Collective grief

Private child support agency means more headaches for single mother

If a private company like CSE is involved--having actually tracked down the spouse--the Attorney General's Office forwards the money to the company, which takes its fee and then pays its client.

Williams learned that the check number recorded at the Attorney General's Office did not match the number on the check produced by CSE. A copy of the original check was faxed to CSE.

The next day, CSE changed its story. A letter sent to the Attorney General's Office explained that a routine audit had found that a "posting error involving two accounts with both clients having the last name of Williams" caused the mix-up. The company said it had given Williams' money to someone else with the same last name. A new check was mailed to Williams, minus the company's fee.

The only acknowledgement Williams received of the error was a note scrawled in pen on the check stub by Bishop. It said the error was caught in an audit and "the check...was distributed in error to another client with the last name Williams."

Though she finally got her money, Williams is still mad, and she doesn't want CSE to get off easily. This week, she plans to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the first such complaint filed against the company in Dallas County. Williams feels as though CSE labeled her as just another welfare queen and maligned her unjustly. She wants them to take it back.

"I want an apology," she says. "I want a retraction of all the things [Bishop] said. For them to vilify me and to slander me, and this half-hearted apology is supposed to be sufficient? Hell no! I was wounded by this. They had no right to attack me like they did."

Hoffman says Bishop's note wasn't an attack on Williams, but a defense of CSE. He says that he is willing to write her that letter of apology if she wishes.

"I feel bad that we have reached this point," he says.
Williams is also trying to circumvent CSE to obtain her future support payments. She has asked the Attorney General's Office to begin sending the money directly to her, so that CSE will no longer get its 33 percent cut.

Attorney General spokesman Ward Tisdale says that Williams' complaint is one of 20 against CSE. He also says that the office cannot cancel Williams' contract with CSE.

Hoffman says the company is awaiting a ruling from the Attorney General's Office on the missing check case before it decides what to do about the contract. Williams is still legally bound to her contract, he says.

"There is no question that we benefited her," Hoffman says. "She wasn't receiving any child support. We worked very hard for her.

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