Find and Claim your Child Support before time Runs Out
By: Mary D., Published: Jan 21, 2020 | Related: Childcare Assistance, Unclaimed Child Support
Over $100 billion dollars has been collected by the U.S. Federal Child Support Enforcement Program, a program under the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which itself falls under the of Administration for Children and Families within the Department of Health and Human Services.
The program is designed to protect the child support rights of the obligee, custodial parent and ensure court orders for financial and medical child support payments are enforced. Despite its success, an estimated 750,000 in child support payments remain unclaimed. As odd as it sounds, thousands of parents have child support payments they simply haven’t claimed, and the pile of money just continues to rise each year.
Why? Some obligees don’t realize that they have money to claim. Finding it can be a daunting and time consuming task. Claiming it can be even more complicated. Here’s what you need to know if you feel like you might have any unclaimed child support payments left in the system.
Step One: Finding Your Unclaimed Child Support Payments
The Federal Child Support Enforcement Program has several tools to ensure that obligor parents pay current and delinquent child support. The Federal Income Tax Refund Offset is one such tool. It automatically redirects any refund amounts owed to delinquent obligor parents to the obligee parent in order to fulfill non-payment and delinquent payments the obligee owes to the custodian parent.
Lack of funds isn’t the issue. Instead it’s that child support is overseen, enforced and distributed by government entities on both local, state, and federal levels. County child enforcement agencies usually collect and distribute the funds. States are required to have laws concerning claiming of unclaimed child support payments, but each state handles this quite differently. For example, while one state may turn over unclaimed child support payments to their state treasury after a certain amount of time passes, another may turn it over to the unclaimed property office, and another may keep the money within child support services.
Those wanting to determine if they’re owed unclaimed payments will often be faced with searching multiple agencies and records within a given state. And, if the child support settlement was reached in a state other than your residing state, you may find yourself searching there as well.
In theory, the online state portals of information should make finding unclaimed support payments easier. Not all states have these, though, and even those that do may include a list of hundreds to thousands of names to sift through in order to find your unclaimed payment. The record may be under the custodial parent’s name or the child’s name; again, it depends on how the state files it.
Step Two: Claiming Your Unclaimed Child Support
Once you’ve confirmed you have an unclaimed child support amount, you’ll need to submit an official claim with the agency holding the monies. The agency will also ask you for documentation to prove you’re the person owed the unclaimed payments in question, which usually includes a picture ID and one or two other forms of identification.
It usually takes a few weeks for the agency to process and approve your request. They’ll send you the payment if its approved.
One of the main reasons for requests for unclaimed child support to be denied is that the statute of limitation on the claim has lapsed. States have their own laws regarding how long an obligee has to claim their monies. When that time lapses, the state is free to redistribute the funds internally and use them as they see fit. Some states hold the funds longer than others, but all states eventually release these funds back into their internal system at one point or another. When this happens, you no longer have a legal claim to the unclaimed child support payments.
As you can see, it’s imperative that obligees take immediate action if they feel they have any claim for child support they’ve failed to claim.
How Much Are Unclaimed Child Support Payments Generally Worth?
Federal regulations require each state to have a uniform application of child support guidelines. However, it’s up to each state as to how they calculate support. The local courts and Child Support Enforcement Offices generally use the state’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet as a standard calculation when issuing child support orders.
This variation makes it impossible to give a one-size-fits-all estimate on how much child support a particular custodial parent is owed is month. Some parents have reported finding out they’re owed five-figure amounts. That said, this large sum is most likely a rarity to three-figure and four-figure sums.