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State Holding on to Millions of Dollars in Child Support Payments

Despite the fact that 40,000 families rely on child support payments, NBC2 News found that the state is holding millions of dollars owed to families and this money is not being delivered to the kids who are entitled to receive it.

Father Joe Hargis, who hasn’t seen his son in three years, explains that despite the fact that he pays child support, his son, Ryan, has not seen the money since August. Hargis called the Department of Revenue when he learned that his son wasn’t receiving the money.

They told him they had a problem.

NBC2 News reported that about 4,000 families in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties were owed $463,000 in unpaid child support. In the entire state of Florida, the amount of money owed to families is $30 million.

So, what’s happening?

Barbara Coussu who manages bugs in the system explained that the Department of Revenue’s hardware system cannot handle the current demand placed upon it. When families have “missing information” in the system (such as a phone number or home address), the current database has problems processing the information.

Barbara Coussu, a child support expert who helps clients navigate the system explains that even she doesn’t really know why it takes so long.

“It can be frustrating at times,” she explained.

Apparently the current state requirements only deem that the state has to perform two manual reviews of the system before it is allowed to stop looking. This leaves many children’s’ funds just sitting around in the state’s coffers. For former spouses who do not communicate, the assumption might be that one parent is being a “deadbeat” when the reality is that the state is simply holding on to the money due to a flawed system.

Coussu, who navigates and uses this system every day, claims that a two-time manual review requirement isn’t sufficient, given the nature of the system and the problems with the hardware.

Coussu explains: “It’s an overburdened system. There’s a lot of people who owe child support and it’s a difficult system to get through.”

For many families, child support is a lifeline they cannot afford to lose. Child support is determined in the state of Florida through a process whereby income is first determined using an official calculation process. According to the Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature, income in Florida includes salary, wages, tips, business income, disability benefits, pensions, rental income, and interest and dividends. Based on these, and some other factors, the state then inputs a parent’s monthly income into a table to determine how much money is owed to the child. For instance, if a parent makes $1000 a month, he or she will owe his or her child $235 in child support payments. If he or she makes $4000 a month, he or she will owe $828 in child support. The money adds up, especially if the owing parent is making steady payments.

Given the current flaws with this system, children who have responsible parents who are paying child support are finding themselves still without money.

For Hargis, the father who had been regularly making child support payments, the system is flawed, and he isn’t happy. Hargis’s money was supposed to go directly into an account. It doesn’t even need to be processed in order to be delivered to a home address. The fact that the system is failing in simple cases, suggests that it must be failing much more drastically in cases where checks need to be delivered.

A representative of the Department of Revenue said that the best way that parents can avoid problems is to enroll in a direct deposit service.

When the state does not find the money to deliver to the family, the money is kept and used by the Federal Government and the state.

If you think you might have fallen between the cracks, visit this Website to see if the State might owe you child support payments: http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport/employer_services.html.