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HHS to set up central child monitoring system

Monitoring and collecting unpaid child support has been a persistent problem for lawmakers in Texas and around the country. The Family Support Act, which was passed by Congress in 1995, requires states to set up child support enforcement and collection systems, but efforts to comply have been stymied in many parts of the country by technology issues and budgetary constraints. However, the 2019 budget proposal from the Trump administration contains a proposal that seeks to tackle the issue by setting up a new fund.

The budget seeks $63 million to set up the Child Support Technology Fund. The money would be used to establish a central child support monitoring system that could then be used by states to track down noncustodial parents who have failed to meet their court-ordered child support obligations and collect what they owe. According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Oval Office, a centralized system would save taxpayers about $800 million over 10 years.

The HHS currently allows states to develop their own enforcement and monitoring systems and reimburses 66 percent of their costs, but the approximately $1 billion spent so far has provided little in the way of positive results. The budget proposal provides scant details about how a central child support tracking system would work and who would be tasked with keeping it up to date, but an HHS representative said that several possible solutions were being considered.

Noncustodial parents who refuse to pay child support can face severe consequences, but tracking them down can be a challenge when they work under a false name or take an off-the-books job. Experienced family law attorneys in Texas may turn to the attorney general's office in such situations, and they may also employ skip-tracing techniques when efforts to locate noncustodial parents through official channels are unsuccessful.

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