Monday, October 10, 2011
Help Me Howard: Lottery and Child Support
She was so excited. Her ex-husband, who owed back child support, was turning in $5,000 to the state to give to his kids, and the State of Florida took that $5,000, and instead of giving it to the kids, kept it for the state. Legally, can the state take child support money from kids? Here is the answer from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Susan Marichal is a single mom with a single goal: Do the best for her children.
Susan Marichal, Where's Child Support: "It's hard. Lots of work just trying to make ends meet all the time. My life is all about my kids."
Susan says, her ex is a good father and a so-so provider.
Susan Marichal: "No, I mean, he's given me here and there when he can, but he is over $70,000 in child support that he owes."
Then, a few days ago, the kids' father called and said he had won $5,000 from a scratch-off ticket, that he was going to the lottery to turn it in, and he knew they would keep the money to help pay the back child support.
Susan Marichal: "I was like, Great! I get to spend some money on my kids, pay bills I need to pay, so I was looking forward to it."
Her ex cashed in the ticket. The State of Florida took the $5,000, and instead of giving it to the kids gave it to a state agency that oversees unemployment compensation.
Susan Marichal: "How can the state take it from my kids?"
A lottery official told Susan that her husband owed the State of Florida money for receiving too much unemployment benefits, so that agency got the money.
Susan Marichal: "So when I found this out, I was like, how can unemployment be more important than my children's well-being?"
Susan kept making calls and then was told, the State of Florida's computers had no record of the $70,000 in child support her ex owed.
Susan Marichal: "She stated that when they entered that information, the child support order did not come up that he owed anything. I know that he's in the system, because his license was suspended because of child support, yet child support is not in the system when he wins $5,000."
Two different state agencies told Susan they would investigate, but after watching one state agency take it from her ex and give it to another state agency instead of her kids, you can understand why Susan is a little cynical.
Susan Marichal: "I just think the state wants the money, and they are going to ignore us."
And if Susan can't get unemployment to give up the money, her kids won't get what they need.
Susan Marichal: "I want my children to get the $5,000. We can use it on a lot of things that we need, and it's only fair."
Well Howard, her ex owed unemployment money, and he owed child support. Legally, can the state give the money to unemployment over two little kids?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "No, they cannot. Give the politicians credit. They created a pecking order, and at the top of that order is a parent owed child support. The kids get the money before any state agency, so unemployment has to turn over the $5,000 to Susan."
I contacted several agencies right away.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, who handles Susan's child support, discovered the Department of Revenue's computer system did not have Susan's information in their computer.
The Department of Revenue told me, there was a glitch in their system that has been corrected. A spokesperson added, "We deeply regret the error."
Then, the good news for Susan: Miami-Dade's Child Support Enforcement Division got the money taken from unemployment and put in Susan's bank account.
Susan Marichal: "Yeah, $5,000. The kids get some new clothes, things that we really needed to do."
Needless to say, Susan and her kids are happy.
Susan Marichal: "Thank you to you guys and helping me out, because I know that this would have never happened without you guys. They were going to give me the run-around, and I appreciate it."
Patrick Fraser: "The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office told me, in the last year, their child support unit intercepted $36 million from parents who owed money and got the money to the kids. They want to know why the Department of Revenue didn't have Susan's child support order in their computer. The department told me, they are investigating the mistake. And they need to fix the flaw so parents and kids get what is owed them."
Owed money you can't recover? Ready for an interception? Toss it to us. We can't deliver jackpots, but we will share piles of legal support.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com