State Can't Keep Up With The Joneses

Woman Fights Agency Over Child-support Error

November 03, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Two David Joneses in the computer was too many for the county child support collection staff.

That's why Columbia resident Elise Joneshas been waiting four months for a $1,250 child support check that her ex-husband, David L. Jones of South Carolina, sent to the Department of Social Service Bureau of Support Enforcement in June.

When Elise Jones pressed the agency to investigate, she learned that the check had been sent to the ex-wife of David W. Jones of Ellicott City. She says she was then told she would have to wait for her money until the agency collected it from the other woman.

"I understand how it happened, but for them to keep telling me they have to recoup (first) is a joke. It was their mistake," she says.

Confidentiality regulations bar Rita Reid, support enforcement supervisor, from discussing individual cases, but she said bureau policy is not to defer payment to the person owed while seeking reimbursement from the overpaid person.

"We wouldn't hold up paying the proper person forthat (reimbursement) to occur," Reid said.

Elise Jones, however, is still trying to pry her son's support check out of the bureau.

"I'm sure they're tired of looking at me," she said.

Child supportcollection is a state service open to any community resident who receives court-ordered support from an ex-spouse. Bureau agents monitor payments and recommend prosecution for delinquent parents.

David L. Jones notified his ex-wife in June that he had sent $1,250 to make up part of the arrearage on his $75 weekly support payment. The payment reduced his arrearage to $2,500, she said.

She verified the information with the support bureau and was told she would receive payment in a week or two. By August, she had received nothing and called again and was told her husband had made no payments.

Jones contacted her ex-husband, a time-consuming process since he has no telephone.He assured her that the check had been deducted on his bank statement, so Jones went back to see the agent assigned to her case.

"I had to force them to find out there was another David Jones," she said.Only the middle initials differed, and the agent then confirmed thather check had been sent to the other Mrs. Jones.

Elise Jones saidthe agent told her the bureau would deduct the erroneous payment from the other woman's unemployment compensation and forward the money to her.

"I said no," Jones said. "For her to say they have to recoup from the other party is nonsense. It's not my fault they gave my money away."

She persisted, and was told to bring a photocopy of herex-husband's canceled check as proof of his payment.

"I felt likeDorothy in the 'Wizard of Oz' when she gets the broomstick and the Wizard says, 'You have to go back and do more,' " Jones said.

Meanwhile, Jones had taken a bank loan to meet expenses. She estimates that she has paid about $50 in interest on the loan while waiting for her check.

She received a photocopy of the canceled check last week and took it to the bureau, where she said she was again told the payments would be deducted from the other woman's checks and sent to her.

Reid said the bureau's policy is, "If we have verified what happened and it is our error, we would make sure the person received her money."

Social Services Director Samuel W. Marshall said Friday that Elise Jones should receive her check next week.

She'll be waiting.

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