Rant about about the CA child support "disbursement system" - advice needed

It was similar for me. I was paying directly, but the State of Minnesota stepped in because the law said they had to.

The result was delayed payments. It was caught up after about three months.

I should mention, though, that here in Minnesota, anyone paying CS automatically gets a little letter each month demanding payment. It contains warning about all the bad things that will happen if you don’t pay by such-and-such a date.

Then it says if your payments are being automatically deducted, you can ignore the letter.

Every. Damned. Month.

I’ve asked them to stop, but they won’t. I can hardly imagine what this great state is spending on postage every month for those accursed threatening letters.

Thanks for the advice,** stretch**.

Keeping an eye on the system is always a good idea. I worked with a guy who didn’t come in to work on a Monday once. He showed up on Tuesday and explained he was in jail on Monday. The sherriff had shown up at his parents where he was living on Sunday morning and arrested him for non-payment of child support. This didn’t make sense to him, since it was taken out of his check and paid to the county agency who sent it to his ex.

I mentioned he was living with his parents? He had moved back there a few months before to save money. He had lived in a neighboring county. When he moved, he told the agencies in both places about it, but the money kept going to the other county’s agency. Their records said they weren’t supposed to be paying anymore and the county he moved to wasn’t receiving the money they were supposed to. So he got arrested for non-payment, despite paying every week.

black rabbit, this was in Ohio, about a dozen years ago. They haven’t really improved any since then, if my nephew’s experiences the last few months are any indication.

I was paying my ex-wife through the Child Support Agency between our separation and the finalisation of the divorce. At that time I paid her a lump sum for my son’s support up to his 18th birthday.

The CSA is, without a doubt, the most inefficient, bungling organisation I have ever had dealings with in my life. Their staff were unable to answer any questions that I had while dealing with them - I would get the legislation and work things out for myself eventually. After I had settled with my ex they would routinely send me 3 items of mail every so often - the new rates and assessment, the notice for how to pay them to forward to my ex and a notice that I had an agreement and didn’t owe anything. These would arrive on the same day in separate envelopes.

Years later on the basis of information they received about my salary they reassessed me for a period that was covered by my lump sum payment. I tried to make them understand that my ex-wife and I had an agreement about payment that was endorsed by the Family Court and that the idea of entering into such agreements was futile if they could just retrospectively ignore them. Eventually I had to get my ex to contact them to tell them that she thought I was right.

Recently they sent me more mail to let me know that I didn’t have to make monthly payments because my son is over 18, and a letter to notify me that I was making any anyway. In separate envelopes. Genius.

I was to receive court ordered child support for my son when my first husband and I divorced. My son is now over 18 and my exs obligation is over. However, during the course of the 16 years, there were times when he did not pay for months and once an entire year. At the time, I was struggling and it was a definite hardship to keep my son in shoes and food. My ex paid through the courts. He would send a check, the courts would deposit and send a check to me after taking a fee. That was all well and good until he stopped paying. When I phoned the child support office and asked them to please do something about it, I was told it was MY responsibility and I had to get an attorney to pursue this. Of course, I would have to pay for one or wait on the waiting list for a reduced fee service. During that year not one letter was sent to my ex even questioning why he was not paying. The courts simply did not care.
Hopefully this process has changed but it isn’t always the non cust that gets screwed in this process.

I’m not sure what else you think should be used as a basis for a custodial parent to request the state agency to coordinate the child support payments.

In my case, my daughter’s father would pay me faithfully every month but only after I had to call him at least twice and only after the childcare payment for that month was due, which cost me late fees which of course he didn’t cover.

I can tell you that it’s extremely irritating to have to do that all the damn time. Eventually I went to the state, filled out some forms, he contested, we had a hearing, and now I get two biweekly payments directly deposited into my account every month. My life is so much easier and less stressful. Oh, and there were NO lack-of-money issues - he makes about twice as much as me and used to tell me all about the trips he was planning and new cool stuff he was buying.

I just wanted to list two statements I received, directly to my face, in person, from CS “officers”:

  1. “You’re nothing but a billfold to us.”

  2. “There’s justice and there’s fairness. Don’t expect either one here.”

