Valuable Information About Tennessee Child Support! READ THIS!

UPDATE DECEMBER 2011: A PETITION HAS BEEN CREATED TO GET RID OF MAXIMUS CHILD SUPPORT IN TENNESSEE. THIS PETITION WILL BE GOING TO THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR, BILL HASLAM. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SIGN! 

What You Need To Know About Child Support Collection in Tennessee

This is an informative blog post for Custodial parents that are already collecting child support or are looking to collect child support in Tennessee. This information is part of my own experience and has been collected from my own research, the State of Tennessee Child Support offices, and Maximus Child Support. The process and laws of child support collection in Tennessee are very confusing and frustrating. I am writing this blog for people like me who are at the mercy of a system that is ill ridden with lack of information or help. It is my hope that this blog post will give people a better idea of what awaits them before and after they attempt to collect child support. First, let me say, if you are expecting Maximus Child Support or the State to help you in any way, you are already on your way to becoming caught up in a whirling dervish of “it’s not our fault” push the blame on each other antics. I have discovered, based on my own experience, that the State of Tennesse and Maximus Child Support work together to keep you as much in the dark about your child support case as possible. Every time I have ever contacted the State or Maximus with questions about my particular case, I get the run around. I am told that there is nothing they can do for me, and that I will have to wait anywhere from 30-45 days. If you are lucky, and you finally begin to collect child support through an income withholding order (automatically taken from the non-custodial parents paycheck), please note that according to Tennessee Law the employer can hold this money for up to 30 days before sending it to the State. You heard me right, Tennessee Law allows a company to let your child support payment sit on a desk in payroll for up to 30 days, simply at the discretion of a company. This throws another entity into the swirling confusion bowl called Tennessee Child Support Enforcement.

WHO IS MAXIMUS CHILD SUPPORT?
Maximus is a private contracted company that works to help the State collect payments. They are not working for “you” the individual. Maximus bids against other companies to gain a contract through the State of Tennessee.  Maximus has contracts in Davidson County, Knox County, and Hamilton County. Recently, in 2009, Maximus outbid 4 entities, that included Shelby County’s juvenile court, and was paid 11.8 million dollars for the first year of their contract.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU WASTE YOUR VALUABLE TIME CALLING MAXIMUS

If your child’s father/mother has a job and they take the money directly out of his check, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The employer has control of the money. If you are missing a check and you call Maximus Child Support wondering where the money is, even if you know it has already been taken out of his/her check, you will make them really mad. They will then inform you that their “guidelines” allow an employer 30 days to send the money to the State. In other words, the money can sit on a desk waiting to be sent to the State and Maximus will not do anything to push this process along. Do not ask them to contact the employer to see if they could speed up this process. You will send the Maximus employee into orbit. Since the money is going from the employer to the State, you might ask yourself exactly what Maximus’ job is? This is a really good question, and if you find the answer, you can let me know.

If your child’s father/mother is not employed, you can forget getting any help at all from Maximus Child Support. They will simply tell you that as long as he/she is not working, there is nothing they can do.

If your child’s father/mother has a child support order against them and you are unsure of whether they are working or not. DO NOT CALL MAXIMUS CHILD SUPPORT. They will only tell you that although you have a court order for child support, the paying parent has up to 90 days to comply with the support order. If you have a child support order that determines a set amount that the parent must pay, this means NOTHING. You might as well take this court order and flush it down the toilet. In other words, if you went to court and the judge established that the non-custodial parent is to pay $565 a month, but no income withholding order has been sent to his employer, the court order will not, and cannot be enforced.  DO NOT CALL MAXIMUS OR THE STATE OF TENNESSEE CHILD SUPPORT OFFICES, they will only tell you that if the parent pays any amount (even $10) within the 90 day period, the 90 day period starts anew. This crazy system of collecting child support is a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If you do manage to make it through the courts and actually obtain an Order of Support there is nothing that can be done to enforce it, as Tennessee law dictates. You are just as well off to hire an attorney (if you can afford it) to enforce the Order. The way I see it, all that Maximus Child Support Enforcement does is send a company an income withholding order (if they have a job) or do nothing if they don’t. They are being paid a lot of money to do the same job that juvenile court and DHS could probably do better. It is my belief that tax payer dollars could be better spent paying a court worker or DHS worker to do this job. I also feel that when their contract runs out, Maximus Child Support Enforcement should NOT be allowed another contract, I don’t care how low their bid is. The way they conduct themselves is highly UNPROFESSIONAL. When you call to ask them a question, they immediately seem annoyed and act like you have bothered them with your call.

If you are new to child support in Tennessee, I would recommend getting an attorney if you can afford it. Otherwise, you will continually be at the mercy of people who are going to do nothing to assist you in collecting the money that is due you. However, an attorney will.

On a final note, let’s talk about the Visa Debit Card that child support issues as an alternative to receiving a check. This Visa card is a fiasco, and Visa makes a killing in fees off of people who use this card. Keep in mind that if you choose the Visa Card option, you are now adding another entity into the process of getting your money. It would go from the employer, to the State, then to the Visa card people. When you combine the three of these entities handling your child support, you are going to be waiting for three different entities to process your payment. 1. The employer that is allowed to hold it for up to 30 days. 2. The State to process it through their system. 3. The Visa Card people to process your money onto the card. And let me tell you, there is no customer service for this card. There is no phone number for you to contact a person, and the Visa Card people do NOT work on weekends. So when they get a payment from the State on a Friday, you are going to have to wait until Monday for a Visa card worker to come into work and process your money. And they take their sweet time doing it. I have since opted for direct deposit through the State, and tossed this Visa card to the side. You should know that the Visa card charges you to check your balance, and charges you every time you use the card with YOUR money on it. DO NOT USE THE VISA DEBIT CARD, because their exorbitant, ridiculous fees, and slow process time, will make you want to pull your hair out.

I hope this blog answers questions and helps other people understand what they are dealing with, when it comes to seeking child support enforcement in Tennessee. Especially people who live in the counties of Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, and Shelby. This is where Maximus operates.

UPDATE JUNE 25, 2011: If you are experiencing problems with Maximus, or Child Support Collections in general, you should contact: Commissioner Hatter email: raquel.hatter@tn.gov 
Everyone cannot afford an attorney, such was my case, and I could not get any help from Maximus. Dr. Hatter was able to help me pursue, and finally get my child support payments started again. 

For More Information Check Out My Posts About:
ESTABLISHING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER

ENFORCEMENT OF A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER