Support exists to keep parents responsible
It's a phrase heard often in today's society. It occurs when a couple with children has divorced; the woman is awarded custody of the children and the man is ordered to make monthly child care payments. He, in turn, doesn't, which is how the phrase got its origin.
Besides that phrase, how much does anyone really know about child support?
First, what exactly is child support?
Child Support is a federally mandated program helping families by establishing paternity, along with obtaining and enforcing court orders for medical and child support. Locally, to become eligible, one has to pay a $25 application fee with the Child Support Department of the Pierce County Department of Human Services.
Heather Conway, Child Support Supervisor, and Joyce Keenlyne, Child Support Lead Worker, explained what is offered within their department.
"It's amazing what can be done here," Keenlyne said, as paternity tests are available, which is something that has skyrocketed within the department the last few years.
"The need for child support has increased due to children out of wedlock and divorces," she added.
People who receive assistance such as Medicaid are also automatically referred to child support when they receive benefits.
Second, is the "Deadbeat Dad" phrase. It's a typecast more than anything else.
"There are a lot of good payers out there," said Conway. "Dads are often the one paying child support, but sometimes mothers have to pay as well."
Her point is backed up as, in 2007, over $4 million in child support payments were collected within Wisconsin, which put the state third in the nation. Wisconsin has consistently been in the top 10 for the last few years.
And if a parent doesn't pay, the Child Support department can get those in other ways, such as on credit reports, liens, account seizures, driving licenses, passport denials, or denying hunting, fishing or driving licenses. A contempt of court can also be issued, but a court order is needed. If those solutions don't work, income withholding can sometimes be used. Keenlyne added employers have to follow the rules as well because, if they don't, they'll face legal troubles as well.
"It's frustrating for everyone that doesn't pay," Conway said. "Pay something to show you're committed." The frustration carries over to her staff as well, as she added sometimes they get emotionally involved in cases.
Once the money is collected, it goes to a trust fund in Milwaukee and is then sent to the parent who generally has the child.
Third, what if the parent can't make payments?
Conway said there are programs available for parents that can't do it. One of the ones available locally is called Children's First, which helps people find employment to pay. The program also helps parents receive parenting support, counseling and other services.
For more information about the Child Support Agency, call 715-273-6764.