Late last week, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance recognized the nearly 1 million children who benefit from the state's child support program. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a proclamation declaring August "Child Support Awareness Month" in New York.
OTDA's child support program provides custodial parents of all income levels with assistance in obtaining financial support and medical insurance coverage for their children. The program helps by locating noncustodial parents, establishing paternity, establishing support orders, and collecting and distributing child support payments.
"The families raising many of New York's children depend on child support payments to provide for basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing," OTDA Commissioner Kristin M. Proud said. "Our success in child support order establishment and collection is critical to these children's overall well-being. We do not take lightly the parents who should be making these payments, but who are not paying in full or timely. Our enforcement efforts continue to improve with better technology for tracking noncustodial parents and with greater coordination between city, state and federal agencies."
OTDA highlighted the responsibility of both parents to provide support for their children. The agency works diligently with local social service districts to fight for the well-being of the state's children by improving child support collection percentages from noncustodial parents. Though the majority of these parents pay their child support in full and on time, for those who don't follow the law and fail to make payments, the program uses several strong enforcement tools to collect past-due child support. Those collection methods and the amounts collected in calendar year 2013 include:
•Intercepting unemployment insurance benefits - $69.9 million
•Offsetting federal tax refunds - $52.8 million
•Offsetting state tax refunds - $22.0 million
•Suspending driver's license - $10 million
•Seizing lottery winnings - $1.1 million
•Denying passports - $1.7 million
•Seizing bank accounts - $11.8 million
•Asset seizures through specialized enforcement via a partnership with the State Department of Taxation and Finance - $61.2 million
For examples of just how powerful these tools can be, major collections were made last year from two noncustodial parents whose passports were denied when they desired to leave the country for vacation. The parents made child support back payments of $251,000 and $70,000, respectively, in order to have their passports renewed. In addition, lottery winnings seized by the program resulted in payments of $16,000 and $12,000, respectively, by noncustodial parents.
In addition to enforcing payments, the state helps custodial parents in other ways. Custodial parents may seek help obtaining financial support and medical insurance for their children through the program's noncustodial parent location services, by establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents, and by establishing, modifying and enforcing child support orders.
"Issues that develop between parents should not block children from getting both the emotional and financial support they need and deserve," Proud said. "We are grateful for efforts made by local child support professionals to help these families provide a stable environment for their children. We also recognize our state and federal agency partners who assist with collecting child support from those not paying willingly."
OTDA oversees two additional programs serving New York families:
•New York's access and visitation programs promote noncustodial parent access to and visitation with the children, when appropriate, through seven community-based organizations in New York.
•Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity program, which provides information and training to birthing hospital staff that focuses on the benefits of establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents.
Visit the program's website at childsupport.ny.gov to find out more about the services available to support families.