Realizing that people’s financial circumstances can and do change, the Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency is trying to right-size support orders.
Letters recently went out to 166 parents the agency suspects might need their monthly payment adjusted. This is the third round of letters in the pilot program that began last year.
Letters went to parents who have monthly support payments of $50 or less and pay consistently, as officials they believe they might be able to pay more. Those who have orders of $500 or more per month and haven’t been making payments also got letters because their obligations might be too much, officials said.
“Somebody that has a $500-a-month child support order that’s paying nothing is not good,” said Bill Morrison, executive director of the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services.
“So if their current employment would justify a $200 child support order instead of $500, it would better to have it set at $200 and parents actually get the money. All of $200 is a lot more than none of $500.”
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Last November, CSEA sent letters to 214 parents, 81 who have high child support payments and 133 who likely could pay more a month. Only nine people with high orders requested a review, and 33 with low orders requested review.
The high orders were reduced an average of $465 monthly, and low orders increased an average of $337.
Morrison said officials are hoping to get more people to respond this time.
“You would think those people would be really interested in lowering their child support,” Morrison said. “So it makes me think that some of them might think it’s a trick, like we’re going to have them come in for an appeal hearing and we’re going to arrest them. It’s like police departments do the ‘you won a TV’ thing.”
Parents can be charged with felony non-support if they are chronic non-payers.
Narka Gray, assistant CSEA director, said officials collect an average of about $56 million per year for 26,000 to 27,000 families.
Criteria for an administrative review is a 30 percent change in income or assets of either parent, a verified disability, either party becomes unemployed due to circumstances beyond their control or that unemployment lasts longer than 30 days, that there is an increase or decrease in child care or health insurance expenses or a parent is called to active military service.
Gray said officialsdon’t want people seeing her agency as the enemy and they have multiple programs designed to help parents with things like drivers license suspension amnesty, civil warrant recalls if they make payment arrangements and more.
“A lot of people look at the agency as enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, so we do want the public to be educated on the span of services that we can offer,” she said. “We want people to know we’re here to work with them and not against them.”
CSEA can be reached at 513-887-3362.