In another case, my ex- used her “strike” to remove a judge that was about to hear our case. His words: “Too bad you did that. I was going to find for you.”

Nobody had even presented any evidence yet! Yet, he already knew how he was going to find.

I have tons more stories like this, but they make me mad and I’m at work, so that’ll do for now.

The differences between states is amazing. On the one hand you have a story like Lok’s:

The on the other end of the spectrum you have Foxy’s experience, where she got no support from the state.

Well for the state to forcibly remove funds from your paycheck, I would think it should be proven that the father was not complying with the payment of child support, and that a court order would be necessary. I didn’t think the state could just take your property without any proof of any wrongdoing.

In this case, I would have expected a judge to review the case, and that he would need to find that the father violated the child support agreement before any wage garnishment could occur.

In my SO’s case, he had not violated the divorce settlement, and had been making all his payments correctly. So since he had done nothing wrong, there would have been no need for the state to forcibly withhold money from his paycheck.

It isn’t really viewed in that light. It isn’t “his property,” it’s money that’s been ordered by the court to assist in the raising of his children. It isn’t his. It’s theirs. And there’s no wrong doing, it’s simply an expedient to get the money from one party to the other. This is why there is so much bitterness when it comes to child support, IMO. The non custodial parent thinks they’re being punished. They aren’t, they’re just being held to a responsibility.

Right, but despite what has been posted here, dead beat dads are the norm, not the exception. It sucks that the stand up guys are the ones who suffer for it, but if all non custodial parents were as forthcoming, things like this wouldn’t be considered necessary.

Wow — although I cannot say I am surprised. This past year has been my first introduction to the child support system and my biggest impression is that it is strongly biased against the fathers, and that, in general, it’s pretty fucked up.

And of course there is nothing more frustrating than seeing the money that my SO is paying go towards everything BUT his children… For example, the mother moved into a bigger house so she could host two teen-aged foreign exchange students, then gave each of the exchange students their own bedroom while my SO’s three kids had to all share a tiny bedroom. That is just one small example of many.

I see what you’re saying, however, in this country I would think that the state would not be able to seize your property without an order. (And I would expect that they had to prove you were NOT paying your CS before taking such steps.)

For example, in order for your car to be repossessed, the creditor has to prove that you defaulted and get an order before repossessing your car.

Also, if you owe a creditor money, they need to go to court to prove it before they can garnish your income or get a lien put on your property.

In this case, a vindictive ex-wife did this because she was mad at my SO because he raised concern about a parenting issue, not because he didn’t pay correctly.

(On a side note, I can’t imagine telling my parents when I was growing up that they needed to give me their money because it isn’t their property, it was mine :wink: .)

That may be true, but do you have a cite on that? Are the majority of non-custodial dads (more that 50%) “deadbeats?”

Nope, is strictly my opinion based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience. But if that weren’t the case…would such measures be necessary?

In Washington, these Orders are lodged by support enforcement officers. They have delegated authority to issue these orders. Also, they have administrative judges that oversee hearings (which your SO is entitled to). They also have claims officers (actual attorneys that have passed the Washington bar) who make sure that the orders are legal. And still sometimes they screw up.

If your SO does not have receipts or other proof of the support he paid, he didn’t pay it. When it’s a he said/she said situation, they will err on the side of the child. Not fair to your SO, but they don’t care about being fair to the parents–it is all about the kids.

And a custodial parent can ask that support be paid through the registry any time unless the support order specifically states that it will not be paid that way. For instance, when mr.stretch modified his own support order, he made sure to include language that it was not to be referred to support enforcement or paid through the registry unless he was more than 3 months overdue. This was so we could protect our privacy from his co-workers, not because we thought support enforcement would screw us over–though we were aware that could happen as well.

That’s the way it is. And the money belongs to his kid(s)–he is legally obligated to support them.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do have a question - don’t the child support recovery agencies take a cut from the child support? So the custodial parent ends up actually getting less child support than she would if she allowed the non-custodial parent to pay directly?

And saying “it’s all about the kids” is true, if slightly more self-serving on the part of the state - child support is regarded as income for the purposes of WIC and other state aid. If Daddy isn’t paying, the State may have to pick up the slack, so it is in the State’s best interest to find Daddy and force him to pay.

