Today, Governor Susana Martinez announced the continuation of the
successful Child Support Enforcement Bench Warrant Program statewide. The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) will host a child support bench warrant amnesty period beginning at 8:00am on Monday, August 20th and ending at 5:00pm on Friday, August 24th.
During this weeklong amnesty period, anyone with an active bench warrant for failure to pay child support can visit any HSD Child Support Enforcement Division field office, without fear of being arrested, to pay the bond amount. The CSED offices will accept payments in the form of cashier's check or money order. Upon full payment of the bond, an order cancelling the bench warrant will be filed with the district court. If an individual is unable to pay the full amount of the bond set by the court, a negotiated, reduced bond payment or payment plan toward the amount of past due child support may be worked out, with the consent of the parent to whom the support obligation is owed, and the approval of the court that issued the warrant.
"The continuation of this innovative program will further help us achieve our goal of eliminating childhood poverty in New Mexico," said Governor Susana Martinez. "We are committed to standing up for New Mexico's children and ensuring that parents are upholding their responsibilities. Non-custodial parents with outstanding bench warrants have an opportunity to fulfill their obligations before our law enforcement partners work to bring them in and hold them accountable."
The Bench Warrant Program also follows on the heels of recent news that CSED was named the Most Improved Program in the country by the National Child Support Enforcement Agency. CSED also recently set a state record for the child support collections at $129 million in State Fiscal Year 2012, which ended June 30th. This collections total was 5% greater than State Fiscal Year 2011's record collections, and over 16% higher than the goal set for CSED by the Legislative Finance Committee.
A statewide bench warrant sweep will occur later to round-up any individuals who have failed to appear for the amnesty period. This round-up will be conducted by the New Mexico State Police (NMSP), in collaboration with local law enforcement partners statewide. A list of all non-custodial parents having outstanding bench warrants issued throughout the state is posted on the HSD website at http://www.hsd.state.nm.us/CSEDBenchWarrants.html and will be kept up-to-date throughout the program.
Last year was the first year this innovative project took place. The amnesty period helped bring in $80,341 from 216 non-custodial parents statewide while the round-up brought in $71,757 from 48 non-custodial parents. Overall, the program has helped increase collections on outstanding bench warrants from an average of $30,000 a month to more than $70,000 a month.
This year there are 495 bench warrants outstanding statewide. This represents $1,542,430 in bonds that will potentially be collected through the amnesty period and the bench warrant round-up and a total of $12,253,894 in arrears.
This year's statewide program is taking place in August in recognition of National Child Support Awareness Month and follows the Governor's announcement earlier this month of the Felony Prosecution project. This collaborative project with District Attorney Amy Orland and District Attorney Matthew Chandler will seek criminal convictions of individuals who have not paid their court ordered support.
On Tuesday, August 28th, the Child Support Enforcement Division will release a list to supporting law enforcement agencies of all individuals who have not resolved their bench warrants with CSED. Law enforcement will then conduct a warrant sweep in an effort to locate and take into custody those individuals who have not taken advantage of the amnesty period.
"As was the case last year, our Child Support Enforcement Division will be working closely with State Police and local law enforcement to help hold these non-custodial parents accountable to their children," said Human Services Department Secretary Sidonie Squier. "This program was successful in increasing the average bench warrant collections each month, and we look forward to continued success."
"The Department of Public Safety and its law enforcement partners are providing valuable resources to bring persons back into the court system and assist in the compliance with lawful court orders," said Department of Public Safety Secretary Gordon Eden.
Individuals having questions may contact CSED toll free at: (800) 288-7207 in-state or (800) 585-7631 out-of-state.