Child Support Surrealism

This is me calling Child Support Enforcement. This is after speaking to the rep and waiting for the supervisor. Can you read my mind?

This is me calling Child Support Enforcement, on hold for a supervisor. Can you read my mind?

To call or not to call, that is the question.

Oh Miami Dade County State Attorney’s Child Support Enforcement Office, I just can’t decide if you improve or deteriorate my quality of living.

I called them today. I’m still unsure whether or not that was a good idea. I’m still unsure whether or not my calls actually matter to anyone other than myself. I’m still unsure whether my calls affect anything else other than my sanity.

I was on hold for 27 minutes which I guess isn’t bad compared to the record of one hour and one minute hold time in December. This time, it was Warren on the line which brought this to mind

Empire Records

Empire Records

Warren let me know that the gorbellied common-kissing jointhead (thanks Will) went into the Enforcement Office on January 23. He went in to negotiate a lower payment to have his license reinstated and was denied because when they pulled him up in the system, he had multiple child support obligations.

Pause. What!?

Apparently there is a note in the file that they denied him renegotiation because he has other cases that are delinquent. As in other children.

Now listen ladies and gents, this clouted fat-kidneyed boar-pig maybe a compulsive liar with a penchant for pulling cons, but if there is one thing I am 99.9% certain about him is that there are no other children. Previous pregnancies prior to mine? My understanding is yes and that it was terminated. Warren was all skeptical of me and my insistence on this and I knew with this horrible cold feeling in my gut this must happen all of the time, so I dropped it.

Warren said they were still waiting on that Income Deduction Order to go into effect. He also reassured me that they made sure to tell him he had to continue making child support payments until the Income Deduction Order went into effect. Ohmygodthankyousmuch for telling him that!! I bet you anything you guys changed his ways and made him realize what a horrible misunderstanding it was!! And clearly it worked well because I have gotten zero payments except for the $100 payment he made that day to get his license reinstated.

So you know, I had to wait until March but then not really because at that point they would send a follow-up letter giving the company another 20 days to comply and do you guys know what they do after that? They… send another letter… giving them another 20 days to comply. And then they would go and try and find a different employer he might be at. Oh and by the way, little known fact here– when an Income Deduction Order is pending, like this one, all other enforcement efforts stop. In other words, even if he doesn’t make the payments he was instructed to, they cannot proceed with enforcement until the total 100 days have passed.

So I’m all dismayed and stuff and about to hang up and then I’m like, “I need a supervisor please.” And then Warren was like, “Not a problem but I need to explain to the supervisor what the call is about” which I think is their way of asking “Sh!t am I in trouble? You’re not gonna tattle on me are you?” And then I was all like, “I just want to go over this enforcement stuff and the thing with the multiple obligations stuff or something.” “Oh ok sure” which means “Oh my god I’m not in trouble thank you lord jesus”.

So then, I got put on hold again but was so dismayed I didn’t even care about how long it was for and took that picture up there instead because I felt like this was crazy and worth documenting and it wasn’t even that long really before Ray was on the phone.

Do you remember Ray? I remembered Ray. Ray was the supervisor I spoke to the day I had a horrible experience with one of the customer representatives who was just telling me complete and utter nonsense and acting like she knew exactly what she was talking about when it was obvious she totally didn’t. Ray was all like “What the hell is going on with this case and why are people telling you crazy stuff!?!?! I will fix your case!!!” Which you know, A for effort on that one Ray but…

“Wow this case has only gotten $100?” he asks me. Yup. Ray turns out to be my senior case analyst and I really like him because he digs and finds things out and makes me feel like someone is actually caring about my case and is going to help things get done but it also makes me completely curious just how the hell these people do their job because no one knows what anyone else is doing and yet it seems like fifty million people can affect one particular case.

So Ray gets caught up with the case, because let’s be real– the guy hasn’t looked at it since the day I called him in November for sure. And then Ray lets me know what really happened. Are you ready? Are you sure you’re ready? Do you have a tasty snack? Do you want to get a cool beverage, or a hot one if you’re freezing your bum off somewhere?

And get ourselves a snack!

And get ourselves a snack!

