This month marks the opening of the second joint child-support collection office in the nation. Like the first, it’s in Iowa and Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says the purpose is to ensure families get the support they need even if a former partner’s work, living arrangements or other travel takes them across state lines. He says 18 months ago, Iowa opened a joint office with Nebraska and he says it’s been very successful. Planning’s been underway for several months for the joint Quad-Cities office shared with the state of Illinois, and the new office will be located in Rock Island. Munns says both states are getting better all the time at ensuring that family support payments are made by the noncustodial parent, at least when they live in the same state. But when one parent lives in one state and the other parent lives in another, there are frustrations — the bureacracies of various states have different laws, there are awkward “hand-offs,” and information isn’t stored the same ways. There are delays in collecting support, and notifying a parent that payments are due, and delayed payments aren’t good for families depending on that support. The “whole idea” of the joint office is to give quick access to each state’s computer system, and avoid some of those “bureaucratic tangles.” States already work together, Munns says, but the process is greatly speeded by these joint centers, which he says will be very small. He dismisses the image of a big new bureau with lots of state employees and says “these are tiny little offices.” The Omaha joint office set up in April of 2004 has just 3 people working in it, and the new office in Rock Island will have only two workers. And the purpose is not to crack down on “deadbeat dads,” or parents trying to get out of child-support obligations by moving away. The specific reason for the office is to eliminate the bureaucratic barriers that come into play when there are support orders across state lines, not making any assumptions about people who take a job in another state.
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