posted by: Jennifer Cope, Assignment Editor - email
There are accusations that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has over-charged some fathers for child support. There's now a class action lawsuit.
The attorney who filed it says that DHS knew it was happening, but the agency went ahead and did it anyway.
"I frankly believe that since nobody has challenged them for this length of time, they thought they could get away with it. And I'm not going to let them get away with it," attorney Bob Robinson says.
He filed this class action lawsuit Monday against DHS. In it, he alleges DHS has been over-charging some dads for child support.
"When you take more than you're entitled to, in this case, typically the fathers wind up getting screwed out of money that is rightfully theirs," Robinson says. He says the problem stems from interest charged on actual payments.
When a mother brings a paternity suit against the father she can be awarded child support for up to five years before the judgment. This is what's known as an accrual, which is different than unpaid child support.
Robinson says a 1993 lawsuit, DHS vs. Glasby, dictates that accruals be charged the statutory interest rate and not the 10% that's charged on overdue child support.
That interest rate varies, but this year it was only 5.25%, quite a bit less than the 10% he says DHS has been charging in error on every paternity case since 1993.
"They've taken money improperly. That's where the state's at fault there. And we are asking for punitive damages against the state because of that," Robinson says.
He expects the list of plaintiffs to grow from the four it is now and says it could reach up to hundreds of thousands of dads who possibly paid more than they should have.
The lawsuit also asks for punitive damages tat would be for cases where fathers have lost their licenses or were jailed for being behind on payments.
The DHS staff is waiting to see the lawsuit before responding.
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