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Is Maryland getting better at child support collection efforts?

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Most Maryland residents know that the various aspects of a divorce can take time to resolve and time to get used to after the fact. Child support agreements can often be the most difficult arrangements to get used to - a situation which involves a very private matter in raising a child, combined with the very public matter of ensuring that support payments are made. And we have all heard the stories about the parents who don't pay their agreed upon child support, and sometimes there are very public efforts to crackdown on delinquent payments. Maryland in particular is one state that has recently been under the microscope on how effective the state is in collection efforts.

A recent report has shown that Maryland has made notable increases in effectiveness when it comes to collecting and distributing child support. When comparing the numbers from this fiscal year to the last, collections increased 4.8 percent, to the tune of approximately $20.7 million more collected. That percentage was even higher, about 5 percent, in Baltimore City.

There are many ways that child support collection efforts can be modified to increase effectiveness, but there is still that old idea lingering out there - jail time to punish non-payment. Commonsense says that this is probably not the most effective technique. After all, someone sitting in a jail cell is definitely NOT paying child support. States have begun to pass laws to make other avenues available, however, including techniques like confiscating tax returns, garnishing paychecks and making lottery and gambling operations check for delinquent child support obligations before winnings can be paid out.

Every situation is different, and perhaps the best option is one that many parents think of last - get a child support agreement modification. We all know that times are tough out there, especially in Maryland. Certain changes in circumstances can make a modification more feasible, like losing a job. A child support dispute does not need to end in a short and unproductive jail stint. A modification of the child support agreement can benefit all parties if an agreement can be reached.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Collecting child support," Sept. 3, 2012

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