Ok

On January 23, the beslubbering beef-witted barnacle did indeed come to the Child Support Enforcement Office. They updated his information because he informed them the Employer information they had on-file (yes the one with the pending Income Deduction Order) was out of date and he gave them new Employer Information. He said he needed his license back. They told him that was fine, he just had to pay $1028.00. He said he didn’t have that kind of money. They said too bad. That’s where the story should end. Right there. But it doesn’t.

He explained that he has a new job but that without a valid license, he could not have this job. He probably explained what the consequences of not having a job would be as far as possible future child support payments go. Maybe he lamented the economy and told them about how much horrible stress he’s been on lately and how absolutely dreadful he feels about not being able to support his dear children the way he wishes he could, nay the way they deserve.  I don’t freaking know. But whatever he did, he convinced the person to take it up with a supervisor, who is not Ray because these negotiations happen “downstairs” and they are not involved with them, and then he convinced the supervisor to help him out.

So they said if he paid the $100 he claimed was all he had, they would reinstate the license. This is the bit where they also explained they would be sending the new employer the Income Deduction Order but that he must make child support payments until the Income Deduction Order went into effect. They probably thanked him for coming in. They probably wished him good luck with this new job and hoped times would be better for him. I don’t freaking know.

All I know is he walked out of there with a reinstated license and put a freeze on all enforcement efforts again for up to another 100 days. For $100. With an arrears amount over $19k and a past due amount that is now over $11k. After going six months without making any type of payment whatsoever.

Did they verify his claim of employment before agreeing to his offer of $100 to reinstate the license? Did they verify the other employer is indeed invalid? No. They don’t do that. They take their word for it.

They. Take. Their. Word. For. It.

They take their word for it!!!!

There are a couple more minor surreal notes to add to this already surreal story.

First of all, I explained to Ray that I know crazy things happen all the time but I was pretty confident that my children were his only children and that I was concerned that note was on the case file because what if it were to start complicating other things? Ray was hesitant and he clarified he could only discuss MY case information with me. But he looked up his social. And guess what????????

My kids are his only kids. So what is that note doing there? Was it an error? Did someone just look up his name, which also happens to be kind of common? Or did he maybe lead them to believe he had other children he was having trouble supporting? I have no idea but someone put a total bullshit note on my case file.

Second of all, he went to the Child Support office on January 23rd. He gave them the information for the new employer which most likely triggered the close of the other employer’s case. They sent the Income Deduction Order today, February 15. Twenty three days later.

He has had a valid license and a new job for twenty three days, has made no payments at all, and they just sent the Income Deduction Order that gets the 100 day process started, today. So he got himself, potentially, 123 days.

It amazes me, time and again, how inefficient something critical can be. I called the company I had information for, aka the apparent now Former Employer (seriously I lost track of how many jobs he’s had since we split). The receptionist informed me that although she was new, she was pretty certain he didn’t work there because she couldn’t find him on her listing. It took less than two minutes. If I was actually calling for someone else as part of my job, I would have left a message with the HR woman she transferred me to just to be absolutely sure and to get some real closure on something.

I love technology. I love automation. I really do. But we must always remember that computers, as brilliant as they are, are actually stupid. And as efficient as automation can be, humans are not automatic. In other words, when applying technology and automation to a human problem, one cannot simply remove a human from the process. My frustration lies with the fact that I am working with a group that does not (for whatever reason) do the work needed to actually address the problem of non-paying non-custodial parents. Every time I call, I am forcing a human into the process. And there is resistance. That is why the first layer is the representatives who answer the phone. My experience tells me they are often poorly trained, have no power, and don’t really comprehend the majority of their job. It is almost as if they are trained to be the buffer against reinserting humanity into an automated process.

This issue burns me up. It’s not even on a selfish, personal level either. Every time I call and deal with the incompetence at the Enforcement Office I am reminded me of the (now cruel) words of the intake coordinator who processed my case in the beginning– “Oh your case is an easy one!” And the fact remains, despite the insanity that I have been going through with this case, there are by far worse situations that end up there. There are non-custodial parents who flee the county, state, even country. There are non-custodial parents with children with three, four, five different custodial parents. There are non-custodial parents who intentionally leave the workforce and go on benefits to not pay child support. And so I burn inside for those cases too. Because if they can’t get mine straight and mine is really not that complicated, then surely there is no way a meatier case ever  gets close to resolution.

