A new change in federal benefits policy could pose problems for those living in Texas who also owe child support. Before this policy change, states could only take 65 percent of whatever federal benefits a parent might receive in order to pay for back child support that the parent owed. However, because benefits payments are set to go completely electronic, states will be able to take 100 percent of federal benefits to pay for back child support payments, even if the child in question is currently a legal adult.
With the economy as uncertain as it is, many state governments are resorting to aggressive collection practices in order to sustain their budgets. Since the state pays for the child if the parent does not pay child support, the state believes that those who did not pay for child support should continue paying their owed money to a state welfare program. The money, in many cases, goes straight to the government and does not directly benefit the child.
The result of these collection practices can be negative for more than just the parent who owes child support. Many parents who have not paid child support simply cannot afford the payments, due to their economic conditions or disabilities. However, this automatic system does not account for the many impoverished people who are disabled or cannot afford child support payments and are living solely on federal benefits in order to survive. Some of these parents are being taken care of by their adult children who are in turn forced to take care of their parent without the help that the federal benefits would otherwise give them.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services reports that the intention in changing these policies was not to impoverish those owing child support payments. The spokesman hinted that there may be future programs established in order to guarantee that these policies will not bankrupt those whose sole income may come from federal benefits.
While it is of course important that children who are owed child support receive that payment, hopefully Texas and other states will be able to find a way to make that happen without impoverishing noncustodial parents who are unable to work.
Source: The Washington Post, “Poor who owe child support could lose federal benefits,” Feb. 26, 2012