State has many ways to collect child support
A deadbeat dad years behind on child support can no longer evade payment after a Jan. 6 ruling in Marion County District Court garnishing his workers compensation.
Firstcomp Insurance Co., Omaha, Nebraska, was ordered to make weekly payment to Kansas Payment Center up to $40.85 per week of workers compensation benefits and up to $11,976.19 of a lump-sum settlement due to Paul M. Heslop, who failed to pay $177 per month in child support since 2011.
The ruling is far from unique.
Trisha Thomas, child support services director for Department of Children and Families, said the agency is working to collect child support for 4,580 families in the 8th Judicial District, comprising Marion, Geary, Dickinson and Morris counties. That’s out of the 141,000 cases DCF is actively working right now. She did not have statistics for Marion County alone.
A child support order is already in place for 89.4 percent of the Eighth Judicial District cases, Thomas said. Sometimes parents haven’t gotten a divorce yet, or were not married when the children are born, and no child support order is in place.
The most frequent tool DCF uses for child support collection is an income withholding order such as the one issued to the workers compensation insurance company, Thomas said. Often the orders are issued to employers.
“We’ve got lots of different ways to enforce the child support orders, but the most frequent way is getting income from employers,” Thomas said.
DCF’s toolbox also includes programs that work with noncustodial parents, such as job readiness programs to help them obtain stable employment.
“We try to find out where the employer is for the noncustodial parent. Really the goal is to get that money coming in consistently and regularly,” Thomas said.
DCF steps in any time somebody applies for child support collection services.
Electronic data supplies much information about people DCF is trying to contact about child support. The agency can scan for unemployment and workers compensation claims, divert federal tax refunds, and seize driver’s licenses or hunting and fishing licenses.
“We can take bank accounts, we can do liens against their house or other property,” Thomas said.
The agency also works with the Department of Labor to ascertain when a parent starts a new job.
Even with all of those tools, it can be difficult to collect child support.
“A lot of people don’t get paid through a regular employer. They get paid kind of ‘under the table,’” Thomas said.
The agency sent out 90,000 letters last August to let employers know how they can work with DCF, Thomas said.
“The main thing is when someone changes employers, it’s hard to keep track of them. That’s why we work with the employers to help get their new hires reported,” Thomas said.
Doing child support work keeps 650 people including contractors busy making sure children get support.