And so I hate calling because there is just never a positive experience with Child Support Enforcement. But I also must call because no one at that office cares about my children and their needs and no one at that office is doing the actual complex work that needs to get done to care for the children of this state. So I’ll keep nagging and pushing and escalating. I’ll keep getting worked up and I’ll keep fighting those frustration tears and I’ll keep trying to make a connection with someone, anyone, there.

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If you’re thinking about a new bank…

Here is a light post until I get together a proper response to your amazing comments on the $tre$$ post because they were wonderful enough to warrant their own proper response and I’m in a calmer place now too.

So ING Direct is having a big savings sale like they do every Black Friday weekend. The one that benefits you and me the best is the Electric Orange deal. If you open a checking account using my referral account with a $250 deposit by December 15, I get $100 bucks and you get $25. If you open that account by tomorrow and use the debit card ten times in 45 days, you get $125 on the 50th day.

I love my Electric Orange account. If you have problems overdrafting your account, this will help you in a big, big way. They don’t charge you fees per transaction and they have a tiny overdraft limit to keep you in check. This account has saved me again and again and again. And I know I can use $100 and I know chances are pretty good you could use $150. So there you go. I hope this helps you out!

$tre$$

I thought that maybe I had shaken off most of it, but I was wrong. There is nothing like the holidays to stress me the heck out. What can I say? I’m freaking out about Christmas and fighting like hard not to freak out about Christmas at the same time.

Christmas is something I had set aside money for several months ago. But when child support evaporated, so did all of my savings, even Christmas. So now, I’m trying to figure it all out. I’m making things like crazy. Well, that’s not true. I was making things like crazy and then I slowed down considerably and pretty much stopped because I got burned out. I’m trying to start things up again.

The problem with stress is it’s very distracting. You try and focus on something and it wriggles and wiggles it’s way around your brain as it moves towards the center stage of your thoughts.

This year, the kids will be spending Christmas Eve with their father. They come to my house Christmas Day around noon. We are going to have  Christmas Cookie Party that day. I think that it will be a lot of fun. And maybe it will distract the kids from a really skimpy Christmas tree.

This is where I begin to flounder, to worry, to conflict myself. My kids are blessed with a large, loving extended family who will surely shower them with gifts the way they do at every special occasion. They have a ton of stuff no matter how much I have them go through their toys and get rid of things. So there’s a battle in me– I know they don’t need or even want more stuff but I want to give to them. So I feel bad about not having any money to buy much for Christmas this year and at the same time I don’t feel bad about not participating in the relentless consumerism that so deeply affects this country. The kind of consumerism that fuels this kind of irony…

People trample each other for cheap goods mere hours after being thankful for what they already have

So I am struggling with that inner conflict at the same time I am stressing about the usual stress I have been dealing with regarding bills and life’s necessities. This means child support still hasn’t shown up in any way, shape, or form. If I understand the state attorney’s office correctly, that means his license is either suspended or about to be suspended any day now. I haven’t called them back since that last post. I probably will next week. I’m a pest but I don’t have a choice in the matter.

Their father told me he is starting a new job on the first, that they are in the negotiation stage right now. He told me the same exact thing, word for word, a few months ago. If it IS true, it would of course be that just about the time the state attorney’s office should be linking up to the unemployment office to garnish those checks, he would be starting a new job and stop collecting unemployment therefore starting the garnishment process anew all over again. It’s enough to make you laugh the maniacal laugh of loony bins.

Today, I’ll be staying home doing the laundry and working on crocheted gifts. We already watched Elf but it made me cry so I don’t think I’ll be putting on any more Christmas movies today. Today, the kids are going to make their Christmas lists but I am going to do something different. I am going to give them a paper with four sections: Something I want, Something I need, Something to wear, and Something to read. I’ll let them fill each section out with a couple of things in each category and use that as my guiding light this Christmas. I think it’s better this way than a free for all.

I hope you enjoy your weekend. I’m trying to do just that.

