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More child support modifications are being requested as parents are laid off

WILLMAR -- Ever since the bottom fell out of the economy last fall, more non-custodial parents are asking to make smaller child support payments

There's a direct connection between increased job losses and increased requests for modifications to be made to child support payments, said Nancy Norbie, Kandiyohi County Family Services supervisor.

That situation is happening in Kandiyohi County as well as in metro counties, she said.

Norbie lets the figures do the talking.

In the fourth quarter of 2007 there were 18 requests for child support modifications made to the county.

One year later, in the fourth quarter of 2008, there were 51 requests.

This spring, at the end of the first quarter, Norbie said there were 44 requests of child support modifications in the county. That compares with 21 requests one year ago.

There are currently 65 cases pending in her office in Willmar, she said, and they likely won't be resolved through the courts until July.

The typical case involves a parent who is laid off and coming to the end of their severance pay and thus can't afford their child support expenses, said Norbie. When the custodial parent and children receive less money, they have unmet needs that has a "domino effect" on the family.

"We have both parties that are struggling. That's where it gets real difficult," said Norbie. "There are real situations out there."

Her staff works to resolve the modifications without going to court, but she said many situations are so complex they require court intervention. Because of the economy and job layoffs, judges have few options but to reduce child support payments.

If a non-custodial parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, then the judges are not as "sympathetic," she said.

Norbie said the state is searching for ways to streamline the modification procedures.

Once an individual is employed again, a review can be requested and the higher payments reinstated.

Carolyn Lange

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

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