Miss. child support fee steams custodial parent

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, September 15, 2007

First she was shocked, then angry.

Sonya Cantrell recently received a letter from the Mississippi Department of Human Services in which the agency said it will require her to pay an annual fee of $25 for work the state did to collect child support payments.

“DHS’ job is to collect the support for people who aren’t able to do it on their own,” said Cantrell, who receives child support. “And they’re going to charge the custodial parent $25 to do that? Why aren’t they contacting the noncustodial parent?”

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Under federal law, a mandatory fee is charged for successful child support collection for a family that has never received TANF or welfare assistance.

“It’s not so much the $25 that makes me angry,” said Cantrell. “The fact that this law was passed, there are some lawmakers somewhere who saw this and said you know, what if it says indeed the custodial parent has to pay that? How is that okay?”

DHS officials said the letter was sent to individuals for whom the state has collected $500 or more in a single federal fiscal year and individuals who have never received assistance under the Social Security Act, meaning state assistance or welfare.

DHS officials said Mississippi isn’t the only state having problems collecting the $25. Several others states have received the same backlash from parents.

The letter also tells the custodial parents that if the fee isn’t paid, DHS can suspend their driver’s license, take more money out of their child support or take legal action.

Fees will offset the cost of court fees, attorney fees and other operating costs necessary to obtain and enforce child support orders, according to DHS, and some of the money goes to the federal government.