What Would My Readers Do? The Car Edition

As I mentioned yesterday, my car is not doing well. Here are the main points:

It’s a 2003 Nissan Murano. It was a car I purchased used six years ago. My payments were about $400 a month and I just paid it off now. Not sure why it took six years when it was a five year loan but whatever that’s not the point.

It has 120k+ miles on it.

Previous owner apparently did not change the oil regularly so there is something wrong with the motor that causes it to burn oil. I have taken the car in for regular oil changes to find it almost completely empty. This has been happening for about 3 years.

There is something wrong with the transmission. It is drivable but makes a TAP TAP TAP noise and a TINY little shudder when it comes to a stop. Also when you are doing the slow backing out or pulling into something maneuver where you have your foot kind of on and off the brake, the noise is much more persistent and the shudder more obvious too.

My parents and Stallion are both of the opinion that I should not invest in the car further. Mostly their concern is the oil burning thing and that a tranny repair is likely to be costly. I haven’t gotten an estimate yet but our mechanic who does not handle trannies is concerned as well.

My parents , god bless them, have proposed two things to me. They both include the same thing– I sell my car.

They want me to either:

  • Give my dad whatever proceeds I get from my car and take over the payments he is making on HIS car– a 2010 Mazda something (I think Mazda 5). It’s a six passenger car. He has three and a half years left on it and the monthly payments are about $250.
  • Trade my car in and they will co-sign a lease/loan for a new car for me.

I don’t like any of these options. I also don’t like the option where I sell my car and get something else used. I also don’t like the option of investing into the car further if the thing’s a hot mess, and the bottom line is my parents would have to help me pay the repair bill. I’m completely stumped and everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do about the car.

I’m tired of spending money on cars but I need a car. I use public transportation to get to work and back but to get the kids to school, I need the car. And to do almost everything else, I need the car. And now with Stallion working retail and going to school and having crazy hours all over the place, I can’t even say I’ll only use my car during the week.

So, what do you brilliant amazing readers think I should do?

@$)^&@!&%$ Banks!

Please allow me to have a mini rant here. If you’re not in the mood for ranting, you can… go…. look at…. meditation stock photos.

Image from a Telegraph article appropriately titled “Bank Complaints: Don’t get mad, get even”

A couple of months ago, University Credit Union let me know it was going to start charging $2.99 a month for my formerly free checking account. I had been debating closing my account with them anyways because I don’t like ridiculous fees for what is most of the time just really stupid mistakes. In other words, I don’t think most people overdraft their accounts with a malicious intent. Most of the time it’s truly accidental. I mean ok I understand a $5 fee for being a dummy but $32? That’s absurd.  Anyway, I had made a couple of stupid mistakes already and I didn’t like being slapped with that huge insulting fee which doesn’t exist at ING Direct. Which by the way, if you’re interested in ING Direct, and you should be, email me and I ‘ll send you a referral so we both get extra money. Ok so back to the freaking point.

I decided to close the credit union account BUT not right away because it was linked to the child support payments and I kept receiving promises of payment during this time. So I kept it open, made up my mind to send in paperwork to change the account the child support deposited into, and forgot everything.

Fast forward to September. The account had dwindled down to about $14 since the only thing connected to it was the child support deposits and those weren’t happening. But, oh no, my kids’ school pictures were coming and the only account I have checks for is the credit union. So I got online, checked the balance to see how much I’d have to deposit to cover the three $15 checks, and set out the next day for the bank. On September 18th I deposited $45. I got a receipt that showed I had just under $60 and threw it away.

Today I logged on to see if the checks had cleared so I could follow up with child support and make sure they had transferred the deposit info and then I could close the credit union accounts– including the savings one as they had just emailed a few weeks ago they were going to start charging $5 a month for THOSE accounts.

I was overdrawn by $25.

What. The. Hell?

Photo check one? Clear.

Photo check two? Clear.

Photo check three? Bounced and initiated a $32 NSF fee.

But how? I hadn’t touched the account since I deposited! I took a look and lo and behold there was a credit card transaction that happened September 13th that overdrew my account by a little more than $5.

