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Louisiana lawmakers may OK private firms to collect child support

Any Louisiana parent who's had difficulty collecting court-ordered child support from a non-custodial parent can probably empathize with a Louisiana woman who called collecting child support from her former spouse a "part-time job." It's a problem statewide and nationwide. That's why all but six states have turned to private businesses to help collect child support.

In Louisiana, however, if someone chooses to hire a private company rather than rely on the state to obtain their money, they are often required to pay a percentage of the recovered funds. Sometimes they are charged as much as a third or even more of the recovery for that service.

One Louisiana legislator from Metarie, State Rep. Joseph Lopinto, is calling on fellow lawmakers to consider using private companies to help with collections. He argues that often private business can do things more efficiently than government entities. This efficiency is essential when parents are counting on this money every month to pay their bills.

In 2013, lawmakers in two states, Kansas and Mississippi, voted to allow their state human services departments to hire private firms to collect child support, just as collectors go after people who don't pay other bills. Kansas is predicting an increase in child support collections of more than $50 million in just three years of using this new strategy.

Meanwhile, as a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services says, they are using "all the tools at our disposal." These include garnishing wages and taking tax refund money and gambling winnings. The state has already recovered $1.8 million in child support from casino winnings. Louisiana can also disrupt recalcitrant parents' lives by refusing to allow them a passport and suspending various types of licenses.

The state can also collect money owed by a parent from that person's new spouse, but only if the couple files a tax return jointly. That doesn't always work because the new husband or wife can file what's called an "injured spouse report" to prevent having to share their spouse's child support obligations.

Sometimes a parent truly cannot pay what he or she owes, and a revision of the child support agreement may be in order, at least temporarily. Other times, the parent is just refusing to pay. Either way, Louisiana family law attorneys can help parents trying to support their children to determine the best course of action for their situation.

Source: WDSU News, "States take to private sector to help with child support collection" Blake Hanson, May. 15, 2014

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