NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Across New Mexico, more than $200 million was owed in child support in fiscal year 2022. But the latest numbers from a new state report show that more 40% of this sum has not been received.
After a divorce or separation of custody in New Mexico, non-custodial parents may be required to pay a monthly sum to help raise them. In 2021, state child support laws were updated with a formula showing how much parents must pay. But the latest assessment from the state budget-focused Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) shows that about $95 million in child support owed went unpaid from July 2021 to July 2022.
“Child support collections totaled $130.3 million and fell short of the fiscal 22 target of $145 million,” the recent LFC report said. “The decline in recoveries began in September 2021 when many non-custodial parents lost unemployment benefits, which were collected as part of payroll deductions.”
In 2021, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 140, which seeks to “adjust” child support payments in an effort to give non-custodial parents a better chance of paying child support owed on time. These changes were first put into practice in July 2021 and the results are “promising”, according to the LFC analysis.
Still, the state agency charged with collecting child support reported relatively low compliance. The state’s Division of Child Support Enforcement reports that only 52.4% of non-custodial parents paid child support in cases with child support orders in fiscal year 2022. This number has hovered between about 51% and 56% over the past three years despite improvements in the state. child support system, according to the LFC.
In February 2022, the department implemented a statewide modernization of the child support system. The department expected changes such as improved customer services, better collections and increased consistency of payments to families for the benefit of those receiving child support, according to the LFC. In a recent presentation, the department showed data indicating that by focusing on making new payment orders and modifying existing orders based on the person’s ability to pay, the department has been able to reduce enforcement action in an attempt to collect child support.
Enforcement to attempt to collect child support can include sending a letter, suspending a driver’s license, intercepting tax refunds, or even asking a court to issue a warrant. stop. But the Child Support Enforcement Division notes that its goal is “to encourage cooperation and compliance with court orders, not to punish non-custodial parents.”
According to a 2017 study by the state’s Division of Child Support Enforcement, the most extreme enforcement, issuing an arrest warrant for the nonpaying parent, does not appear to be particularly effective. They note that arrest warrants can result in one-time payments, but most parents called under arrest warrants do not maintain payments for more than six months.