Because so many single parents rely on child support to meet their children’s basic needs, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is working to make it as convenient as possible for parents to access our services. Some recent innovations are making it much easier for families to apply for child support services and get updates on their cases.
For example, the conversion of 1.5 million paper case files to an electronic format makes it possible for parents to receive assistance from any office in the state. Customers can therefore choose the location that is most convenient to them, whether it be the location closest to home or one in another city.
Digitizing case records has freed up 56,000 square feet of office space, because of the greatly-reduced need for file rooms. As office leases expire, my office’s Child Support Division (CSD) is using the savings to open additional locations for serving customers. The new sites, known as storefront service centers, focus on customer interactions.
Storefront service centers provide a convenient location for negotiating agreed court orders, picking up or dropping off documents and making walk-in inquiries. Generally, service centers are staffed with 3-6 child support employees. Operating hours for storefronts located in metropolitan areas are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Rural locations are closed when staff attend court. To see court dates, visit “Child Support Interactive” on the child support section of www.texasattorneygeneral.gov and select “Find a Location.”
Since May 2014, the OAG has opened 18 storefronts across the state, allowing the CSD to expand to the following cities: Alpine, Killeen, Denton, DeSoto, Garland, Georgetown, Grand Prairie, Seguin, Mansfield and Kerrville. Additional storefronts will open as office leases expire.
Last year, more than 78,000 parents visited storefront service centers, many of them, for example, obtaining income verification forms that are required to apply for daycare subsidies and public housing. To reduce wait times, we have undertaken a pilot project to install self-service stations in select locations around the state so that customers with a personal identification number can print their own forms or child support payment records.
The OAG is charged with operating the state’s child support enforcement program. Responsibilities include establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents, and setting and enforcing court orders that require noncustodial parents to pay child support to parents with whom the children primarily reside.
Last year, CSD established legal paternity for 29,000 children and collected a record-breaking $3.9 billion in child support payments for the benefit of 943,000 single-parent households.
I realize single parents are some of the busiest people around. I hope that these new locations and automated features will simplify their lives, and make it much more convenient to obtain information about their child support cases.