After months of over-payments, man receives refund check from state

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — When Jeff Medeiros’ son turned 18, his child support account closed, but he discovered child support was still being taken out of his paycheck. That was back in July.

“I was told that because the account was closed, it’s going to bounce it back to my employer and then my employer would pay me,” Mederios explained. “Now, here we are in 2018 and I still haven’t received my back payment.”

For months, Medeiros tried to resolve the situation.

“You call. There’s nothing,” he said. “The phone just rings, or you get the automated service. It’s just a broken system.”

So Medeiros contacted Call 12 for Action.

“It’s just aggravating,” he said. “Granted, it’s only $290, but that’s my $290. Not the state’s $290.”

“If it went to my child’s mother, then fine, so be it,” he added. “But it never did, so now $290 just vanished.”

Call for Action found out the state owed Medeiros more than he realized.

In an email, R.I. Department of Human Services (DHS) spokesperson Alisha Pina said, “Our Child Support team did research your questions, and Mr. Medeiros’ specific case. Human error caused his over-payment and we plan to issue a refund in the amount of $1,535.81. That includes amounts for the open and closed cases.”

Medeiros was shocked.

“Wow! That’s crazy,” Mederios said after Call 12 for Action told him about his refund. “I’m actually shaking. I am. I’m actually shaking. That’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.”

In this case, the refund is possible because the money was never sent to the custodial parent. According to federal law, if over-payments were already sent to the custodial parent, a refund is generally not possible.

“Our position at Court and to the non-custodial parent is that the recourse would be directly against the custodial parent,” Pina said.

There are more than 40,000 child support cases. Rhode Island issued just six refunds for over-payments in 2017.

Pina said DHS does not track court motions or court orders requesting over-payment refunds.

A much more common issue is nonpayment of child support. According to Pina, past-due child support owed, cumulative from the inception of the program in 1974 plus interest, is $397.5 million.

Pina said Rhode Island is in the process of determining how much of that total may not be owed or may not be collectible according to new federal regulations that allow case closures.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.