Recently a Florida father tried to pay child support, but when the check went to the wrong account, a world of trouble opened.
Henry Schultz faithfully pays $1,600 per month in child support. So when his ex-wife called to ask where that month’s money was, Schultz was confused. He consulted the bill payment center, and found that when he wrote the numeral “1,” they recorded it as a “7.”
Because of this, the Broward County Clerk’s office told him the money had been disbursed to someone else’s account. The clerk then said they could not refund the money, but he could consult the state’s Department of Revenue to get the money returned.
Doing this proved fruitless, though, as neither the state nor the county offices agreed to make a transfer to the correct account. In fact, they tried to convince Schultz to remit another $1,600 payment, which simply was not feasible for him.
Luckily, things ultimately worked out. Schultz’s ex-wife got paid after receiving help from a local television station that investigated the story. What if this happens to you, though? What should you do?
You can get your child support payment to the right place by following these steps.
If you are making the payment
- Read the delinquency notice carefully. If the Department of Revenue sends you an incorrect notice, you still need to read and understand all the details involved. Check the details against your records, and if you can’t make headway with the county clerk or department of revenue, consult with an experienced Florida family attorney.
- Make sure your address is always current. If the state has an incorrect address for you, your payments may not be counted correctly.
- Pay attention to due dates. If your payment was delayed, you will get a delinquency notice – even if the payment is on the way – because the system automatically prints overdue notices.
- Know your filing rights. You can file a Motion to Contest within 15 days of the mailing date of the notice you receive.
- Request a report. The courthouse clerk in your county will have a payment history report on file. You can request a copy of this for a small fee to prove that you have made payments.
- Understand your Income Withholding Order. If your employer is automatically withholding child support from your paycheck, you may receive a delinquency notice until the payment schedules align.
- Gather other evidence. You will benefit from gathering bank statements, cancelled checks, and pay stubs before you file suit.
- Be careful about making an extra payment to reconcile the account. As in Schultz’s case, you may have a difficult time getting it back. Talk to the county clerk about any payroll cycle problems you may have had that affected the payment arrival.
If you are receiving the payment
- Keep records of phone conversations. When you call the clerk’s office or the Department of Revenue, make sure you write down all the details.
- Keep a cool head. Your ex-spouse may have tried to post payment, but a mistake occurred out of their control. You’ll do yourself a favor by giving them the benefit of the doubt until the facts are straight.
- Seek assistance. If you can’t make headway with phone calls and your own research, contact your attorney’s office for help.
When you hear back from the state
The Department of Revenue will review your objection. Then it will either make a correction to your records or call a hearing, where a judge will make a final determination.
Sometimes a clerk makes a mistake in entering your information into the system. This is more common when an account is being set up, but as in the Schultz case, a problem may occur later on if a number is transposed or misread. In this case, the clerk should be able to rectify the problem with the accurate account information.
If you need more help
Following all the payment tracks can be time-consuming, frustrating, and confusing, particularly when you realize you aren’t at fault for the missed payments. If your phone calls and visits to the clerk’s office or department of revenue get you nowhere, contact a qualified family attorney who can assist you. They will use their legal experience to conduct an investigation of the payment facts.
You should be able to trust that a payment you make will end up in the correct account. If the money ended up in the wrong place, don’t try to tackle the problem alone. Contact us for a free initial consultation with a qualified family attorney who will help you sort out the mess.