County attorney explains assistance programs for parents without child support

Published 3:27 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

This is the first part of a multi-story series that dives into the child support system in Bell County and Kentucky.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to child support and the system surrounding payments and nonpayments.

Bell County Attorney Neil Ward breaks down some of those misconceptions.

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“In Kentucky, we have what is called KTAP,” he said. “I’ve asked people if they know what KTAP stands for and they don’t know. They know that it’s child support assistance but it’s Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program.”

He explains that what that means is that every child is entitled support from both parents and when one parent is not providing anything it makes it hard on the person who usually has the child.

“The state will actually assist that person and they’ll receive a monthly check. Why that is good is there are a lot of women, and I hate to say women but a lot of time they are the custodial parent, they know the state check is going to come every month,” he said of the system. “Where their ex-husband or the father of their child may or may not pay and they can’t live on promises.”

He said that they’ll sign their rights over to the state, and they’ll get KTAP and the state will go after the noncustodial parent to get what they can from them.

“It’s a good deal for a lot parents if the other parent is just really delinquent and irresponsible because at least they know that every month, they are going to get ‘x-amount’ and it depends on their needs,” he explained of the KTAP system.

He explained that when they sign up for KTAP, they sign their rights over to the state and his office collects their child support.

“We are the same, it’s an assignment, they sign their rights over and the state actually has their child support obligation. Then there is another term that you need to know, and that is KCHIP,” he said of the next system that is available to help those in need of receiving support. “It is Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Ward said this is a big assistance program because sometimes someone won’t qualify for KTAP but they will qualify for health insurance for the children.

“The moms don’t get any insurance because it’s only just to help the children,” he said. “The mom is sort of left out in the cold a lot of times, but we’ve got KCHIP and we’ve got KTAP.”

The county attorney explained that if someone signs up for KTAP or KCHIP, a referral is sent to the County Attorney’s Office and then it is their job to try to pursue absent parents and make sure they contribute something.

“The great thing I like about the child support program in Kentucky is that every dollar goes back into child support,” he said. “It doesn’t go back to build bridges, it doesn’t go to improve Rupp Arena, and every dollar that goes in goes back out to help children.”

According to Ward, it is one of only two programs in the whole state that actually makes money.

“We actually collect more money than they pay us because the state will reimburse my office for our work,” he explained. “The good thing is that the mom is not out money because she already can’t afford to get by.”

He continued to explain that you don’t have to be on KCHIP or KTAP to utilize his offices resources.

“If a mom is divorced or has a child support order from a paternity case, she can come in and say that she would like us to collect her support and a lot of women don’t know that,” he explained. “We don’t advertise it, but a lot of times the mom may have a decent job and she may be getting by but she can’t afford a few more thousand dollars in attorney fees to go to court.”

Ward’s office will actually collect or try to collect it like a private attorney would.

“It doesn’t cost her anything,” he said.

Ward explained how the payment is then reimbursed to his office.

“The feds pay the state and the state combines that federal money with the state money and they reimburse us on the contract,” he explained.

According to him, in Bell County, the fiscal year is like the state and it ends on June 30. From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, in Bell County alone, they collected $1.3 million.

“That is pretty good especially considering our economy right now,” he said of the amount collected. “We work really hard and we have a lot of people who work really hard. We do have moms come in that aren’t getting any help from the state.

Ward said he doesn’t think the moms realize that they can take advantage of his offices services.

“We will go to court and try to collect their child support, and they are not out any attorney fees and the reason why is that we want to help these people stay afloat,” he said of helping the parents. “We don’t want to drive them down into some kind of assistance program if they don’t want to.”

Ward said in Bell County alone there are about 3,500 cases.

“Last month we just won an award,” he said of Bell County. “We were the top three performance counties in the whole state with cases between 2 and 4,000.”

He said it was Bell, Harlan and Hopkins, which is out in western Kentucky.

“Out of 120 counties with our size case load, we were one of only three that got a top performance award which means our categories for collecting and establishing paternity were really good,” he said of winning the award. “We are really proud of that, and we’ve got a lot of people who work really hard.”

In Wednesday’s edition of the Middlesboro Daily News, Ward will explain the child support categories and guidelines, how those who avoid paying child support eventually get put behind bars, and what he has to say to someone who is behind on their child support payments.