State and county support enforcement agencies do not take a cut of the support. Private collection agencies will take a portion of the support.

This story doesn’t make any sense to me. The county where the custodial parent lives is the county that collects the money. It doesn’t matter where in Ohio the noncustodial parent lives. I do not know how it works if the noncustodial parent is not in Ohio.

As an employer, we are on the hook for all child support payments that don’t get taken from paychecks and sent in.

See, each state has its own weird little rules. In Washington, the region that the non-custodial parent lives in is the one that gets to collect the support–they don’t care where the custodial parent lives because s/he’s not the one they are chasing and usually s/he ain’t hiding.

So when my ex-husband lived in Federal Way, the Seattle field office collected the support. When he moved to Tacoma, the Tacoma field office was where his file was suppose to move to. In reality, Seattle kept it because he was paying and it made their numbers look good. I requested a move to the Tacoma office because Seattle wasn’t collecting the support the right way and refused to change it. I wrote a really nice letter, including citations to Canary Notices*. Change in field office with a new officer and suddenly the support was not only coming in regularly but in the correct amount at the correct intervals.

It sucks when you have to do someone else’s job for them, but remember that support enforcement people are just that–people. They make mistakes, have bad days, and some of them are real jerks.

*interoffice policy change memorandum. If your current SO was an support enforcment officer wouldn’t you use that specialized knowledge to make sure your incoming child support was correct? Conversely, we used that specialized knowlege to make sure that his ex-wife didn’t get $800 a month when she was only entitled to $450 (for one kid).

It was more than a decade ago (actually more than 15 years ago, I wasn’t hired at my present job yet and that has been 14 1/2 years) so things could have changed. The money was coming out of his checks, he had stubs with him from from before and after his move he had used to prove it to the judge and he showed them to me, but he was arrested for non-payment.

Right now, my nephew is going through a custodial battle with his ex-girlfriend (6 months after she walked out on them, she decides she wants full custody and child support :dubious:) and while she filed for custody in the county where she lives, the various court proceedings are in the county he lives in. I have a feeling the rules for the CS people is pretty much whatever they want them to be.

Current child support officer finally opening my yap and preparing to duck the onslaught of rotten vegetable matter soon to be tossed at me.

(FWIW, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and love my job. While we are being pushed to behave like a collection agency, which we technically are, I refuse to. It’s my opinion that we deal with a very touchy area in an ex-couple’s lives - money and children. It gets very complicated and, well, icky. I’m also in our own system and have the “privilege” to see it from the outside. I know I’m an exception to the rule. We DO have some total burn out asshats in our office. That’s not to say I’m not called a bitch, c**t, stupid fucker or any other variation on a daily basis. It goes with the job.)

I answered nyctea directly, so I won’t go further into that. But I would like to possibly MAYBE clear up some misconceptions regarding how we work IN GENERAL. Note that states are different. We all work under Federal Guidelines. Some states (like Cali) have the child support office work out of the county attorney’s office. Ours works out of Human Services and Public Health division. This division also encompasses welfare, daycare assistance, elder assistance, that type of service. Some counties in some states have privatized their system.

For the most part the state that collects the child support is either the state where the original order was filed. For example, you divorced in Minnesota. IF the custodial parent opens a case while residing in Minnesota, that’s where it will remain no matter where s/he resides. IF s/he moves to another state, the case will remain in Minnesota UNLESS the custodial parent opens a child support case in said other state (this can be willingly opened or if s/he receives public assistance it will automatically be opened). In that case the new state MAY leave the case with us, which is usually what’s done if the payor is residing in Minnesota. If neither party are in Minnesota anymore, usually the state where the custodial parent is now residing will take the Minnesota divorce decree and register it in their courts. We would then close our case and ship everything off to the new state. Note I said usually. Some states with child support systems that suck ass will leave the cases with us so as not to have to deal with it. It doesn’t come down to the whim of the child support officer where the case goes, it’s directed by the court order.