Ok now the transaction is sort of valid. It’s a bill I pay. I had changed the credit card the last time I paid but for some reason it charged this old card this time. I never deleted it from their file (LESSON!). And it went through even though it was for $19.99 and the account only had $14 in it. But the part that is driving me insane is that it wasn’t there when I went on the 18th to make the deposit to cover the photo checks. I even had more cash on me but only deposited what I needed because I wanted to close the account.

And here’s another thing I don’t understand. If they did allow it to go through when it was overdrawn as the ledger shows then why didn’t it get an overdraft fee attached to it?

I called. They can’t help me because it’s a branch issue.

I went to the branch. I stood in line for over 20 minutes because everyone was out to lunch except one teller. I tried talking to her. She waved me off saying not to worry everyone does that, no big deal. So when I said great you’ll fix it? Oh no I can’t do that. Make your deposit and go talk to Member Services. Another line. This one I didn’t make. I left. I was starving and preferred to sit here and rant while I stuffed my face with a sammich than to sit in line for who knows how long to maybe get $32 back.

It’s situations like these that make me very very very distrustful of banks. How the hell was that transaction not there five days after it supposedly went through? Especially since I got a receipt on the 13th for that payment (didn’t show the credit card number that was charged so I didn’t think twice about it). And why do they allow credit card transactions to overdraw accounts without penalty and with full payment but not checks? And why didn’t I get alerted that my bank had been overdrafted on the 13th?

Ok my sandwich is done which means the rant is over. Your turn to rant about financial institutions and/or our own stupidities relating to money management.

They have been told

Last night I called a family meeting and talked with the kids. I explained to them the change in income. I showed them four pennies and told them to pretend that was all the money I used to get every month and now I only get this much, and I took away two of the pennies.  They looked a bit shocked so I told them we were going to be fine but that I am going to need their help to be very cautious with money. We cannot be wasteful and have to be very careful with what we have.

Then I talked about this weekend. I told them there wasn’t enough money for any park but that I asked around and a friend of mine gave me free tickets for one of the parks. So I scrounged together some money and we would be going to one of the parks this weekend. I told them it was Universal. I told them we would not be going to Disney this weekend. Baby started to cry. A little bit, and I could tell he was fighting not to do so, burying his fists into his eyes.

So I explained Disney was not cancelled. We would not go this weekend but that we would go. I told them we needed to save money for the trip. They asked me how much. I explained the cost of the tickets and the hotel (Daughter thought hotels were free!) and the gas and the food and said to be absolutely safe, we would need one thousand dollars. The number was met with wide eyes and wows and then they started suggesting different ways to make money. Eldest thought he could sell comics he draws out in the front of the house. Daughter suggested we hold a garage sale. Baby just watched and got excited because they were excited and that was good.

So I calmed them down and said that we would save the money and I would draw a thermometer and we would track the money and when we filled it to the top we would go. And then I told them I needed to measure them and that they should go to Universal’s website to see what rides and shows they liked the most and that was that. After the meeting, I drew the envelope and showed it to them. After Universal, we’ll start saving somehow some way.

It’s funny, yesterday I felt SO good. I mean I felt really powerful and ready– for anything, for everything. Today I’m sort of hovering. Not bad not great just sort of in the middle. But it’s weird because I can’t seem to push myself over into really excited and happy while at the same time, I feel it’s too easy to fall the other way.

Their dad sent me an email last night that he was going back to working for a company, that he already had two offers on the table, and was in the process. he said things would be back to normal soon and he was sorry. I just shrugged.

What exactly is normal anyway?

The Compromise

On Friday, I let everyone in on the stressful situation that is going on in my life right now. And there was this huge flood of amazing support and words of advice and encouragement. Thank you to the Grumpies, by the way, for steering so much of it this way. You two are my Cheerleaders but totally awesome feminist ones.

I have been reading, and responding, to your comments all weekend. You are a very wise bunch. And what I decided was to compromise.

This trip does mean a lot to me. It’s not as simple as Take Kids to Theme Park. It’s more layered than that. And one of the things it means to me is keeping promises. I hate broken promises, I really do. Probably because I’ve been the victim of so many in my own life.

