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July 23, 2003

Child Support Collections Set $965-Million Record

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's child-support collections were up almost 11 percent in the 2002-2003 state fiscal year, rising about five times as fast as inflation and setting another record for child-support collections, the Department of Revenue (DOR) announced.

Almost one child in four in Florida is touched by a child-support case.

"This is another step toward strengthening Florida families, a top priority of Governor Bush," said Jim Zingale, executive director of DOR. "Clearly Florida's children are benefiting from the new child-support tools created by the Governor, the Florida Legislature, and Congress."

DOR's Child Support Enforcement Program collected $964.8 million in the just-completed fiscal year, an increase of 10.8 percent over the $870.5 million collected last year. Child-support collections have been rising in Florida and nationwide. It is the ninth consecutive year of increases in dollars collected in child-support cases despite an overall trend of falling numbers of child-support cases, in part due to welfare reform.

In recent years, Governor Bush, the Florida Legislature and Congress have enacted laws intended to help state agencies enforce child support orders. If parents refuse to support their children as required by law, DOR can:

  • Intercept income-tax refunds, some insurance settlements, and lottery winnings.
  • Garnish payments from paychecks.
  • Freeze and seize money from financial accounts.
  • Administratively establish child support orders in certain cases, if parents agree.
  • Ask for criminal prosecutions of those who owe large amounts of child support and who can afford to pay.

In addition, the 2003-2004 state budget sets aside $23.8 million toward the development of a new, much more effective child support computer system. The new computer system will help child-support staffers apply the enforcement tools listed above to cases where parents haven't paid what they owe. The new system also will increase support collections, reduce processing time, and help CSE deliver better service to clients. It is expected to be in operation in late 2004 or early 2005.

As of June 2003, DOR oversaw about 664,000 child-support cases statewide, involving about 900,000 of Florida's 3.5 million children. (One case may involve more than one child.)