In May 1994 my ex and I appeared in court, where she handed me papers for child support modification. The judge set a date for that hearing in October 1994, since I couldn't have known to bring my financial documents without prior notice. At the October hearing, he increased my support, but stated that it was not to be made retro-active to the May hearing.
Child Support Enforcement (CSE) made it retro-active anyway, placing nearly $2500 in arrears on my account. I was only 20 at the time, and didn't know how to fight them properly, and the matter dragged on for over 2 years. Finally, CSE admitted their mistake and removed the charge. They sent a letter to me stating clearly that the October 1994 order was not to be made retro-active, and that my account was current with no arrears owed.
In 2007 CSE reported over $900 in arrears on my account that nearly stopped my bid for the house my family now lives in. Again, they admitted in writing that they had made a mistake and that my account was current. However!
At the end of 2008 I did owe arrears in the amount of $1100. I'd been out of work for 2 months. Still, I was shocked when $2500 in tax returns were seized. I called the service line, only to find out that I supposedly still owed $5000 in arrears! I was floored. Where had all these arrears come from? Well, here began an ordeal the like of which I hope to never encounter again. My case worker refused to return my calls or respond in any way.
I made several dozen calls to the customer support line, where the representative promised to "forward my concerns" on to my case worker, who was supposed to return my call with 2 business days. The support line refuses to give out a case worker's office number. So, when my case worker didn't return my calls I started faxing over written requests for an explanation. Six months later I had yet to receive any response.
Finally, I called the Attorney General's office to seek help. I was assigned a deputy, who showed an obvious reluctance to providing me any help. If you're a mother going after a dead beat dad, they'll rally behind you, but when the child support system itself is in the wrong, it becomes politically incorrect to back the victim. Still, she did call my case worker, and I received a call back the next day. Here's where it got interesting.
At first my case worker acted as though she didn't know where the charge had come from. Maybe she was being honest, but after more than six months of ducking my calls and letters, I wasn't inclined to believe her. She promised to track the answer down and call me back in 2-3 days. Two weeks later I was back on the phone with the deputy assigned because I still hadn't heard from my case worker. The deputy forced the matter, and my case worker finally told me what had happened.
CSE had decided, more than 14 years later, to "reinterpret" my court order from 1994. They placed the $2500 arrears charge back on my account, and charged me interest on it from May of 1994 to late 2008. Now, I still have monthly statements right up to the end of 2008 that showed my true account balance with CSE. I have the original letter sent from their office stating that the 1994 arrears was their mistake. None of this seemed to matter.
In total it took six months and sixteen days just to get the answer of where the $7000 charge had come from. Then I was told that in spite of my documentation from their own office to the contrary, they were not going to remove the charges. I was told by the Attorney General's deputy that I could hire an attorney, but she wasn't going to do anything else. Of course, if I hire an attorney, which would require a minimum $5000 retainer, I could still lose and be out double money.
Child Support Enforcement put what I feel is a fraudulent charge on my account and refused to respond to me for over six months. I have documentation proving everything I've stated here, and their office does as well, because I organized it all and sent copies to them. Actually, my case worker sounded somewhat ill when she found out I'd saved the letter from 1997, where they admitted in writing the arrears were a mistake, but even this wasn't enough to get the situation resolved.
I'm not going to claim to being a saint, or that I was never behind in my payments. I did lose my job in 2008, and much farther back in the mid 90's, I had some hard times as well. Even so, I have been current for nearly all of my kids' lives. I am not a dead beat dad. I am fully accountable for the support of my children. Why isn't CSE accountable for what they have done?