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Unpaid child support: big number, new tool

This a follow-up to the post we did in April on a proposed bill in the Illinois legislature to allow casinos, race tracks and other gambling venues to withhold winnings from parents who are behind on paying child support. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Darrin LaHood.

The bill did pass. To be sure, garnishing gambling proceeds will not help the families who are owed child support unless the parent who owes the back support gambles and wins. Symbolically, however, the legislation shows how serious Illinois is about helping to enforce child-support obligations.

In a recent newspaper article, Sen. LaHood used the number of $3.1 billion to describe the size of the child-support backlog in Illinois. By any standard, that is a lot of money.

With so much unpaid child support, Illinois has taken many other measures besides the gambling-garnishment legislation seeking to facilitate collection efforts. For example, the state can use its licensing power to provide consequences for parents who do not pay required support.

Drivers' licenses are of course at the top of the list of licenses that can be affected by nonpayment. There are others as well, however, including professional licenses and hunting or fishing licenses.

Garnishment of wages is also already authorized in Illinois for unpaid child support. So the garnishment of gambling winnings is only part of a comprehensive effort involving many other components.

Spearheading the efforts statewide is the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The department has an extensive database of parents who are behind on their child support payments.

Source: Peoria Journal Star, "In the Spotlight: Child support payments should be a sure thing, not a gamble," May 17, 2013

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