Monday, October 27, 2014

We Collect a Great Deal of Child Support

Another illustration of the cost-effectiveness of the Florida OJCC is the volume of child support arrearages collected through the Judges' efforts. The Judges of Compensation Claims are statutorily required to ensure that the rights of child support recipients are considered when a support payer settles her or his workers’ compensation case. Through recent innovation, we have made this process more efficient and effective for the people that use our system.

Each Judge devotes considerable time and effort to the investigation and verification of child support arrearages when cases are settled. The significant amounts of child support collected through these efforts for the last twelve (12) fiscal years are represented in this table, which total almost one hundred twenty-nine million dollars ($128,921,661).

Fiscal Year
Annual Budget
Support Recovered
2002-03
$16,522,910
$11,031,544
2003-04
$16,225,513
$9,219,096
2004-05
$16,792,731
$8,238,113
2005-06
$17,022,942
$11,779,081
2006-07
$18,032,059
$12,266,091
2007-08
$18,367,869
$15,567,184
2008-09
$18,253,550
$10,951,854
2009-10
$18,184,779
$10,196,795
2010-11
$18,145,746
$9,176,661
2011-12
$16,662,329
$9,984,287
 2012-13 
$16,142,140
$9,626,855
2013-14
$16,938,037
$10,884,100

The volume of child support arrearages collected is particularly interesting when considered in light of the overall OJCC budget. Over the last twelve (12) fiscal years, the OJCC has collected an annual average of 62% of its overall budget in past-due child support to the benefit and advantage of support recipients throughout Florida.

When the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims was given the statutory responsibility for recovering these arrearages, no staff or budget was added to the OJCC to accomplish this charge. The process required attorneys or parties to obtain child support arrearage information from the various Florida Clerks of Court and the Florida Department of Revenue, and to submit that information with their settlement documentation.

This process required printing and mailing a request to the Clerk in the county in which the claimant lived at the time of accident and where the claimant lived at the time of the settlement. In most cases only these two of Florida's 67 counties were examined in each case. The labor and expense involved with potentially checking with all 67 County Clerks was determined to be too over-burdensome administratively. So, until the recent innovations with OJCC data access, searches were generally focused on two counties and the DOR data. 

In 2012-13, the OJCC undertook the duties associated with reporting arrearage information to attorneys on behalf of the Department of Revenue (DOR). Through a data-sharing agreement, the OJCC began obtaining a weekly copy of the DOR child support database. The OJCC Information Technology team, primarily Susan Brown and Jeff Russell, built a user interface that allowed OJCC personnel to access this shared data, and also allowed the OJCC to control which of the OJCC personnel could obtain access.

In 2013-14 the OJCC integrated the process of reporting Circuit Clerk's arrearage information to attorneys. This was accomplished by negotiating access to the Clerk of Court Information System (CCIS). Each of Florida's 67 Clerks reports their child support information to this database. The OJCC received authorization to simultaneously access all 67 counties. This process was significantly contributed to by OJCC counsels Kathleen Hagan and Stephanie Hayes, as well as OJCC Clerk Julie Hunsaker.

This combination of OJCC access to DOR and Clerk data eliminated redundancy and waste across the process. Litigants and attorneys in Florida's workers' compensation adjudication system now get all of their required child support information from the OJCC instead of the combination of DOR and the Circuit Clerks. In each case, one request for data is e-filed with the OJCC (free to ask and to file), all databases, including all 67 counties, are searched efficiently, and one response is e-served to all parties (no postage). One request, one response, no paper, no postage, no facsimile long distance. Fast, effective, efficient.
These tremendous child support services on behalf of support recipients have been delivered without any additional staff or funding for the OJCC operations. $129 Million dollars, an average of about $10 Million each year. That is a tribute to all involved, and a great illustration of the drive of this agency to improve the system for all involved.

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