Monday, October 2, 2006
Help Me Howard: Child Support
If you are a single parent, you probably can't wait for those child support checks. Unfortunately, many parents don't get them. And then there is one South Florida woman -- her ex is paying child support the state is collecting it, but then it just disappears. How do you solve a child support problem? Simple, just call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Lisa has the throwing motion a pro quarterback would love to have.
She gets plenty of chances to practice since she is a single mom with two young boys.
Lisa Tullis: "I have a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old. They are great kids, Malness is in magnet school and the second one, I am working on it."
With her ex-husband living in Georgia, Lisa is raising the boys by herself.
It's not easy, and, financially, it's flat-out difficult.
Lisa Tullis: "Food, giving them a place to live, their clothes. Like my oldest one, clothes and things he needs for school can be real expensive."
Finally, in May, she thought she was going to get help from her ex when the state of Georgia started taking $162 a week from his paycheck.
Lisa Tullis: "And I have copies of what he has paid May 30, 2006 -- at least three payments through June, and I still haven't received anything."
The state of Georgia told Lisa they have sent almost $2,400 to Florida's Child Support Division. Money that Florida was supposed to then turn over to Lisa and her boys.
Lisa Tullis: "And Georgia says they have proof that they have mailed it to Florida, but Florida says they don't have any proof of payments and that they don't have any information whatsoever on my case."
It's seems like a simple bureaucratic snafu, but it's been going on for five months.
And guess who is getting punished? Stuck in the middle, badly needing that money -- a mother and two boys.
Lisa Tullis: "I couldn't even afford to buy them school clothes when school started. I had to borrow money because the child support was not here even though he was already paying."
Lisa desperately needs the money to take care of her kids, but she says that desperation to find the money is not shared by some child enforcement workers.
Lisa Tullis: "They just keep sending me back and forth, and all they tell me is we have to talk to our manager."
In the meantime, while Lisa tries to keep her boys entertained, she is frustrated and fuming, wondering how agencies paid to get child support to parents can't seem to even find the child support.
Lisa Tullis: "It's very stressful."
But what can she do? To find out, she called the people over at Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is why government bureaucracy has become a bad word. Lisa tried and tried to get her money, but she was dealing with low level bureaucrats. The best way to fix the problem: contact people like Help Me Howard -- because we go straight to the bosses, and they know how to get things done."
So we went to work.
When I talked to the state of Georgia, they told me they could not discuss the case with me.
I then spoke to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, which handles child support in their county.
They were able to bust the bureaucratic trap -- they found the money and discovered it's stuck because of a legal technicality, that Florida needed a court order from Georgia to release the money to Lisa.
Child support officials vowed to Lisa they would go get it quickly, and she would soon have her money.
Bottom line, Howard says child support is a constant problem for a variety of reasons.
Howard Finkelstein: "We hear lots of problems with people trying to collect child support. Clearly the state of Florida needs to make the Child Enforcement Division more responsive and efficient because the welfare of children is at stake. Help Me Howard should not have to get involved."
Lisa of course is glad we stepped in, because, ultimately, it's not about her or the bureaucracy -- child support is about the kids.
Lisa Tullis: "It's important. It's for my children. It's to give them a roof over their head and take care of them."
Patrick Fraser: "And we blast the bureaucracy a lot because, well, they deserve it. But, by the same token, give the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office credit. I called them on a Thursday -- by Friday they had figured out the problem and had devised a solution. So they made a woman and her two growing boys, very happy -- and their lives a little better.
Someone bumbling? Fumbling, stumbling around with your problem? Need "support" from a likely source? That's us. We'll toss and turn 'til we get a solution for you.
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