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Mississippi parents who get child support through DHS will soon see a fee increase

Sun Herald - 12/6/2018

Dec. 05--Many parents who receive child support payments handled by the state will soon pay a $35 annual fee.

An amendment to the Social Security Act in February has raised the annual fee from $25 to $35, with collections to start Jan. 1, 2020.

Another change increases the amount of child support a parent receives before the fee is charged. The minimum of $500 has been raised to $550, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The Mississippi State Department of Human Services handles about 268,400 child support cases and is mailing letters to about 63,000 parents who may qualify for the increased fee, a news release said.

If the 63,000 parents are already being charged $25 a year, that represents nearly $1.6 million in fees collected by the state agency. An increase of $10 a year on that number would raise an extra $630,000, bringing fee collections to a little more than $2.2 million.

The fee will be charged based on the minimum amount of child support received by the custodial parent since Oct. 1, according to the MDHS Division of Child Support.

The increased fee will apply only to payments given to custodial parents since October. But in subsequent years, the time frame will run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of the next year.

The fee will not affect the poorest of the poor, according to the criteria:

* The custodial parent has never received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

* The custodial parent is not receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at the time the threshold amount of $550 is met.

*

MDHS has disbursed at least $550 in child support to the custodial parent.

The fee is considered a support payment and is credited toward the amount a parent is ordered to receive. It's the responsibility of the person receiving the child support, not the one who pays it, MDHS says.

But custodial parents will never have to send in money to pay for the fee. It will be collected from child support payments received by MDHS before the money is sent to the parent.

Parents who have more than one account -- child support from more than one person or source -- will be charged a $35 fee for each account.

Parents can close out their child support account with the state if they do not owe a fee, an MDHS fact sheet says. It is handled through a written request. However, parents who have received $550 or more before their case is closed will still be charged a fee.

But parents who close out their accounts may run into some difficulties if the non-custodial parent changes jobs. If that happens, MDHS says it won't handle collection services unless custodial parents re-open their cases.

The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 began allowing states to collect an annual $25 fee in 2007, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States are required to reinvest a federal match and incentive payments into their child support programs. There are penalties for not meeting performance targets.

States can receive additional federal incentive money for establishing paternity, the number of cases with orders, the collection of orders and arrears, and cost effectiveness, the NCSL says.

MDHS has collected $360,687,014 in child support payments this year and established paternity for 95.5 percent of children born out of wedlock, its website says.

The state agency's September report, available online, shows it located 4,288 non-custodial parents and collected more than $26 million in child support in nearly 80,000 cases.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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(c)2018 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)

Visit The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) at www.sunherald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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