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Unpaid Child Support Puts Pressure on State Programs, Taxpayers

Parents who don't pay their child support are not just hurting their own children. Image by Jeremy Brown
Parents who don't pay their child support are not just hurting their own children. Image by Jeremy Brown
August 13, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Parents who don't pay their child support are not just hurting their own children. Erin Sullivan Sutton with the Minnesota Department of Human Services says they're also taking advantage of taxpayers, by putting pressure on state programs that help the poor.

"When the child support is not being paid, there is pressure on both the custodial parents and the state system because custodial parents may have to rely on other public assistance programs in order to meet the needs of their children and families."

Sullivan Sutton, who is assistant commissioner for children and family services, says about 80 percent of cases in the child support system have debt, and the cumulative past-due support in Minnesota is currently over $1.5 billion.

There are a number of tools that the state can use to go after non-custodial parents who are in arrears on child support. Sullivan Sutton says that includes seizing financial assets and intercepting tax refunds.

"And that's one that's used fairly frequently. So if an obligor, or a non-custodial parent, is getting a tax rebate, but they have child support arrears, that tax rebate will be intercepted and be redirected to the custodial parent."

Despite the huge amount that is past due, Sullivan Sutton says Minnesota is actually one of the top states when it comes to child support payments.

"About 70 percent of the total support owed on these cases gets paid at least something. Minnesota actually ranks fourth among the 50 states on that particular measure. And about 40 percent of the cases receive 75 to 99 percent of the support owed."

More information on the child-support situation in Minnesota is at edocs.dhs.state.mn.us.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN