Winnings Confiscated: Past Due Child Support is Winner

A man strolled up to the window of a casino ready to collect the $5,000 he had just won.
He didn’t get his winnings and left the window very mad. The expected bonanza had been applied to his back child support payments.
Still another, expecting to receive money back from his federal tax return found instead that the funds were applied to child support.
These are just two examples of what can happen if people fail to make the required payments, according to John M. Sharp, Oklahoma Department of Human Services — Tulsa West, managing attorney.
It is possible, he continued, to attach a savings or checking account, something that has been very successful in Oklahoma where several million dollars has been recovered during the past several years. This is possible through FIDM — Financial Institution Data Match.
The Tulsa West Child Support Division has collected more than $12 million in child support payments since January. Tulsa East, an identical division, has collected slightly more, making the total collected in Tulsa County since January at more than $230 million. That compares to around $104 million that was first collected when the office was opened in 1999.
There are about 40 offices in the state charged with the child support program, Sharp continued. Two offices, one in McAlester, the other in Lawton, are private contractors.
The agency also assists other states in collecting monies. The response varies from state to state.
Child support payments come from both men and women, depending upon who has custody of the children, Sharp said. When grandparents have custody of the children, both parents often are required to provide child support.
Child support is a big issue for those who are supposed to pay and an even bigger issue for those designated to, but don’t receive it.
Many new enforcement tools are in place to track those owing child support, he said. This applies to all segments of society, from doctors to attorneys, engineers as well as retail and food service people, in short every describable walk of life.
It can mean license revocation for a professional person. It can mean loss of a drivers license.
The hardest part of the job often is finding someone, Sharp said. But with new tools available, new hire reports, and other information collection data, it is becoming more difficult for people to avoid making the payments.
Our cases are identified both by name and number, he said. If people want to evade their responsibilities, they try to stay under the radar. But eventually, they surface. Sometimes it takes a long time. If we can’t find a person, we can’t get them into the courts. We must be able to serve them.
When companies hire a person they must file a report and it is possible to get a match in that manner.
Cases are monitored once they are filed to ensure that payments are made, he said.
‘‘We do a pretty good job locating and getting people into court,’’ Sharp continued. It comes as a surprise to some that failure to meet the various requirements can mean they also will face either misdemeanor or felony charges.
Some cases are referred to the district attorney or federal prosecutor if a person crosses state lines to avoid child support payments.
People owing child support also forget about or don’t know they are paying interest on late payments. The actual amount owed for child support might be a small amount, but when interest is added, it becomes huge.
Some people are making efforts to stay current as word gets out that child support payments cannot be avoided — and they pay interest, he said. ‘‘We have had cases where individuals owed between $30,000 and $60,000 in support alone. As long as they feel they can get away without meeting their obligation, they don’t come in voluntarily.’’
Criminal contempt charges also can be filed against people if they don’t make their child support payments, Sharp said. These individuals are given a chance to get current and if they don’t, they can go to jail.
‘‘We don’t want to put people in jail,’’ he added. That is counter productive to the program. But if that tool is used it is amazing how many people find methods to make the required payments after they spend a day or two behind bars.
Sharp said the office also deals with paternity cases and files appropriate papers to ensure child support payments are made accordingly.
The test is simple and no needles are involved, he said.
When a woman alleges a man is the father of her child the test verifies or rejects the claim.
If there is no DNA match the case is closed.
When tests are positive and the man does not show up for a court hearing, a default order is issued, Sharp continued. If he is found, even years later, he finds he must pay his obligation.
It is one hundred percent better for the child if payments are started immediately and kept up.
Unfortunately, in today’s society grandparents are raising the children of their children, Sharp said. That often happens because one or both parents are in jail.
Both parents have a role in the upbringing of their children, he said. As long as the family is weakened there always will be child support issues. There is no easy answer.

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