Butler County child support payments now taken by phone

Parents can now make their child support payments by phone in Butler County.

Since February, the Butler County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) has been taking phone payments. So far the agency has collected 115 payments totaling $74,677.

“We are constantly looking for ways to not only increase collections, but improve our processes so that making and receiving child support is easy, fast and convenient for parents,” Assistant Director Narka Gray said. “Since our ultimate goal is getting children the support they need, it’s to everyone’s benefit to simplify the child support payment process. The pay-by-phone program has been a huge success and one that we are going to continue offering indefinitely.”

The agency collected $13.8 million collected in first quarter of this year and is responsible for about 27,000 cases in the county.

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Before the agency offered the pay-by-phone option, parents who wanted to pay by credit card had to physically visit the CSEA office in downtown Hamilton or pay online through a third party vendor who charged a service fee. The CSEA’s pay-by-phone program is free.

CSEA Program Analyst Dusty Dunaway said they have been hesitant to use this payment method over the phone — which has become a pretty common payment method — for fear of fraud.

“We have always erred on the side of caution when it comes to accepting credit card payments due to the possibility of fraud. If a person makes a fraudulent payment that is disbursed to the custodial parent, then it is our responsibility to get that money back from the person it went to, or we have to pay out of our pocket,” Dunaway said. “As you can imagine, it can be very difficult to get someone to pay the money back when perhaps they are owed large sums of money.”

She said they began polling other CSEA offices around the state and those agencies reported no issues so they started a pilot program last July. There are two ways they have been working the phone payments, contacting people who owe at least two months worth of back pay and asking people who call customer service if they want to make a payment.

This method has also resulted in some pretty hefty payment amounts.

“The agency has had success collecting large amounts that have paid cases off completely,” Dunaway said. “One parent paid more than $10,000 and another paid more than $9,000. In another instance, an employer paid more than $13,000 so that their employee could be relieved of criminal non-support charges and travel out of state.”

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Treasurer Nancy Nix’s office handles payment programs for other county offices — CSEA is essentially a state agency that handles things on the local level — and her office has had pay-by-phone for years. A third party vendor handles the calls via an 800 number so there is a 2.35 percent fee assessed. Needless to say she said, that payment method for taxes isn’t often used.

There are credit card fees associated with these payments, that’s why she uses the vendor.

“Credit/debit card rules differ based on the type of payment,” Nix said. “Tax payments are their own category and our office would not be able to absorb hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card fees, therefore, we must pass those along to the user.”

Gray said they have taken credit card payments in the office for years and because they don’t use cards that charge higher fees like American Express and other variables, they have been able to absorb the added cost of doing business.

“The percent that you pay varies depending on the different cards that people use, but our bill each month is around $1,300 or $1,400,” Gray said. “We have taken enough credit card business that it justifies the expense.”

Parents who want to use this new service can call the agency at 513-887-3362.

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