The New Mexico Child Support Enforcement Division works with parents and guardians to make sure New Mexico’s kids get the financial support they need to thrive. Its purpose is to ensure that children receive consistent financial support from both parents during their childhood as a pathway out of poverty and to allow them to do what they do best — which is to just be kids.

Last year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Senate Bill 140. It’s an important measure that updates and modernizes New Mexico child support laws, bringing them into federal compliance while benefiting more New Mexico families with job development and job opportunities, and right-sized court orders, resulting in more child support payments and less debt for parents who are trying to support their children.

This year, we want to ensure that more of the money that the Child Support Enforcement Division collects goes to families and kids first. Let us explain.

Federal law requires recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to “assign their rights” to child support. This means that the cash temporary assistance a low-income family receives is treated as a loan collected through child support payments and is paid back to the state and federal government.

However, changes in federal law now allow states to distribute child support collections in a way that sends those payments to families first instead of back to the government. Several states have already adopted these modernized rules to assist more low-income families. They include Alaska, California, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia.

We want to do the same in New Mexico. Currently, the child support budget expects to collect $1.74 million from current and former low-income families receiving federal assistance. It is part of its yearly base budget. By absolving the $1.74 million with its state general fund, New Mexico can take advantage of the new distribution rules and each year and pass as much as $6.9 million directly to the custodial parent and child — families who need it the most.

Here is an example of how this will work for New Mexico’s families: Last year the Child Support Enforcement Division collected $6.5 million in federal tax intercepts from noncustodial parents. Instead of that money going directly to children in families receiving temporary assistance, $3.3 million was retained by the government. By changing the rules, and funding the child support program appropriately, New Mexico’s families would have received the additional $3.3 million, assisting some of the poorest children in our state.

The safety and well-being of children in New Mexico is our top priority. If you’d like to see this happen, urge legislators to support this budget request.

Betina McCracken is the acting Child Support Division director and Kari Armijo is the deputy Cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department. For more information and for questions about child support email child.support@state.nm.us. For questions about public assistance benefits, contact the Consolidated Customer Service Center at 800-283-4465.

Popular in the Community