Child Support Debtors Could Go Broke

Beginning in March 2013, the Treasury Department may start freezing bank accounts of those who owe money.  

Posted: 02/27/2012 12:30 PM EST

If you owe back child support, start strategizing now.


Parents without a lot of money could be using their only income next year to pay for old child support debts. These payments would help the government reduce costs of mailing paper checks to pay federal benefits.


Starting next March, the Treasury Department will start paying benefits electronically. This means that if you owe money, your bank account, Social Security, disability and veterans’ benefits that are deposited into your bank accounts could be frozen.


Many people relied on the issuing of paper checks to safeguard a portion of their benefits from states trying to collect back child support, but that convenience will no longer be available.


“It’s kind of Orwellian, what’s being set up here for a segment of the population,” Johnson Tyler, an attorney who represents poor and disabled people collecting federal benefits, told the Associated Press. “It’s going to be a nightmare in about a year unless something changes.”


Advocates are saying that once paper checks are eliminated, nearly 275,000 people could lose access to all of their income.


If a parent’s children are long-grown, they too have reason to be concerned. Much of the money owed is former interest and fees that have added up when parents (predominantly men) have been unable to pay child support because they were disabled, institutionalized or imprisoned.


The Treasury Department has declined to discuss the policy.


Stay tuned to for updates on this story.


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(Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

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