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Collaboration Between the Court and IV-D Agencies in Arizona

Honorable Karen S. Adam
Pima County Court Commissioner/Judge Pro Tempore, Tucson, AZ

After serving for nine years on the juvenile court bench, I was transferred to the family law bench, where I served for more than ten years. During that time, I was assigned to the IV-D child support calendar, a job most judges tolerate at best and often despise. I, on the other hand, loved it. Every day was an opportunity to do something good for children. That perspective not only helped me through the day but often helped make my orders tolerable to the paying parent. Thanks to the NCJFCJ, I had the opportunity to serve on the National Judicial Child Support Task Force for two years and delighted in meeting judges, child support administrators and attorneys from around the country. We shared information and ideas as well as learned how to work together to make the child support system better for children.

When I was transferred back to juvenile court in 2007, I came with a mission: that every closed dependency case would include a separate and enforceable order for custody, parenting time and child support. I was particularly committed to making sure that every parent whose dependency case was successfully closed had a child support order to help them achieve and maintain the financial stability necessary to parent independently.

A diverse committee of judges, lawyers, mediators and administrators worked for a year to develop protocols for cases involving both juvenile and family issues, including child support. Those protocols were approved by both the juvenile and family benches. The bench, bar, judicial staff and clerks were trained, and child support software was installed on all courtroom computers.

The IV-D agency and counsel as well as one of the IV-D judges were critical members of the committee. They guided us in crafting the language necessary to either establish or modify child support orders, helped open the lines of communication between child welfare and child support (divisions of the same agency) as well as provided packets of information to distribute to parents and caregivers seeking financial support for children in their custody.

The results of the committee’s work have been outstanding, especially in IV-D cases. Judges are staying or modifying current child support orders as soon as the custodial parent no longer has custody, which makes arrears easier to calculate. Paternity orders are entered within the first 30-60 days of the opening of the dependency case, which ultimately shortens the process of establishing child support. None of this would have been possible without the courts, counsel and the IV-D agency working together to benefit children.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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