Even if all your exes live in Texas, if you don’t want to pay your child support you better get out of Gila County.
The county leads the nation in child support enforcement for fiscal year 2009, according to a report created by the Division of Child Support Enforcement of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
The report states Gila County ranks No. 1 in both establishing paternity, the number of cases with child support orders and cost effectiveness.
“We have boots-on-the-ground enforcement,” said Beverly Puhara, Gila County Child Support program manager. “We are active and proactive about making people pay.”
Last year, the division collected $5.5 million in child support, making Gila County No. 17 in the percentage of child support collected (63 percent).
More than a dozen caseworkers manage 3,300 active cases in the county. Caseworkers use a statewide computer system that manages a work list. Caseworkers are tasked with finding parents, establishing paternity and child support orders. Finding people is not always easy, and caseworkers rely on their detective skills, interviewing family and friends to find people who may be hiding out.
“Caseworkers are the main reason we are on top,” said Attorney Jeff Dalton with the Gila County Child Support Division. “They stay on their work list and keep up on finding people. They are not letting them languish in the cracks.”
Of the 3,300 active cases, 94 percent have orders, meaning caseworkers have tracked them down and a judge has established orders. Gila County leads the country in this area.
Dalton also credited the Gila County court system for its work in child support enforcement.
“Our courts have been very supportive and very active,” he said. “They take child support very seriously, and that is part of the success story.”
On average, 100 child support hearings are held a week. Judges Gary Scales and Robert Duber meet face to face with parents, holding people accountable and throwing them in jail for contempt if they are capable of paying but refuse. Parents are held until they make payment.
Puhara said by state statute, paying child support is a parent’s primary financial obligation.
“This report shows that our Child Support Division staff continues to work hard to provide quality child support services to the citizens of Gila County,” said Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores. “Their work not only helps parents become responsible and independent, but it ultimately helps the most important resource we have for our future — our children.”
The report was compiled using state data released from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.