child support enforcement has always been a function of the state; however, North Carolina counties must assume responsibilities for collecting payments beginning July 1, 2010. The state will save approximately $4 million annually by cutting the enforcement program, which now serves 28 of 100 counties in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Congress established the Child Support Enforcement program in 1975 in order to ensure that parents are taking responsibility for the financial support of their children.
Child Support Enforcement agents work to locate non-custodial parents, establish paternity if necessary, and petition the court to order the payment of child support. Until now, the enforcement of a court order for child support has been the responsibility of the state. Under the new law, NC counties must present a plan to assume that job by January 1, 2010 – a deadline that is quickly approaching for some financially-strapped counties. Preliminary planning indicates that some NC counties plan to place the program under their local Department of Social Services’ umbrella.
However, while Department of Social Services employees can perform the duty of enforcing the child support orders, DSS case workers are not allowed to serve as collectors under federal law. As a result, some other counties plan to hand the duties over to their county attorney or to a private company.
In order to successfully implement enforcement of child support payments, the affected NC counties must be able to set child support payments and learn how to punish parents who are able to pay and choose not to – by garnishing wages, revoking driver’s license, and even recommending that the delinquent parent serves jail time.