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August 1, 2002

Revenue Department Sets New Record for Child Support Collections

TALLAHASSEE - Despite an economic downturn across the nation, Florida's child support enforcement team collected a record $870.5 million in the state fiscal year that ended June 30, an 11.6-percent increase, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) announced Thursday. Collections are up more than $90 million over the previous year.

"Three things have led to this success: tougher state and federal laws, more effective enforcement tools and hard work by DOR employees," said Jim Zingale, executive director of DOR. "We have a long way to go before all Florida children receive the support they need. But I am encouraged by the progress we have made."

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:

  • Suspend driver and hunting or fishing licenses.
  • Intercept income-tax refunds and lottery winnings. Plans to intercept insurance settlements are nearing implementation.
  • Garnish payments from paychecks.
  • Freeze and seize money from financial accounts.

Also, legislation signed last year by Governor Bush, which will take full effect in October 2002, will allow the Revenue Department to recommend criminal prosecutions of the worst violators if they have the financial ability to support their children but repeatedly refuse to do so.

As of June 2002, DOR oversaw about 668,000 child support cases statewide, involving about 896,000 of Florida's 3.5 million children. (One case may involve more than one child.) This caseload represents about one in four Florida children.

The past fiscal year's success follows an uninterrupted string of collections records set by DOR. The state of Florida collected $388.6 million in child support in Fiscal Year 1993-1994. The next year, operation of the program shifted to the Department of Revenue. Each year since, child support collections have steadily climbed. In FY 2000-2001, DOR collected about $780 million.

In addition to its increase in collections, DOR was able to increase the number of cases with support orders by 19,675 cases in FY 2001-2002. DOR cannot collect a dime of support for a child until a support order is in effect. About 410,000 of 668,000 CSE cases have an order in effect.

Zingale thanked Gov. Bush and the Legislature for providing other important tools to improve child support enforcement in the 2002 session. They include:

  • A new law that will allow the Department to establish child support orders administratively rather than through judicial means when the paternity of the child is not in question. Using this new law, the Department expects to cut months off the time needed to create a support order in many thousands of child support cases. Other states have made significant improvements in performance after adopting such processes.
  • $12 million for the first phase of a new automated child support information management system that will operate by pre-programmed business rules, speeding cases through the child support system more quickly and freeing up DOR staff to perform higher-order functions that require human intervention. DOR expects this innovative, web-enabled technology, specifically created to administer child support enforcement, will be much more effective than the current aging, mainframe computer system, which is inefficient, cumbersome, hard to reprogram and challenging to manage. "Implementation of the new computer system will not only speed up and improve our service to families, it also will give us the sophisticated, precise measurement tools needed to drive real improvements in child support enforcement performance," Zingale said.

While DOR has enjoyed success in increasing child support enforcement collections, the job isn't done. DOR's strategic initiatives include improving business processes that establish child support orders, enforce the orders, distribute child support money and provide customer service to families, Zingale said.

"We are keenly aware that families all over Florida are hurting because some parents can't - or won't - support their children," Zingale said. "That's why we have implemented radical reengineering of these vitally important business processes. We are committed to getting more money to more children more quickly."