Ponder This the Next Time You Hear Some Chest-Thumping DA Pledge to Crack Down on 'Deadbeat Dads' (Part I)
"Missouri"s child-support record-keeping is so bad that in an estimated 51,000 cases where back payments were owed, parents owed far more or less than records show."An audit released Thursday by state Auditor Susan Montee"s office said that of 187,033 cases in which more than $1,000 in back child support was owed as of June 30, 2006, the amount owed was incorrect in 27 percent of the cases. That conclusion was based on a sample of findings from 209 cases."In some cases, the audit found, record-keeping was so far off that parents were shown as owing $309,409 to $454,647 more than they actually owed..."It"s extremely sloppy,' Montee said of the division"s system of tracking back child support. "It"s just a total inattention to making sure these numbers are right.'"The result, she said, is that unjustified enforcement actions against some parents -- like paycheck deductions or confiscation of passports -- may be taking place..."On numerous occasions I've discussed the fact that child support enforcement agencies' information about child support obligors is often faulty, and that many fathers are unfairly victimized because of it. In the new Kansas City Star article Audit criticizes Missouri"s child-support record-keeping, we learn that a new audit of Missouri child support found that "the amount owed was incorrect in 27 percent of the cases" and "record-keeping was so far off that parents were shown as owing $309,409 to $454,647 more than they actually owed." Moreover, these errors "may" have led, um, to some "unjustified enforcement actions against some parents." Oops. Keep this in mind the next time you hear some chest-thumping District Attorney or Attorney General pledge to crack down on so-called "deadbeat dads." Often the fathers targeted claim that they have been the victim of mistakes, and this audit again demonstrates that sometimes they're right. Tim Hoover, the Kansas City Star reporter, deserves credit for his frank reporting of this story. I suggest that readers send him a quick note to thank him--click here. The full story is here. Thanks to child support expert Jane Spies of the National Family Justice Association for sending me the article. Jane discusses problems with the child support system in her recent article The Myth of the Successful Child Support System.