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Arizona's strategies for finding child support evaders

According to the most recent data from the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Arizona is fifth in the nation in the percentage of people not paying court-ordered child support. That's as of fiscal year 2016. Nearly two-thirds of those ordered to pay child support in our state failed to do so.

Arizona's Department of Economic Security (DES) has been using the tactic of naming some missing child support evaders on a "wanted" list. As of February of this year, DES had 167 people who collectively owe almost $10 million on that list.

To make to the "wanted" list, which appears on the DES website, aside from being missing, a person must owe over $5,000 and not have paid any child support for at least six months. The list does not include anyone receiving welfare or who has filed for bankruptcy.

That "wanted" list comprises just a handful of the more than 142,000 people in the state who owe some $1.73 billion in child support.

In 2016, Arizona Governor. Doug Ducey and DES began a new initiative using social media to find child support evaders. It involves tweeting the names and photos of "deadbeat" parents who can't be located. DES says that they've been able to locate 110 people so far as a result of this strategy.

Of course, the problem of unpaid child support isn't limited to Arizona. According to the last U.S. Census data, less than half of custodial parents (44 percent) received the full amount of child support they were due. Women -- particularly those in poverty -- are disproportionately receiving less than (or any of) the support they're owed.

There are potential criminal penalties for failing to pay child support -- especially for those who can afford to pay and are intentionally avoiding their obligations. These include significant fines and jail time. Of course, if a parent truly doesn't have the money, neither of those penalties will help the situation.

If you can't afford to pay the child support you've been ordered to pay or if you believe the amount you owe is unfair, it's essential that you inform the court so that the order can be reviewed and possibly amended. Never simply stop paying or pay less than the full amount, even if your co-parent verbally agrees. This could cause serious legal repercussions. An experienced Arizona family law attorney can provide you with guidance.

Source: Arizona Sonora News, "Arizona falls short paying child support, evaders owe nearly $2 billion," Jessica Suriano and Allison Suarez, March 21, 2018

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