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Child-support payments are up, thanks to 1996 federal law

An overhaul in the enforcement system has brought about a 12.5 percent increase in child-support collections, reaching a record high of $18 billion.

The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that much of the increase results from a 1996 law that gives federal and state governments the ability to go after parents who don't pay by revoking drivers licenses, denying passport applications, garnishing wages, and seizing bank accounts.

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The federal government collected a record $1.4 billion last year in overdue child support by withholding federal income tax refunds - a 100 percent increase since 1992.

The welfare-reform law created programs that added teeth to the enforcement effort, including a program that matches the names of delinquent parents with their bank accounts. Last year, the program found more than 1 million accounts belonging to 690,000 delinquent noncustodial parents, valued at more than $3 billion.

Still, the battle is far from over. Of the 6.3 million mothers owed child support from absentee fathers in 1997, about 30 percent did not receive any payments, according to census data.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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