So I thought about it and vented on Stallion in a big, big, big way. I pretty much threw my tantrum with the tears and the boogers and the, “It’s not fair!” Very classy. And after he hugged me and told me it’ll be ok I calmed down and made a decision.

We are not going to Disney, but we are going to Universal. The tickets for Universal are free, they are for both parks, and their confirmation number was sent to me last week. They are there waiting for me. And it is scheduled for the 12th of August, Eldest’s birthday. As I had mentioned, the kids received money for the trip, and my grandmother and mother have told me they will be giving me Eldest’s trip money as well. With that money, I have the cost of the hotel covered, the gas, and I think even the food. The only big ticket item that is not yet covered is the one ticket for Stallion’s daughter which is her birthday present as well. Her mother is giving her money for food so that should be perfect.

As for Disney, it is not cancelled, but it is postponed. I am going to work my little tookus off and see if I can manage to put together enough to fund a trip to Disney in December when it’s all decorated for Christmas. We’ve never seen the park that time of year, the weather will be nicer, and the two littlest ones will get their birthday wishes filled then. That will be the new goal– survive and Disney in December.

Like I told Stallion, the reason this has been so hard for me to let go of is because how long I’ve been working at it– and how close I was. I have been diligently saving and saving and saving. Over half the child support payments have been going to saving up for things like the school’s $2700 registration fee (private school, my parents pay the tuition if I pay the registration) which I paid in full at the beginning of the year. When my tax refund came in, I did the math and put a portion of it into my emergency fund, a portion into my big ticket savings like the summer camp, the trip, and Christmas, and sent a huge chunk to my credit cards. You know, the responsible thing.

And it was working!

When my car broke down in March I had enough money to pay for the repair. When school let out, I had the $3000 to put them in summer camp. When I woke up one morning to find my cat had been vomiting everywhere and had a fever, I had the $450 to cover the vet bill. I think I might rename my cat and call her Disney.

The big thing now is what I am going to tell the children. My kids are pretty young. The youngest just turned 4 and 6 in June and the oldest turns 9 this Sunday. Money is really hard to explain to the youngest ones and unfortunately, they are the ones who wanted Disney. Eldest is the one who wanted Universal as he is obsessed with Harry Potter.

I’m thinking of going about it this way.

First things first: Be (vaguely) Honest. I’m going to explain that I had to make changes to the trip this weekend and that one of the parks is going to be postponed. I’m going to explain I am not making as much money every month as I used to. I might use coins to explain this. Show them four coins and explain that’s how much I was making, take away two coins and explain that’s how much I’m making now. I am extremely wary resistant to the idea of explaining their father’s role, or lack thereof, in all of this because of how young they are, how sensitive a topic it is, and how complicated it may get to explain. Eldest can probably handle it and maybe he and I will have a separate conversation later, if he wants one. I think I’m just going to explain that there were two ways I was making money and because the economy is bad, one of them isn’t making money right now. It might start making money again one day, but I’m not sure when, etc. etc. etc.

I am then going to explain we are going to Universal Studios only because the tickets were free. I did not choose which park we went to. I asked around my group of friends and the connection that came through was for Universal. I want this to be clear because I don’t want them to think I was choosing favorites or anything and besides it’s completely true. If the tickets to Universal weren’t free, we wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I’ll then lay out my plan to try and make more money so that we can go in December to Disney to see the park at Christmas time. And then I’ll ask them to please look at the Universal website with me and try and get them fired up about what we’re going to do and see there.

The bad part is, it’s the youngest kids’ trip whose getting postponed. The good part is, they are distracted easier.

I feel a lot better about this weekend now that I’ve made this decision. One of the things that struck me after reading your comments and throwing my tantrum was the reason I’m so frustrated and angry about postponing part of the trip is exactly the reason I need to postpone part of the trip.

I have been doing things the right way for so long, why blow it? If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s far easier to create problems than to fix them. The right way worked. It did what it was supposed to do– I just hadn’t been able to fund it long enough to cover me more than it already has.

The wrong way, I’ve already done that before. I know where that goes and what it does to a person. So thank you for helping me get to this place I am in right now. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a bit down at the mouth and I would really like to practice some sort of physical violence, but I am trying very hard to pull up and out and I just wanted to thank you all for the boost.