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Dad in support case is victim of cultural mind-set

Because we are creatures of habit and because mothers usually get custody of children, we assume that it is always the mother who is chasing down the father in child support cases.

That assumption is not true in my case, but it sure has caused me problems.

I have custody of my two children, ages 8 and 10. I applied for child support a year after the divorce and in 1990 began receiving support money deducted from my ex-wife's paycheck. The money stopped after a short time when she quit her job and moved away.

It was not until I went to HRS to try and collect back support that I realized my file at HRS was a big mess.

The income deduction order dated Oct. 16, 1989, had my ex-wife named as the petitioner and me as the respondent. In other words, it shows her trying to get child support from me.

A 1991 Motion for Contempt is correct, but the clerk's office has a Certificate of Arrears that says I am behind $4,019 in child support payments as of May 23, 1991.

Also the receipts for support indicate that I was the person making the payments to my ex-wife.

I was told that attempts were being made to serve my ex-wife with an order to appear in court, but I did not know she had not appeared until a warrant was issued for my arrest.

I wasn't home when the police arrived. When my neighbors told them that I'm the one who has custody of the kids, the police said to tell me I'd better straighten it out by the next morning or they'd have to arrest me. They corrected the warrant so I was not arrested.

HRS told me that when my ex-wife filed her federal income taxes I would receive any refunds due her. I never have received any of her refunds, but for the past two years when I call the IRS to check on my own refund, the computer says it is being held for an outstanding obligation. When I ask to whom this obligation is payble, they say the records don't show that and so they send me my refund.

My caseworker at HRS says she has to get her supervisor's permission to look into my case. The HRS attorney said she can't help me, that I must make an appointment with HRS to straighten out this mess.

I see where you sometimes help mothers collect child support. My problem is much more complicated, but I hope you can help.

D. H.

Response: According to Deborah Case, HRS Child Support Enforcement Program administrator, the Pinellas County clerk of court first transposed your name with that of your ex-wife in March 1990. In May 1990, the names were corrected, but the same thing happened again in May 1991.

Her office has contacted the clerk and asked that your files be corrected again and also that a note be made on the file that the petitioner is the father of the children, not the mother.

Ms. Case also says CSE has certified you for IRS intercept every year the case has qualified it to do so. Her office has never shown you as owing child support in its records. If IRS indicates your money is being held for an outstanding obligation, it is not through CSE, she says.

In other words, it is not HRS that is messing up your records, but the clerk of court and the folks at IRS.

It sounds to us like you are suffering the consequences of a cultural mind-set.

Here's our suggestion.

Make a dozen photocopies of this column and send them to Ms. Case with the request that, in the future, one of the columns be attached to every piece of correspondence sent to the clerk of court, the IRS or any other agency involved in your case.

Is this a stalling tactic?

Your column said to write to TRW to get a free copy of my credit report. I did. They responded with a form letter stating I had not submitted the necessary information.

I sent back the necessary information and got another form letter, same as the last.

This is where you might want to help out.

Earl Bonney

Response: We got a slew of complaints similar to yours, which might indicate TRW is stalling.

Send your complaint to: Ms. Cheryl Wallace, Federal Trade Commission Regional Office, 1718 Peachtree St. NW, Suite 1000, Atlanta, GA 30367.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

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