Child Support Changes in What You Pay and How; the State Department That Handles It Is Getting a New Formula to Calculate Support Orders, as Well as Easier Payment Methods

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Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA -- Paying child support is about to become as easy as paying a cell phone bill for some parents, one of a raft of changes being made by the Department of Human Resources to make meeting and enforcing support orders easier.

The changes span across such things as automatic child-support withdrawal from bank accounts and establishing paternity in the first place. They spring from a drive to modernize the Office of Child Support Services and preparations for a new system for calculating child-support payments, which kicks in next month, on July 1.

Officials at DHR also say the new changes will allow them to provide better service.

"Some of the things that are driving the changes are really the times," said Cindy Moss, who moved from deputy director of the office to director in March.

Technology is serving as a catalyst for initiatives that Moss and others hope will help the system prepare for the new child-support formula.

Moss said her office, which recently underwent a name change, has been around about 30 years. But little has changed since it began helping parents navigate through the legal and emotional maze of child support. The office also enforces support orders.

"It's time to look at what we're doing," Moss said.

Most of the changes simply draw from recent technology in an effort to solve stubborn problems. For example, the automatic withdrawal option for parents who are self-employed or who get paid in cash.

"The idea is that we want to make it as easy as possible," Moss said.

Some companies can withhold support from employee's paychecks. But about a third of the people who pay child support through the state office don't work at a place with that option.

"Those are the ones that are harder to get payment from," Moss said.

The office has also worked with a private company to speed up paternity tests. Tests can be set up more quickly and the results can arrive in about three days, cutting as much as a month from the process, Moss said.

"It's real important for children to have paternity established, and early," she said.

That works hand in hand with a recent law that makes it easier for fathers to establish their legal rights for visitation, Moss said.

Officials say the legal hurdles often discouraged fathers from going through the courts to get those rights.

More changes are planned. In July, the department hopes to begin sending automatic notices of new payments and reminders of appointments or court dates to clients who request them. …