- Some parents have been overcharged for back child support.
- A judge ruled Monday that the state has to pay millions in repayment.
- If his ruling is upheld, a search of paper records will decide who is owed refunds.
A judge’s decision against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in a class-action lawsuit could cost the state millions of dollars if upheld on appeal.
The Oklahoman reports that Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton ruled that for years, the state agency has charged fathers in paternity cases too much in interest for back child support judgments.
Four men filed the lawsuit in 2011. They claimed they were wrongfully charged 10 percent interest rather than a fluctuating rate determined by the prime rate set by banks.
Department of Human Services records dating to 2000 show that more than 26,000 men could be due refunds. If the decision is upheld, a search of paper records that date back to 1993 will be necessary to determine who is owed refunds.
Bob Robinson, an attorney for the four men, estimates the state will have to reimburse fathers $130 million or more.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services attorney Richard Freeman said in reference to Robinson’s estimate that “It could be in the millions for sure, potentially. I don’t think it will be that much.”
Freeman also said that the reimbursement funds could come from insurance.
The agency says the way it computes, assesses and collects interest on child support judgments is proper under Oklahoma law.
After the lawsuit was filed, the law was rewritten to make clear that the human services department can charge 10 percent interest on back child support in paternity cases. The new law went into effect on Nov. 1, 2012.
Of course, using a little magical thinking, the state insists on making no error despite their mistake. Those that have paid child support and kept up won’t see any benefit. However, those that have paid a penalty for late support payments can expect to see a refund in a few years, at least if the attorney doesn’t grab all the loot for “fees and expenses”. This should also force Oklahoma to compute all back support amounts for all child support from 1993 to 2012. – MJR