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Child support arrearages and Maryland's debt compromise program

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As some of our Gaithersburg readers know from personal experience, child support enforcement in Maryland could be better. It's estimated by the Office of Child Support Enforcement that, nationwide, a total of roughly $100 billion in child support arrearages has accumulated since the creation of the nation child support enforcement program more than 40 years ago. Though arrearages here in Maryland only make up a fraction of this total, it's an amount that is felt by each and every family who is currently waiting for overdue support payments.

Many people believe that the best way to decrease arrearages is to enforce stricter penalties against noncustodial parents who fail to meet their court-ordered obligation. Others disagree, pointing out that stricter penalties insinuate that all delinquent parents are making a conscious decision to not pay child support when in fact their inability to pay may not be within their control.

Few Marylanders know, however, that our state had another idea about how to mitigate delinquent payments and reduce the amount of arrearages owed to the state each year. The fix: a debt compromise pilot program, which was run between 2000 and 2003 and then later implemented by Md. Family Law Code ยง 10-112.1.

The program, as you may not know, allowed noncustodial parents to settle a portion of or all of their unpaid child support arrearages with the custodial parent. Typically, a more feasible payment plan was then worked out between both parents to ensure no further delinquent payments.

Maryland is not the only state to have tried a pilot program or implemented a debt compromise program to help struggling noncustodial parents meet their child support obligations. In fact, Maryland is one of 24 states with fully-implemented debt compromise programs, which have proven incredibly effective in reducing arrearages and the likelihood of future payment delinquency.

Sources: The Department of Health and Human Services, "State Use of Debt Compromise to Reduce Child Support Arrearages," Accessed Oct. 21, 2015

The National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Child Support Agencies with Debt Compromise Policies," Accessed Oct. 21, 2015

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