Child Support Problem Solving Courts

Maureen Leif, President and Founder of Grays Peak Strategies

Like so many other states, Colorado was looking to improve child support collections and yet be efficient and focused on what the best outcomes for the family could be. Child support workers and attorneys were seeing the same Obligors coming through the court contempt process repeatedly.

In May 2008, the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO) hosted a statewide exploratory phone conference on the issue of child support problem solving courts. This call helped garner support for the implementing child support courts in Colorado. In September the same year a group from Colorado, including Magistrates, a IV-D Administrator, a IV-D Attorney, a Federal OCSE Representative, Office of Dispute Resolution Projects Manager, and the Judicial Child Support Liaison visited a pioneering child support problem solving court in Raleigh, NC with the Honorable Judge Kristin Ruth.  Following the trip to North Carolina, SCAO hosted a follow-up statewide phone conference for interested partners to hear about what the group learned in NC. This exploratory process led to several of the larger metro districts began working in local teams to adopt some of the problem solving techniques in their daily handing of IV-D cases and explore further opportunities for more efficient handling of the IV-D Dockets and assist Obligors in overcoming barriers to compliance with their child support obligations.   

The mission of Child Support Problem Solving Courts is to modify behavior of non-compliant Obligors and ensure the timely and consistent payment of child support for children.  Traditionally, the Court has focused its attention on one aspect of enforcement, and that is the ability of the Obligor to pay at a certain point in time.  In order to ensure the goal of compliance is achieved, the problem solving court believes it must in some way address the underlying problem(s) that are preventing the Obligor from paying. 

Adapted from the key components of drug court problem solving courts, the key components of Child Support Problem Solving Courts are:

  1. Child Support Problem Solving Courts integrate unemployment, substance abuse, access and visitation resources with the justice system case processing
  2. Using a non-adversarial approach team approach with Judge/Magistrate as the leader
  3. Frequent monitoring of child support order compliance with a balance of rewards and sanctions
  4. Child Support problem solving courts provide judicial interaction with the participants
  5. Strategic use of alternative sentencing
  6.  Continued interdisciplinary education and training
  7. Collaboration and partnerships with public agencies and communities-based organizations to facilitate the delivery of services

There are three different counties that have implemented problem solving courts

in Colorado and each of tailored the concepts to work for their individual District. Problem Solving Courts have been successful in Colorado. They require teamwork and collaboration between the Judicial Department and the Child Support Enforcement Agency. The community at large is the winner when a problem solving court is implemented. By addressing the underlying problems with Obligors, we are assisting in making them successful at paying child support and often times seeing their child(ren). If your area is interested in exploring a problem solving court contact us for a Planning Guide and additional information.