If you are receiving inaccurate delinquency notices from the Department of Revenue or Florida State Disbursement Unit because the records are wrong, you probably already know this can be confusing and frustrating. We have found the best solution to resolving these types of problems are to take an educated, analytical and systematic approach to solving them.
3 Steps to Resolving Incorrect Delinquency Notices
- Understand The Delinquency
- Reconcile Your Payments With Their Records
- Dispute Incorrect Records
What The Notice Means
If you have received a delinquency notice, it often means the Clerk of Court’s depository records indicated that a payment is more than fifteen (15) days late or the delinquency amount is greater than the periodic payment amount. Take the time to read the entire notice and make sure that you understand what they claim is wrong. Sometimes people just read the headline or a few sentences and skip some of the important details about how much is past due, when it was due, the date it was sent, etc.
It is important to understand what the Notice means and what the Court or DOR is claiming is wrong. Contact your attorney, the Clerk and/or the DOR if needed.
How The Notices Are Generated
The notices are usually automatically generated by either the Clerk of Court or the Florida State Disbursement Unit (or Department of Revenue who operates the FLSDU) based on their computer records. When a final judgment is entered, a clerk will enter details of your support obligations from the final judgment into a computer (such as the amount of the payment, frequency of the payment, begin date, end date, etc). If you get behind, the state’s computer system will automatically generate a notice.
Contesting Inaccurate Notice of Delinquency
If you feel the Notice of Delinquency was issued in error or if you do not agree with the balance due, you may file a Motion to Contest within fifteen (15) days from the mailing of the delinquency notice. The same would apply if your delinquency notice was issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR).
Before making a determination how to best handle a notice of delinquency, particularly from the DOR, you should request a Child Support Payment History Report from the Clerk of Court at your local courthouse (where the Order was entered). The cost is usually $1.00 per page (or a fee per calendar year). If the Clerk’s Payment History Report indicates that you are current on child support, handling the Notice of Delinquency you received from the DOR is usually a relatively easy process. In this instance, you can file an Objection to the Notice of Delinquency within the fifteen (15) days of the postmark date, and attach a copy of the Clerk’s Child Support Payment History Report showing that you are current on child support.
If the Clerk’s Child Support Payment History Report also shows that you have an outstanding support balance, you will also need to gather the proof of all your payments (ie, copies of cancelled checks or pay stubs showing money deducted for child support).
You can also obtain a payment history from the Florida State Disbursement Unit. Theoretically, the records at the Clerk of Court and the FLSDU/DOR should be the same, but they do use different computer systems. Consequently, recent payments may not show in both systems immediately, but should be identical except for recent payments. We often direct people to the Clerk of Court first to obtain a payment history because it is often easier to get it in person from the Clerk than the FLSDU / DOR.
If You Determine You Do Owe Money
After reviewing your records, if you owe money, you should make the necessary payment to get caught up. It would be better to do this before a Judgment of Delinquency is entered against you. The Judgment of Delinquency is usually placed in the official records when your account is delinquent after 30 days.
This can be corrected by making the missed payments yourself to the FLSDU. Payments can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. If you mail a payment, make sure your payment includes the following information so that you will receive proper credit to your account:
- Case Number
- County (where Order was issued)
- Your Name, Address and Phone Number
- Your Social Security Number
You can contact the Florida State Disbursement Unit directly to obtain a payment history for your records. The FLSDU will generally not speak to attorney’s, even when representing you in the family law case. Typically you have to contact them directly yourself.
Response from Department of Revenue (DOR)
Once the DOR receives this Objection with the supporting Payment History Report and/or payment documentation, they will either make a determination based on your Objection to correct your balance to match your account with the Clerk of Court (and dismiss their action), or contact you to coordinate a hearing so that the Court can determine the correct outstanding balance.
If a hearing is required, you will want to make sure you have proof of all child support payments that you have made, as well as the Clerk’s Payment History Report showing that you are current on your child support obligation.
Impact of Income Withholding Orders
Many times when child support is ordered, the Court will also enter an Order called an Income Withholding Order (IWO). An IWO is an Order that is sent to an employer directing the employer to withhold the child support from the paying parent’s paycheck prior to being paid.
If your account has a new IWO associated with it, it is easy for the account to get delinquent during the period between when the IWO is signed by the judge, when it is implemented by the employer and when the payment actually gets to the FLSDU and applied to your account. You do not receive credit for the payment until it reaches your account at the FLSDU.
If child support payments are being made by Income Withholding Order (IWO), you should monitor closely when your payments are due and when your first deductions actually occur. Even though your Income Deduction Order may be dated to begin on a specific date, it can often take weeks before all the paperwork gets to your employer and money actually begins coming out of your paycheck. If your first payment was not withheld from your paycheck until after the start date that support was Ordered, you may need to make a self-payment to get caught up and this can be a reason that a Notice of Delinquency has been sent.
