Local News

State or Counties: Which Should Govern Child Support?

Posted October 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— In some North Carolina counties state government handles child support. In others, county government handles it.

At issue currently is whether different regulations are making it harder for some families to collect their money.

A lot of people don't realize that the state controls child support in only 30 counties, which means anyone with a child support problem in the other 70 counties needs to deal with the county child support office. This can be confusing and frustrating to parents who say they're getting no relief from the system and don't know where to turn.

Sonya Madden is a client and says she is owed hundreds of dollars in back child support. She heard a lot about how the state is tough on deadbeat parents, but when she went to the state for help she found out that Wake County, not the state, has jurisdiction over her case.

In the 23 counties served by WRAL-TV5, only four allow the state to run their child support programs. They are Franklin, Warren, Harnett and Cumberland. The state goes in only when a county chooses not to run its own program.

State Child Support Enforcer Barry Miller says it is a misconception that the state has tougher child support laws than the counties. He says their success rates are almost identical. Between February and September of this year, he says, the counties collected in 55 percent of its cases while the state collected in 52 percent.

Wake county is collecting one and a half million dollars a month.

One thing that promises to make getting child support easier is the "new-hire reporting law", a federal law that went into effect this month It states that employers must report the names of new employees to child support officials where they live right away so that the county or state office can begin garnishing the wages of the parent immediately. This is expected to cut down on the lag time in getting child support when a parent changes jobs.

Photographer: Greg Clark andKerrie Hudzinski