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<br />U.S. Treasury ‘redirect’ will put the hurt on child support debtors

For many non-custodial parents laboring under huge child support debts, prospects for a bright economic future are bleak, and grow bleaker by the day.

For many non-custodial parents laboring under huge child support debts, prospects for a bright economic future are bleak, and grow bleaker by the day.

An Arlington resident, who asked not to be identified, is a non-custodial parent of four children. Because of delinquent child support issues, this father likely will lose his only source of income – a disability check – next March.

“From the time I started receiving disability back in 2002, it’s been a struggle just to make ends meet, let alone try to start catching up on my child support,” he said. “This last delinquent support statement I received from Shelby County put me at nearly $20,000 behind on my child support. I know I could be arrested at any time.

“Now I’ve come to find out that next year, my disability check will be sent to my bank account electronically and then taken to pay my child support. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Title IV. D,” as it is called, requires states to take aggressive measures to collect delinquent child support payment. Last year, individual states were given the authority to freeze the bank accounts of those who owe back child support. Money can be taken from those accounts at will.

The U.S. Treasury recently determined that beginning March 2013, it would no longer give individuals the option of receiving a paper check for Social Security, disability and veteran’s benefits. That money will be electronically transmitted into a bank account, and then “redirected” to the state to pay down on child support arrears.

Thousands of non-custodial parents in the West Tennessee region will be affected by the Treasury Department’s new electronic payment policy. Nationwide, some 275,000 could lose access to their entire monthly incomes, according to a recent article by the Associated Press.

 “I always wished I could do more for my children,” said the Arlington resident. “I was incarcerated for much of their growing up. But now that they are grown, I wouldn’t think the government would do something this drastic. It makes no sense.”

‘Studying the options’

According to Fred Hardeman, vice-president of Regions Bank on Poplar Avenue, all banks must adhere to the guidelines of Title IV. D. There is no alternative once the levy against an account has been issued.

“Although we understand the distress that a levy against a person’s account may cause, the bank has no choice in the matter,” said Hardeman. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been redirected back to the government for back taxes, delinquent student loans, and now, back child support.

“I would advise anyone facing the prospect of having their entire monthly income taken by the government to contact Shelby County Child Support Services and try to work something out prior to March of next year when all payments will be received electronically,” said Hardeman.

“Once that order to seize funds is passed down, there is no more negotiating. Uncle Sam is going to win every time.”

‘The big payback’

Attorney Steve Wilson, of the Steve Wilson Firm and one of the city’s most active family attorneys, explained that the law is relatively simple in this matter.

“Any state who wants to continue getting federal assistance for welfare and food service programs must agree to collect arrears as aggressively as possible,” said Wilson. “While the money is no longer being directed to the custodial parents or the children, it is being used to repay the government for taxpayer welfare dollars, which were used to support youngsters growing up.”

Most of these bills are decades old, reflecting the fees and interest accumulated over the years.

‘Who can live for years off of nothing?’

“Very few people, especially in this economy, can survive without income over the next four or five years,” said Hardeman. “It’s almost impossible to live off of no money at all, even with a broad network of family support.

Legal services may be able to help mediate some mutually acceptable solution to past due child support payments, said Hardeman.

“There must be some mechanisms in place to assist those who will be affected. A meeting of minds is necessary, and there should be some measure of advocacy in place for these parents.”

Once the policy takes affect next March, there may be very little recourse for those thousands in Shelby County alone who will be affected, said Hardeman.

“Many of them are men, and many of them are black men. You can’t help but feel compassion for what they are experiencing. But Regions Bank and every other bank ordered by the government to attach an account must comply. There is no other option.”

(For additional information and assistance with child support issues, call the Shelby County Support Services Division at 901-432-6700.)

(Resources for advocacy regarding child support and visitation issues are available through Dads Against Discrimination (DAD) of Tennessee. Send email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)


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