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Performance Audit of the Processing of Child Support Cases by the State Courts System and the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services , Report No. 12248, February 1994

  • The Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (DHRS) cannot currently provide the State Courts System with reliable data on child support case processing to assist the courts in assessing compliance with federal timeliness standards. The DHRS FLORIDA system, when fully implemented, should provide this capability although the system has encountered repeated delays and reliability problems.
  • Several factors can delay child support case processing within the State Courts System. These include difficulty in locating parents in order to deliver court summons, case management problems by DHRS contract attorneys, case complexity, differences in court practices, and how court orders are prepared once hearings are completed. These factors account for the variations in the median time required to complete judicial processing of the cases in our sample, which ranged from 48 days to 112 days in Hillsborough County.
  • There are several potential advantages to using hearing officers and administrative procedures in child support cases, including faster case processing, reduced costs, and reduction in court workload. However, disadvantages include concerns about the quality of hearings provided by non-judicial staff, the need to allocate sufficient resources to the functions to avoid backlogs and protect parent's due process rights, and the perception that some parents may not take hearing officers and administrative proceedings as seriously as judicial hearings. Counties we examined that used hearing officers typically did not process child support cases more expeditiously than those counties that used judicial hearings for these cases. However, this result may be due to factors other than the use of hearing officers in these counties.

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