Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

Debit Cards and Electronic Deposits To Replace Checks For Child Support Payments

Bye-bye to checks. For parents getting child-support payments through the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Family Support Payment Center in Jefferson City, something else will soon be in the mail.

 

It’s called the SecuritE Card, and the Payment Center is in the process of rolling it out statewide to all of its support-payment recipients and doing away entirely with payments by check. The card is essentially a debit MasterCard to which the Center promises to electronically transfer a holder’s payments within 2 business days of the funds’ arrival. That’s a big improvement over the 2 to 3 weeks that can now be taken up by processing and mailing the payments the old-fashioned, paper way.

 

Besides time, the new card saves the holder headaches and money. No more check-cashing fees. No more lost or stolen checks–or worries about them.    

 

The card can be used to pay for purchases anyplace that accepts debit cards, or cash can be withdrawn from the card at any bank or ATM. Just one caveat: Because it’s not a credit card, it’s good for only the amount assigned to it – not one cent more.

 

The card is available only to clients of the Payment Center, which the state has set up exclusively to collect and distribute money from parents whose support payments are made by “wage assignment,” or deduction by court order from their paychecks.

 

Wage assignment is something I recommend to my clients as a last resort.  I think it’s better, if at all possible, for divorcing parents to agree to make and receive child-support payments by personal check. For the majority of parents who faithfully make their payments on time, I see no reason to involve the Payment Center. And, when payments are made by check, both parties can keep a record of payments made, and the receiving parent can use the information on the checks to track where the paying parent banks and lives. That information can come in handy if that parent falls off the payment wagon, and wage assignment through the Payment Center becomes the easiest alternative. 

 

The Center began sending out the SecuritE Cards on a pilot basis in July. Its tentative schedule puts St. Louis at the end of the statewide rollout, with recipients here due to be getting the cards in November.

 

For those who might prefer it, the Payment Center offers the option of receiving payments by direct deposit to a bank account instead of to the SecuritE Card. But they’ll have to specifically ask for this by filling out a form, available online now at http://www.dss.mo.gov/cse/pdf/securite_faq_052406.pdf, and mailing it in to the Center along with a voided check or deposit slip. 

 

Since the SecuritE Card will soon be sent automatically to every recipient unless that person has requested direct deposit into a bank account, I recommend that anyone with a bank account select the direct deposit alternative.  After all, you can’t pay for basic necessaries like mortgage/rent and utilities with a SecuritE Card.  However, for those without a bank account, the SecuritE Card will be the only option.

 

During this phase-in period, the Payment Center will continue to mail out checks to all clients not yet converted to either the card or direct deposit. The St. Louis County Circuit Court does not have any forms for this yet, but the St. Charles County Circuit Court does. When it’s fully up and running, the new system won’t do away with paper communication altogether. Instead of their checks, each SecuriteE Card holder will get a monthly statement detailing all deposits, withdrawals and purchases. And they’ll get them by–you guessed it—regular mail, of course!