Knock me Over with a Feather-Texas AG Greg Abbott Screws Up Again

Background: Child support enforcement agencies are relentless with their errors and bureaucratic bungling, and it’s men and fathers who pay the price. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (pictured) often beats his chest during his frequent crackdowns on low-income fathers he labels “deadbeat dads,” but I get more complaints about screw-ups and abuses regarding his office as I do about CS enforcement in all other 49 states combined. To learn more about Abbott, click here.

It seems that if you’re a Latin guy in Texas or California and your last name is Garcia or Lopez, sooner or later child support enforcement is going to get you mixed up with someone else and start taking your money. And let’s be clear–in the case below, the error was apparently resolved in reasonable time only because a local TV station got involved.

Money being taken out of check for nearly two months
(KRGV 5, 12/7/07)

HARLINGEN – A Harlingen man is paying child support for children he doesn’t have.

Ricardo Garcia says money has been taken out of his monthly check for almost two months.

He tells us, “In the process of refinancing our house, they showed us the paperwork that the government was taking child support from my checks.”

Garcia and his wife, Monica, have been married for more than 15 years. They have two children in high school. Garcia doesn’t have any other children and have never been in trouble for child support payments.

But every week, $30 to $40 was being taken out of his paycheck.

Garcia called the Attorney General’s Office. But he says he got nowhere.

“It kind of upset me. Because I already knew that name was very common,” says his wife. “I never knew it would come to this.”

Garcia tells us, “They were saying someone was falsely using my identity. Then it ended up being my driver’s license, then my social security card. So they weren’t really clear on what exactly it was.”

NEWSCHANNEL 5 called the Attorney General’s Office in Austin. A spokesperson for the Child Support Division admits they’ve got the wrong guy.

She tells us these things take time and they hope to get everything worked out in the next month.

Garcia says he hopes things get worked out quickly. For now, he warns other people with common names about the situation. He says, “Check your background at least once or twice a month to make sure they’re not getting falsely accused of anything.”

Right before this story aired, NEWSCHANNEL 5 received a call from the Attorney General’s Office. They wanted to thank NEWSCHANNEL 5 for bringing the problem to their attention. They tell us Garcia will be receiving a refund check very soon.

[There’s also a video of the TV report–to watch, click here. Thanks to child support expert Jane Spies of the National Family Justice Association. Jane discusses problems with the child support system in her recent article The Myth of the Successful Child Support System.]

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