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Could a new approach work for Houston nonsuppporting parents?

It is not uncommon for family law courts here in Houston to jail a parent for habitually not paying child support. However, some people question if this is effective. In many cases, jail time has not proven effective in solving the problem, especially when those jailed cannot make money to meet their child support payments.

According to a recent article, those in the human services field are pursuing a different, subtler approach in the matter. The federal agency, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, is pushing for more programs that will help non-custodial parents find jobs so that they can pay their monthly obligations for their children.

Last year, the OCSE started a pilot program in eight states with the hope of encouraging parents to be ready, willing and able to pay child support. Instead of punishing noncustodial parents, the project will help parents find work and to start paying by using a more cooperative approach, including better coordination among the agencies involved.

U.S. child support programs serve a quarter of all children, about 17 million, needing child support. The latest report reveals that many families rely heavily on the noncustodial parent for their monthly budget.

The program is still in its infancy and improvements will be made over time as the program continues and expands. President Obama's 2014 budget is proposing investing $1.41 billion in the program over a 10-year period. Hopefully, this will yield an additional $1.7 billion in child support payments.

Contempt hearings will continue despite this softer approach to child support. The pilot program's aim is to reduce the occurrence of such hearings by encouraging more creative solutions and employing positive strategies. More and more states are considering the same approach.

Until the program becomes a nationwide effort backed by state laws, those struggling to meet their payment obligations may consider the assistance of a family law attorney. Parents should seek a modification rather than missing payments completely. In Houston, missing child support payments can lead to serious consequences.

Governing.com, "Is Jailing Deadbeat Dads Effective?," Jonathan Walters, July 17, 2013

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