For many years, Dolly was a single mother and the primary caregiver for her daughter. In 2012, a court order was established stating that child support and medical support obligations would be determined at a later date. As a result, Dolly maintained financial responsibility for many years. "My daughter didn't do without and I made sure of that," explained Dolly. "But I was struggling with our daughter back when she was young."
When a case was opened with the DES Division of Child Support Service (DCSS) in 2014, the order was modified and a monthly payment amount was calculated. There were times when DCSS was able to collect payments. However, many obstacles exist that can make it difficult for DCSS to collect sustained and consistent payments to assist customers like Dolly and her daughter.
Dolly recalls instances when her daughter was younger: "Several times when she needed things for high school, I struggled with… getting her new clothes or shoes and making sure she had everything ready just to start the school year." She said her daughter was an exceptional student with high grade point averages, but stated that enrollment in honors classes costs money.
In 2017, Child Support Services Officer, Sandra, became involved with Dolly's case. Sandra was persistent in collecting payments and considered what could have been preventing the father from making child support payments. "When an agency like us calls, sometimes people get defensive. They believe we're just there for the one parent," said Sandra. "I explain that I'm not just there for one side; I'm here for both. I don't want parents to get too far behind because it can become difficult for them." When a child support case falls behind with payments, ‘arrears'–or back-payments–are accrued, creating a larger balance.
Sandra was able to achieve a positive outcome on the case earlier this year by retrying some of the steps in the standard operating procedures. That's when she learned from the Social Security Administration (SSA) of a pending application awaiting a decision. Social security funds are eligible to be applied toward child support. She sent an Income Withholding Order and remained vigilant, following up with SSA. "With case management, you have to think outside the box all the time," said Sandra. "Just because one resource might not work the first time, doesn't mean you can't try again."
When the social security funds became available, DCSS was able to intercept them and apply them to the child support obligation. The funds satisfied the child support balance and Sandra was able to close the case. "After so long, [it's] not just a case closed for us, but a closed chapter for [the parents] too," explained Sandra.
Now, with some financial assistance that compensated for years of inconsistent support, Dolly can move on. "Sandra was wonderful finishing up my case," said Dolly. "I hope she can help other [parents] who are struggling with their cases."
If you're a parent or guardian in need of child support services, please contact the DCSS Customer Service Center at 602-252-4045 or 1-800-882-4151. Attentive caseworkers like Sandra can assist you through similar situations. For more information about child support services, please visit the Division of Child Support Services website.