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Unpaid child support numbers soar in Ohio

Parents who refuse to pay or do not pay child support have always been a problem in the family court system. But, recent numbers throughout the state of Ohio show that the amount of unpaid child support has increased exponentially over the last few years.

Last year, the amount owed throughout the state was $330 million, up from $246 million in 2008. That number doesn't include arrearages that increase every month.

State and county authorities point to several reasons for the increase. Probably most cited is the fact that the agencies tasked with collecting child support have had staffing cuts of about one-third of all employees over the last few years. With fewer workers available to carry the load, some child support offices have a message on their voice mail saying to expect a return call within seven days. Another reason given is the state of the economy. Many of the parents who owe child support have lost their jobs or are facing other financial hardships.

Authorities also point out that many of the harsher penalties for enforcing collection of child support that were adopted in the 1990's have fallen by the wayside.

One of the penalties adopted during that period was the suspension of driver's licenses for non-payment of child support, with licenses held until arrearages were paid or at least a satisfactory arrangement was made. But, a law passed last year allows parents to keep their licenses if they pay at least half of what they owe. Other efforts that have ceased or lessened include roundups of parents who owed back support and 'wanted' posters of the worst offenders.

These days, especially with the staffing cuts in Ohio, authorities say that the most effective techniques are automated, such as withholding income tax refund checks. However, in lieu of a reliable collection method, parents who are at the mercy of the other parent for support may benefit by keeping careful records of phone calls and communications with the other parent and with any state or county agency. This documentation will make it easier for the enforcement agency or an attorney to the non-paying parent for child support. Also, those owing child support have the option of applying to the appropriate court for a downward modification of future payments, based upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.

Source: Middletown Journal, "Unpaid child support on rise," Jim Otte and Josh Sweigart, July 8, 2012

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