Guam – It appears that the system used to pay out child support disbursements needs some fixing as nearly $6 million in undisbursed child support funds have been sitting in the bank. In fact, some of that money has been sitting there since 1991.
If you are a single parent, then you know how difficult providing for a child or children can be. Food, clothing, shelter, schooling, extra-curricular activities and medical expenses all add up in caring for a child.
Sometimes a single parent manages on their own, in other cases the single parent is provided financial support from the non-custodial parent. This support is agreed upon through either a divorce decree, a mutual agreement between both parents or determined through child support court.
In cases of the latter, the payments of child support pass through the hands of the Attorney General Office’s Child Support Enforcement Division before making its way to the custodial parent.
But according to a performance audit of the AG’s CSED State Disbursement Unit for the years 2013 to 2015 nearly $6 million in child support has been sitting in the bank undisbursed–a longstanding issue that the OPA says needs to be addressed.
The OPA says ideally the balance in the child support liability account should be from child support payments waiting to be distributed in the next day or two but a large chunk of the sitting funds dates back to 1991.
The OPA identifies several factors contributing to this. First is overage, which includes a completed obligation with no arrears, a court order currently being updated in the APASI system, or a case in which APASI simply failed to apply the payment.
Second is child support held for future payment. These are advanced payments for an ongoing obligation.
Third is a collection hold as a result of further review of payment. Possible causes for this are identified as address verifications, custodial investigations, obligation changes, court ordered updates, unable to locate custodial parent and erroneous payments or other holds.
Fourth is identified as suspense when the payment needs further review because it is for a closed case and finally when the payment cannot be identified to a case.
In 2014, over $66,000 was being held for up to six months for tax offset, $206,000 held for future support, $590,000 were unidentified collections, $206,000 held while trying to locate the custodial or non-custodial parent, $235,000 held because of missing or inaccurate information, $279,000 were identified as other collections remaining undistributed, while the bulk of the funds totaling over $3.6 million were disbursed but uncashed and stale dated.
Of the amount, 73 percent have been sitting for more than five years. Why has the money been sitting for so long? The OPA states that Guam law is unclear on whether these unidentified child support payments can be escheated to the government of Guam, further stating that the AGO and DOA in 2016 planned to seek legislation to clarify the escheatment process.
If successful, the OPA anticipated a reduction of the UDCs to 1.4 million.
In a response letter dated March 29, 2016, Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson agreed with the OPA, stating “to address these aging accounts, we plan to engage an independent financial expert to assess the nature of the UDC balances and to advise us how we might return the monies to proper parties and if not to recommend options on how to proceed.” She further states that the services would be procured by the end of fiscal year.
We reached out to the AG to see what progress has been made since that letter was sent in 2016, as well as a current balance of UDCs. We are awaiting their response.