Child Support Enforcement:

Issues in Establishing an Instant Check System for Child Support Orders

AIMD-99-43R: Published: Dec 31, 1998. Publicly Released: Dec 31, 1998.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the feasibility and cost of creating and maintaining an instant check system for child support orders under which an employer would be able to determine whether a newly hired employee is required to provide support under a child support order.

GAO noted that: (1) several issues would need to be considered before determining the feasibility of an instant check system for child support orders; (2) a feasibility study normally includes: (a) a determination of the viability of applying automated systems to improve program operations; (b) an analysis of the proposed system's objectives, functional requirements, and design concepts; and (c) an evaluation of alternative approaches for reasonably achieving the objectives; (3) however, before the feasibility of an instant check system for child support orders could be determined, GAO identified several overarching issues that would need to be addressed; (4) two legislative barriers would have to be addressed: (a) unless employers are required by law to use the instant check system for child support orders, it may be difficult to obtain their cooperation or develop enforcement mechanisms; and (b) 42 U.S.C. section 653 would have to be amended to grant employers access to such information; (5) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130 requires agencies to: (a) consider the effects of their actions on the privacy rights of individuals and ensure that appropriate legal and technical safeguards are implemented; and (b) establish a level of security commensurate with the risk and magnitude of the harm resulting from the loss, misuse, or unauthorized access to or modification of the information; (6) accordingly, the Office of Child Support Enforcement would need to implement a system that includes physical and technical controls to prevent and detect unauthorized use; (7) an official of the American Payroll Association who queried six employers in that group told GAO that they did not support the concept of an instant check system for child support orders because it would place an additional burden on the employer; (8) for an instant check system for child support orders to be effectively used, training and support would have to be provided to the millions of employers that would be required to use it; (9) regarding the assessment of costs, insufficient information is available on how an instant check system for child support orders would be designed in order to perform a cost analysis; and (10) essential elements in such an analysis would include costs for computer hardware, software development, maintenance, training and support.

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