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Oregon Child Support, Inappropriate Orders

Oregon’s Child Support Program has issued a temporary rule as of September 23rd that recognizes that the State of Oregon has not issued “appropriate” orders to parents paying child support orders.

“The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has identified retroactive support orders as a key cause of ballooning, unpayable arrears, particularly when entered for low-income parents.  Large past support awards are a barrier to parental participation and to payment of ongoing support.  The perceived fairness of compensating the custodial parent or the state for earlier periods when the other parent did not pay support is no benefit if that parent never pays at all.  It leaves the Program with a record of substantial unpaid arrearages.

In step with the guidance provided by federal government, and with the Program’s goals of producing appropriate orders, we are amending OAR 137-055-3220 to limit the amount of past support that may be established to the month in which the proposed order is issued.”

This is a good step towards limiting the unusually large amount of power that this state department has.  It is also the first time in this author’s experience where the Oregon Child Support Program had some self-reflection with phrases like “perceived fairness” and also stated a reasonable goal like “producing appropriate orders.”

Incentivizing parental involvement through child support orders is an irresponsible moral direction from the child support community.

Contrary to current child support academic theory, increasing child support order awards does NOT encourage the non-custodial parent to spend more time with the shared child.  Incentivizing parental involvement through child support orders is an irresponsible moral direction from the child support community.  “Large past support awards” are not the only barrier to parental participation: any large support order is also a barrier to parental participation.  Incentivizing large support awards simply incentivizes one parent to dissolve their relationship with the other parent and pursue a child support order.

It’s encouraging to see the nation begin to recognize the tragedy of unreasonable child support orders and how it distances non-custodial parents from their children.  Read the below two articles for more about this movement:

NPR’s interview with Cynthia Osborne: How America’s Child Support System Failed to Keep Up With the Times

Jennifer Ludden’s report on From Deadbeat to Dead Broke: The ‘Why’ Behind Unpaid Child Support