Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and around the country have struggled for decades to develop effective ways to keep track of and collect unpaid child support. Congress tasked states with the job of putting such systems into place with the passage of the Family Support Act in 1995, but these efforts have often been stymied by bureaucratic roadblocks and problems with technology. However, the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal includes $63 million to address this issue by setting up a fund that will be used to create a central child support monitoring system that states will be able to use.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the White House say that the Child Support Technology Fund could save the federal government as much as $80 million per year over the next 10 years. The HHS currently reimburses states 66 percent of the cost of developing child support monitoring systems of their own. States spend an average of $120 million to modernize their systems, according to the budget summary, and an agency representative has indicated that HHS subsidies have already reached about $1 billion.
The 2019 budget proposal does not say when a central child support monitoring system is likely to be brought online, and it provides few details about how it will work in practice and who will be responsible for updating and maintaining it. An HHS representative said that the agency is evaluating several potential solutions that are not based on any current state system.
When noncustodial parents fail to meet their child support obligations, and state monitoring systems are unable to locate them, experienced family law attorneys may conduct investigations of their own. These efforts could include skip-tracing strategies that are designed to locate individuals who are seeking to avoid detection by working off the books or under an assumed name.