In my last post, I proposed that we pause to think about Child Support in dramatically different ways. I suggested that we step away from the entrenched status quo – and start placing children and families at the center of any discussion about Child Support.
It’s an exercise that raises some thought-provoking questions that merit our consideration. For me, these are the top three:
1. How would it look if we empowered both the custodial and non-custodial parents to decide how to support their children?
Is it always necessary to focus solely on financial calculations and the resulting obligations? Or is there an arguably more “common sense” approach that recognizes the value of parenting time, co-parenting agreements and other non-cash contributions to children?
2. Is it time for state government to get out of the cost recovery business?
If you aren’t a Child Support veteran, this practice may be somewhat surprising. If a non-custodial parent is failing to make required payments, the custodial parent may need to tap other sources of public aid. When the state does receive a Child Support collection from the non-custodial parent, it must then do a series of complex calculations to determine what portion of that payment the State will retain to “pay back” the state government for the cost of that aid. That leaves just a portion of the Child Support collection for the family.
The time and cost involved in tracking and recovering state-paid assistance are immense. What if states instead allowed complete pass-through of Child Support collections? Could this support better outcomes for families? And how might simplified workflows enable agencies to adopt modern, commercial systems for payment distribution?
3. What if states started using technology to take a more nuanced approach to establishing and enforcing support orders?
Figuring out how much a non-custodial parent reasonably can and should pay takes more than a simple formula. How might agencies use analytics powered by artificial intelligence to unleash new techniques and far more transparency when making those assessments? How might technology simplify the automation and interfaces among the various entities involved in Child Support enforcement? And how could those insights help eliminate self-defeating tactics – like incarcerating or taking away driver’s licenses for failure to pay?
Having spent more than two decades serving and collaborating with Child Support leaders, I know agencies have made incredible strides. I’m now energized by the opportunity to fundamentally reimagine Child Support. Let’s keep asking bold questions and embracing new approaches that truly put children and families at the center. Together, we can transform how we deliver outcomes for and with them.
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