Correcting Missed Payments
If the Notice of Delinquency is correct and you are simply behind in your payments, this can be corrected by making the missed payments yourself to the FLSDU. Payments can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. If you mail a payment, make sure your payment includes the following information so that you will receive proper credit to your account:
- Case Number
- County (where Order was issued)
- Your Name, Address and Phone Number
- Your Social Security Number
You can contact the Florida State Disbursement Unit directly to obtain a payment history for your records. The FLSDU will generally not speak to attorney’s, even if we represent you in a family law case, you usually have to contact them directly yourself.
Correcting Payroll Cycle Or Payment Timing Problems
Another reason for an outstanding balance with the Clerk could be due to an error or misinterpretation of the payment timing by the Clerk of the Court. When the final judgment is entered, a clerk at the court will enter the payment requirement written in the final judgment into their computer. For example, a person could be ordered to pay $500 once per month at the first of the month, or maybe it could be to pay $250 on the 1st and 15th of each month or $115 each Friday.
Payroll Cycle Problems
A common timing error we see is when final judgments indicate a monthly amount due, but then indicate that a payment will be consistent with the payor’s payroll cycle. The problem that this can cause is that the payroll cycle is not spelled out in the final judgment (because payroll cycles and employers change over the years). Consequently, the clerk will not have any idea how often you get paid (ie, weekly, bi-weekly, twice a month, monthly, etc) so they often set the computer to enter the full monthly amount of support to be due at the beginning of the month.
If you suspect this could be the problem, please contact the Clerk of Court and ask what the exact dates your payments are scheduled to be due.
Correcting a payroll timing cycle problem can usually be accomplished by having your employer forward a letter to the Clerk of Court (where the Order was entered) stating what your payroll cycle is. The letter needs to include your name and case number.
A secondary way to “correct” this problem (but most people don’t like to do), is to make an extra month’s payment so that you overpay your support. This will keep you from getting delinquency notices because you are paid a full month in advance and the incorrect setup of the Clerk’s computer system doesn’t matter. Another benefit of this is that if the payment is ever late or missed, you will still have a credit balance. The downside of this strategy is that it is usually difficult to get an overpayment back from the other party at the termination of the support obligation.
If you choose to overpay, we still advise you to make sure your payment obligation gets corrected with the Clerk and shows the correct overpayment.
Clerk Error or Other Timing Problems
A clerk could also have simply have made a mistake in entering your payment obligation details into the computer system. Usually this would happen only when the payment is new, or recently changed. If you think this is the problem, contact your Clerk of Court and/or contact the FLSDU and ask them to explain how your payments are setup in their system. Find out exactly when the payments are expected to be received, when they should begin and how much they should be. Be precise, it is important to know exactly what actual day(s) your payments are required.
Reconciling Your Payments
If you do not believe that the outstanding balance due is because of issues listed above, the next step is to compare (reconcile) the Payment History Report that you obtained with your own payment records (ie pay stubs or cancelled checks).
In order to thoroughly reconcile the payments you need to know at least the following information:
- How often the payment is due (weekly, monthly, etc). The dates need to be specific. Usually if a payment is due “monthly” you need to get clarification if it is due by the first, last or some other day of the month.
- When the payments are to begin (the exact date)
- How much is owed for each payment.
- If paying by IWO, what fees you pay to the employer (if any). Your employer may charge you a small fee to administer an Income Withholding Order.
- What fees you pay to the FLSDU.
- Exact dates payments were withheld.
- Exact dates payments were received by the FLSDU or the Clerk of Court.
This can be a tedious process, especially if you have to go back through weeks, months or years of payment history. After doing this, if you feel there is an error, you can provide an Objection to the Department of Revenue in writing with your reasons for the discrepancy. You must also be able to provide evidence for your belief that the amount is in error. The Department will then review your case to determine if there is an error. If they believe you have established the correct amount, they will dismiss their action. If you do not agree with the Department’s decision on the matter, you may request a hearing and have a judge decide.
If reviewing the information above and reconciling your payments still does not seem to identify a clear problem, you should consider getting the assistance of a family law attorney. An attorney can look at your situation in detail and advise you about your options to get the situation resolved.
Additional Recommendation – Keep Your Address Updated!
These kinds of problems illustrate why it can be important for your to keep your address of record with the court (and FLSDU) up to date. If you move or otherwise change your address, the Department of Revenue and Court will be mailing notices to your wrong address. If you don’t receive the notices, action could be taken against you without your notice.