Iowa parents who’ve skipped out on child support payments may soon have a harder time hiding from the state. Beginning next month state investigators will have access to cell phone directories in tracking down deadbeat parents. Jeanne Nesbit is Division Administrator of Iowa’s Child Support Recovery Unit.Nesbit says investigators think there are a lot of people who don’t have a “land-phone” any more, just a cellphone. So the agency requested legislative authority to get the cell phone billing addresses of people they’re looking for. Nesbit says cell phone numbers are currently unlisted, but the legislature changed the law this spring to give the state access to those records. Iowa currently ranks sixth among the nation in child support recovery, but still only collects about 62-percent of the money owed. She says the agency’s really concerned about the 38-percent not collected in the year when it’s due. “That 38-percent doesn’t go away,” she explains, “it becomes a delinquency.” The state still has to try and collect it though it’s not as timely as would be ideal. In addition to wireless phone accounts, the agency will tap money going to delinquent parents from other government funds — including Social Security. She says some people are surprised to find out there’s an income-witholding order on their social security check. “Just because you’re 65 and on Social Security doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation to the person who raised and supported the child without your help.” About a third of the parents who don’t pay their child-support live out of state — but Nesbit told a government oversight committee that many live just across the border. To address that, she says the agency proposed one office with a worker from each state’s child-support office, to compare cases so it won’t help a deadbeat to move across the river. They’ve already tried it in Nebraska, and “that’s looking very promising,” Nesbit says. Next they’ll try a similar team strategy with Illinois. Iowa recovered over 300-million dollars in child support payments last year, but Nesbit says there’s still over one billion in back support due Iowa parents.
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