The Veterans StandDown, an event hosted by the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance, connects military veterans and their families who are at risk of or experiencing homeless to supportive services to help them gain and maintain housing stability. The StandDown includes access to clothing, emergency shelter, health care screenings, mental health services, showers, VA benefits counseling, and access to DES caseworkers who offer assistance with services like child support, for example.
The Child Support Services program is a federal/state/local program that collects child support from parents who are legally obligated to pay. DES Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) staff work with custodial parents (caretakers with physical custody of a child(ren)) as well as noncustodial parents (parents who do not have physical custody of his or her minor child as the result of a child custody determination) to ensure the financial needs of children are met.
During a Veterans StandDown in Pinal County earlier this year, a non-custodial parent (NCP), named Michael Flores, approached the DES DCSS table and hesitantly asked, "Are you really going to help me?"
Flores explained that he was on Social Security Disability and DCSS was collecting half of his benefits to go towards his child support obligation, in the amount nearly $600. Flores knew he needed to do something to address this, but didn’t know where to start.
“The paperwork was so thick and I couldn’t afford a lawyer or paralegal. I tried to do it on my own, but it was going to cost me a lot of money—money that I don’t have,” said Flores.
DCSS Unit Supervisor, Cristy Rininger, talked to Flores about the problems he was having. She took down his information and stated she would look into his case further and contact him.
“Cristy did everything for me. She filed the paperwork, and above all, it didn’t cost me anything. She did all this while keeping in contact with me and letting me know what was going on,” said Flores.
Rininger and Flores worked together to establish his new monthly obligation. In the end, Flores received an Attorney General (AG) consult along with an ex parte order of assignment that lowered his payment on arrears to $200 a month. In addition, a motion to stop accrual and interest on arrears has been filed.
“[Cristy] went out of her way to do things for me. She listened to me. That’s what’s most important. If they weren’t there for me…I’d still be waiting and trying to figure it out on my own.”
Rininger has worked at the Pinal County StandDown for the past five years and says she is honored to be able to serve DCSS clients and veterans; custodial and non-custodial parents alike. With several military members in her immediate and extended family, she knows firsthand the challenges they face.
“The StandDown provides a unique setting to reach our veteran NCPs that we may not otherwise encounter,” said Rininger. “I have personally had the honor of assisting several veterans and have seen the difference our services can make in their lives, along with the other services provided at the StandDown.”
According to the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance, AVSA and its partners have already served approximately 2,400 veterans and their families so far in 2018.
For more information on DES Child Support Services, please contact: 602-252-4045 or visit des.az.gov.
By Isabella Neal