Many of you talk about jail and drivers’ license suspension and various other evil tactics we use to coerce payment. I can only talk about he state I work for and note that I am writing this as ME, not a representative of our system. YMMV and all that. We do not arbitrarily suspend licenses (driving, occupational, recreational). It’s specifically spelled out in statute and clients need to meet certain criteria. We send notice when a case is first eligible for suspension. We send it to the address we have on file. If that address is wrong, well, nothing I can do about it. Court orders specifically state you have 10 days to notify us of address/employer changes. Once that notice is sent out by us there is 110 days to rectify the matter. Approximately 10 days before the actual suspension the Department of Public Safety sends official notice to the address on your current license stating “Hey, you lose your driving privileges the first Monday next month. Call your worker”. Of course very few people actually contact us until they’re pulled over. At that point we attempt to figure out something workable for all parties. However, the court order is the court order.

When a client meets the criteria to pursue civil contempt we contact the payor in both writing (again to the addy we have, be it right or wrong) and by phone (the numbers we have, be they right or wrong) in hopes to rectify the matter before having to file with the courts. The payor must be PERSONALLY SERVED with the notices and affidavits. We can’t just schlump someone off to soap up with Bubba. Now if the payor chooses to miss the initial hearing, yeah a bench warrant will be issued. Jail time is a deprivation of freedom. We can’t just toss people in willy nilly. It’s also not a quick thing. That whole ‘due process’ comes into play. IF a payor is found to be in contempt they receive a stayed sentence. IOW, they’re sentenced to, say, 180 days at the workhouse but it will not be carried out if s/he starts paying. Many do. Some don’t. If there’s a warrant out they go directly to jail, do not pass go. They can bail out, and bail becomes child support. For some people bail is the only child support they will ever see.

Income withholding is federally mandated under PRWORA HR 3734. We began Income Witholding in 1992 here, except if it’s specifically addressed in a court order or unless the case isn’t opened through the child support agency. For many payors it makes life easier - they do not have to think about sending in payments. That’s not to say problems do not arise with leaving the garnishments to a 3rd party. Some of the child support I was to have received for my child was used to fund my ex’s quick exit from our fair state. I’ll never see the money again. Technically, is an employer withholds but does not send in it’s on the payors’ head to prove it was garnished. We then go after the employer for civil contempt. Just because it’s automatically withheld does not diminish a payors responsibility to check to verify whether the agency is actually receiving the payments.

Opening a case with an agency is not always required. If public assistance of any type is in place, be it medical assistance, cash aid, and/or child care assistance we are mandated to open a case. If no public assistance in open a party, EITHER PARTY, can apply for our services for a whopping $25.00. If paternity has not been established we do that. We’ll set the hearing, do the blood tests, assist parties in obtaining an order for support. Once there is an order for support, be it a paternity order, a divorce order, a domestic abuse order or one of a variety of other types of orders the case moves on to the enforcement of said order. Our state has imposed a fee on collecting child support. 1% of everything received is kept by the state. The reason for this is because Federal dollars are shrinking. The feds keep raising the bar on what we are required to do in order to obtain funds. If we do not meet these expectations we lose money. It’s a vicious circle. Our state is usually very good in our meeting federal mandates, in fact we have some of the highest collection rates in the US, but it’s more difficult to fund the agency. The feds also decided to tack on a $25 annual fee taken from the monies a custodial parent receives after s/he receives the first $500 in a fiscal year. There are some exclusions to that fee, but I personally think it’s a pain.

rhysdad, may I apologize for the treatment you’ve received from our agency? I do not know if your case is with my particular agency (starts with a H), but there is no way a worker should have said such things to you. When your ex applied she would’ve completed an affidavit of pre-application arrears. If she didn’t we would’ve started charging the first of the month following when she applied. If there was a known employer we would’ve sent income withholding right away. Your employer has 14 days from when they receive the order to actually start withholding and 7 days from when you’re paid to remit the $$ to St Paul. You should’ve received notice from our agency that your case was opened. Please feel free to contact me if you want to vent more - I can take it.

I know we’re not a perfect system. We TRY our damndest not to be biased. At least most of us do. It does get frustrating when the personal bitches between the parties preclude us from trying to collect what a court has ordered. We are required by law to carry out things that I sometimes think is unfair. In Minnesota the entire manner in which child support is set by the courts was completely overhauled. It’s too new to see whether it’s going to work great, but now it takes both parties and subsequent families into account. It’s a start.

Feel free to start lobbing at me.