Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dealing with bureaucrats

Father says he's still paying child support for 3-year-old son who died 25 years ago

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Lional Campbell's son, Michael, passed away at the age of three from acute meningitis.
"It took a lot out of me," says Campbell who is from Detroit and now lives in Kentucky. And it's that distance that is making even more difficult for Campbell to wage a fight with Wayne County Friend of the Court over child support that Campbell says he is still paying for Michael.
A spokesperson for the Friend of the Court says no one ever notified them of the boy's death until Campbell began asking why he still owed child support in 2011 for a child that was deceased by the age of 3.
For years, Campbell never questioned paying child support to Friend of the Court because he thought the money was for what he owed for an older son he fathered with Michael's mother.
The older son was born seven years before Michael and is now 34 years old.
Believing his payments, that included arrearages, should have ended by now, Campbell asked why the payments had not stopped.
He says he was told the continuing payments were back child support for his son Michael.
Campbell drove to Detroit to show court officials a death certificate, proof that Michael died in 1988, but says he was told that he still owed about $43,000 for Michael.
Campbell asked for several audits. Each time he was given a lesser amount. He was then told he owed a little less than $20,000.
Campbell says even clerks at the Friend of the Court have been baffled.
"The lady said 'how you owe on a child been dead 23 years?' I said I don’t know and she said we’ll do another audit".
Campbell reached out to 7 Action News and while a spokesperson for the Friend of the Court could not talk specifically about Campbell's case because of privacy issues, they did tell us that surcharges drastically raise the amounts owed by non-custodial parents.
One court official likened the surcharges, that ended several years ago, to "loan sharking".
Court officials admitted to 7 Action News that the calculations from the audits were wrong and that they would expedite another one.
The latest audit resulted in what court officials believe is an accurate amount Campbell still owes: $6,460.08.
And after so many erroneous audits, Campbell still doubts he owes that amount because for so many years he was paying for what court officials believed were two children.
A spokesperson for Friend of the Court tells 7 Action News that there is no clear reason other than human error to explain why multiple audits generated such varied amounts.
The case is also complicated by factors that include: appropriately detangling the surcharges; gaps in Campbell's employment history; and payments for two children that were being made for many years.
Campbell plans on seeking another audit before filing his taxes for fear that any refund will be swallowed up by the Friend of the Court that continues to garnish his checks.
Court officials call the mistakes they believe were made on their part "regretful". And they believe the errors in Campbell's case are isolated.
Michael's mother declined to comment on the story.

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