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State Takes Blame, Offers Few Answers Regarding Late Child Support Payments

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LOUISBURG — Six hundred thousand parents in North Carolina count on child support payments each month. When that check does not arrive, some families are put in a real bind.

"It's our fault and there's no excuse..." That is what the state says about problems with the new centralized child support system.

Coupons and envelopes for people to send their payments with did not go out. Now there are checks totalling $1.5 million that cannot be matched up with the proper case.

The counties which used to collect child support are not at fault, but are fielding a lot of the complaints.

Amy Oakley is getting a lot of calls about child support these days, but she does not have a lot of answers.

Oakley used to handle child support collection for Franklin County, but now it is being handled by a centralized system in Raleigh -- a system which is not working very well.

"When they call they want an answer here. And when I can't tell them anything either, it is very frustrating because some of these women rely on this money for livelihood," says Oakley.

Some counties are so overwhelmed they have resorted to leaving a recorded message at their child support office explaining why they cannot take calls personally.

"But the truth is more calls are coming in than my office and my staff can handle. I still don't know who has paid, who has not paid, nor when you'll get a check."

"They still look at us and say 'Well, you've been giving me my check for the last eight years, why can't I get my check,'" says Ralph Knott.

Knott has been the court clerk in Franklin County for 37 years. He says he listens, but he cannot help people track their child support because it is now in the hands of the state.

"Our hands are tied, we don't know how to help them," he says.

Franklin County says their records show that at least 1,500 checks from their area have been sent to Raleigh and just 83 families have been paid.

At this point the state will not even estimate how long it is going to take to get the unravel the mess. It has 60 people working on trying to match up the unidentified checks with the proper cases. At this point they cannot even estimate when the problems will be solved.

Anyone who sends in a check without a coupon attached should be sure to put their case number and social security number on the check to make sure it can be identified.

If you opt to pay child support to the custodial parent of your child directly instead of going through the system, be prepared to go to court. A judge may give you credit for the payment or payments if you have a receipt to prove you paid, and if the other parent backs you up.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Adrienne Traxinger, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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