Friday, October 2, 2009

Indiana to research alternatives to incarceration for non-payment of child support

The second session of the Indiana General Assembly Advisory Committee of Child Support and Child Custody met in Room 233 at the State House on Friday 02 October 2009. There was not a quorum of the committee present because of prior obligations of some members but no vote on any issue had been planned.

The recently adopted amendments to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines and execution of paternity affidavits were on the agenda. Jeffrey Bercovitz, director of Juvenile and Family Law at the Indiana Judicial Center was the first to present on the Child Support Guideline amendments. Mr Bercovitz from some feedback about the process that went into the Domestic Relations Committee writing the amendments.

This included receiving public testimony in July of 2008, a period of written public input and numerous meetings of the Committee. The Committee also surveyed judges, attorneys and Title IV-D prosecutors. Dr Jane Venohr from the Center for Policy Research in Denver Colorado was hired as an expert advisor for the Committee.

I spoke on the issue of avoiding incarceration for non-payment of child support orders. Representative Summers had requested at the 25 September meeting that some alternatives to incarceration be addressed.

Failure to pay court ordered child support is rarely the result of refusal to comply with the court's order. Most often it is the result of a change in circumstances, being a loss of employment or an unrelated incarceration. At the time when these parents most need the assistance of an attorney to seek a modification of support they can least afford it. The result is building of the arrears. Instead of helping to eliminate the arrears we have additional punitive measures available for those not paying.

Two years ago one of our members was only paying about half of his court ordered child support payments but then quit paying any because he was fired the day the prosecutor suspended his license. This is a common occurrence that benefits none of the parties. With the help of the organization he was able to get a reinstatement, we found a job for him, his support was reduced to less than half and now 65% of his wages are being garnished.

Virginia has taken a similar approach to child support payment enforcement. In 2008, the Division of Child Support Enforcement established the Intensive Case Monitoring Program (ICMP), an innovative measure to maximize child support collections and decrease incarceration due to non-payment.

Case managers there have helped delinquent support obligers in securing employment, housing, education, and other warranted services. Through June 2009, that program has helped 199 participants and collected more than $175,000 in child support payments, about $900 per person, – an amount significantly higher than the child support paid by the same population six months prior to participation. Also much higher than amounts collected through incarceration. That program costs about 1/3 of every support payment dollar collected but we can easily envision this ratio dropping as the initial investment is spread out over future years of payments.

As unemployment remains high and our economy appears to be headed into decline again we need to think about possible ways to assist in providing support. Can we be creative enough to establish a program where an out of work parent does some type of community service in exchange for vouchers from a food pantry that can be given to the custodial parent?

Will Indiana examine Virginia's program and adopt something similar?

Will Indiana adopt statute that automatically grants conditional drivers license for employment and exchange of the children to those whose license is suspended for not paying support.?

Will Indiana adopt statute that requires the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to notify the court having jurisdiction over a child support order when a parent ordered to pay support begins receiving unemployment compensation?

These are a few of the ideas that I came up with in the past week that may be able to assist those non-custodial parents who don't have the means to pay support but are still facing incarceration. I hope to be able to assist the Committee with any of these endeavors they may wish to pursue.

The next speaker was Mr Beatty who is a non custodial parent and has provided testimony to both committees in the past. He also spoke on the issue of incarceration. He suggested that the State devise a program that provides tax credits to employers of non-custodial parents who are out of work and have a child support arrears.

Mr Beatty explained that a program already exists through Workforce One that provides credits to employers for hiring custodial parents who receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families [TANF]. He also spoke about a program that is similar to this in Delaware County.

The Committee then moved onto the subject of paternity affidavits. Chris Worden, an Indianapolis family law attorney, provided to the Committee copies of his article Rethinking the Paternity Affidavit as it appeared in the May 2009 issue of Res Gestae. Mr Worden reserved his comments to the Committee for the 16 October 2009 meeting so the members would have time to read his article first.

The next meeting of the Child Support and Child Custody Committee will be Friday 16 October 2009 at 9:30 am in room 233 of the Indiana State House.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

1 comment:

Houstonlaw said...

I read on a blog that the US government is now refusing anyone with over $2,500 in child support arrears from receiving a passport.It is really nice way to enforce people to provide their children economic support.

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