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State or Counties: Which Should Govern Child Support?

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Only a few counties have asked the state's to control its child support collections.
RALEIGH — In some North Carolina counties stategovernment handles child support. In others, county government handles it.

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

A lot of people don't realize that the state controls child support inonly 30 counties, which means anyone with a child support problem in theother 70 counties needs to deal with the county child support office.This can be confusing and frustrating to parents who say they're gettingno relief from the system and don't know where to turn.

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

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

State Child Support Enforcer Barry Miller says it is a misconceptionthat the state has tougher child support laws than the counties. He saystheir success rates are almost identical. Between February and Septemberof this year, he says, the counties collected in 55 percent of its caseswhile 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 monthIt states that employers must report the names of new employees to childsupport officials where they live right away so that the county orstate office can begin garnishing the wages of the parent immediately.This is expected to cut down on the lag time in getting child support whena parent changes jobs.

Photographer: Greg ClarkandKerrieHudzinski

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