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Winter storms knocks out power and child support

For Michigan residents accustomed to Midwest winters, a little snow and ice are nothing to worry about. But an ice storm that swept through the state over the holiday season had numerous unforeseen consequences on child support in Michigan.

The storm knocked out power across Michigan but it also hit the Internet connection and the backup at the Michigan State Disbursement Unit (MSDU). MSDU is located in Lansing and works for the Department of Human Services and manages child support payments. The system stopped working on December 23 and stayed down for about five days.

The outage put many parents in a tough position. Parents can use a debit card to check on their payments. They also can call in to confirm receipt. But because the system was not running, the payments did not show up on time and over 7,000 families did not receive their child support checks. The late checks totaled roughly $1.7 million.

Parents quickly called in wondering about the missing money. The outage came at a very inopportune time over the Christmas and holiday season. Many parents were simply upset that no one notified them about the problem. The Office of Child support is now reviewing its system and its method of communicating with parents. Currently, the office says the only reliable communication medium is mail, but by the time parents received notice, it was long after the problem surfaced.

According to officials, missed payments were expected to be delivered to parents no more than a week after the initial outage.

While weather is not usually the cause for late child support payments, child support enforcement can be an issue for some families. If a custodial parent is not receiving timely payments from the obligated parent, an attorney can help with enforcement. And on the same token, if a parent cannot make payments due to financial constraints, an attorney can see if support modification is a possibility.

Source: Wood TV 8, "Ice storm delays child support payments," Ken Kolker, Dec. 30, 2013

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