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Kandiyohi County seeing a decrease in collections for child support due to tough economy

For the first time that Nancy Norbie can remember, there was a decrease in the total amount of child support payments collected in Kandiyohi County in 2009.

The $5,280,868 collected in 2009 was a 3 percent decrease from 2008.

The reason, she said, is because parents lost jobs or were earning less money.

"The big story in our unit was the economy," said Norbie, a family services supervisor, in a report this week to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. "It's really hit us."

The county's child support program collects payments from non-custodial parents for families who are receiving public assistance and in some court-mandated cases. The service can also be requested with a $25 application fee for people not receiving public assistance.

When parents have a change in income, they can request a modification to their child support plan.

In 2009 there were 210 modifications completed, said Norbie. That's a 42 percent increase from 2008.

"I attribute the increase in modifications to the economy," she said.

When a parent in the system becomes unemployed, the child support department collects support from "re-employment insurance," the state of Minnesota's program formerly called "unemployment compensation."

In January of 2008 there were 64 cases of collections from unemployment compensation. In January of 2009 there were 117 cases. In January of 2010 there were 150 cases.

Despite the modifications and decrease in total collections, the department is still collecting a consistent 74 percent of current support owed, Norbie said.

During the last year, the county opened 623 cases and closed 673 cases. "It's been a really, really busy year for us," she said.

As the economy improves, Norbie expects there will be additional modifications made to child support plans. She hopes those modifications include increases in payments that will be for the "best interest of children."

She said a new Internet tool is available on the Minnesota Department of Human Services' Web site to help parents calculate their child support payments based on new income earnings.

Norbie recommended using the online calculator before requesting a modification. Once a modification has been requested, it can't be stopped, even if the payment schedule is unfavorable to the requesting parent.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750