EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: New court aids in more effective child support collections

2012-12-30T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: New court aids in more effective child support collectionsMary Harper nwitimes.com
December 30, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The court system in Porter County now has a circuit court judge, five superior court judges and three magistrates. Each of these nine judicial officers has certain types of cases assigned to them. Last year 37,475 cases were filed in our courts, representing 32 separate case types.

Within the case types of dissolution of marriage (DR) and paternity cases (JP), are cases addressed under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 651 et seq.). In IV-D cases, the Porter County prosecutor’s office seeks to ensure the payment of child support through the establishment and enforcement of child support orders and the establishment of paternity when that issue is present. The federal government reimburses Porter County at the rate of 66 percent for the work performed and the materials, equipment and facilities utilized to service the IV-D caseload.

This reimbursement assists in facilitating the federal requirement of expedited processes for obtaining and enforcing child support orders.

Our prosecutor, through the Porter County child support office, handles approximately 5,000 cases in varying stages arising under Title IV-D. For years, the cases have been processed through three of our courtrooms, with hearings conducted in two separate buildings before three different judicial officers -- all of whom carry significant caseloads in addition to the matters filed by the Porter County child support office.

Over the last year, the courts have enlisted the assistance of the Porter County Board of Commissioners and the Porter County Council to secure funding to establish a judicial position with staffing and the space necessary to house judicial chambers and a courtroom. This brings all of the IV-D cases into one courtroom to be heard by a single court commissioner. The joint effort of the three branches of government will expedite the processing of child support cases.

The new IV-D court will be located at the Porter County Juvenile Services Center. There, Magistrate Rinkenberger, Detention Director Cox, Probation Chief Buyer, Executive Director Amy Beier, Quest Administrator Brown and their respective staffs have worked to ensure the proper design and construction of the courtroom and the acquisition and set-up of security equipment.

Deputy Prosecutor Stafford, Clerk Karen Martin, Public Defender Osan, the county IT department and juvenile court employees have addressed the complicated procedures that will be needed to bring the cases from multiple courts together to be heard by the new court commissioner. Departments that will not directly benefit from the efforts have, nevertheless, met time after time to resolve facility completion matters and case management issues

Recently, we have all been reminded of the vulnerability of children, particularly when they are very young. They cannot protect themselves physically or financially. It is incumbent upon those of us who can render meaningful assistance in some way to do so. In 2013, our bench will add a tenth judicial officer. Lisa Moser will serve in the position of court commissioner for the new Porter County IV-D Court. This will allow us to better address the collection of child support for thousands of children in our community.

Mary Harper is Porter Circuit Court judge. The opinion in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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