MARYVILLE (WATE) - A mix-up in child support payments made years ago has a Maryville family upset. They're asking why the state is stalling in paying them back.
The couple called 6 On Your Side for help, saying they're owed thousands of dollars due to the mistake.
Child support is a routine part of families separated by divorce. It's normally a simple process. The parent who is not living with the child is directed by the court to contribute financially to the child's needs.
Suppose, however, you had your wages garnished but you've never been separated or divorced?
During a recent visit in their home, Robbin and Lee Gorman were going over the day's events with their daughter, Emily. She practices soccer this summer while her older brother is getting ready for football.
Both of Robbin and Lee's children live at home.
Mrs. Gorman has worked at Target for more than a decade.
In late March, she received a letter from the company stating beginning in April Target would have to charge her a $2 fee every paycheck for processing her child support payments.
Robbin and Lee say they were puzzled. They asked, what child support?
She asked Target to send her a copy of her pay stub.
"Looked at my paycheck and they were taking $98 every two weeks out of my check -- child support," she said.
Robbin says she learned the money had been garnished every two weeks for nine years.
"It doesn't say wage garnishment or child support," Lee pointed out. "It just says on this stub here, child."
Robbin called Target again. She was directed to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
"They asked for my name and Social [Security number]. They looked it up on the computer and said, 'No, you're not even on here.' I said, 'I know that. I need to talk to your head boss there.'"
That call took place in early April, but by July Robbin was still in the dark about the mystery payments.
"They haven't told me nothing what's going on," she said.
When asked how she could go nine years without noticing that there was a garnishment on her paycheck, Robbin said, "I just pay my bills, go to work and that's it."
Like many people, Mrs. Gorman's paycheck is deposited directly into her checking account. She doesn't see the check stub.
"Because I get direct deposit, I just don't pay attention to it," she admitted.
Mrs. Gorman had the garnishment stopped at the end of March, shortly after receiving the letter from her employer.
"She got it stopped right away, but we're having trouble getting our money back," said her husband.
The Gorman's figure they've paid more than $20,000 into the child support system. They say the state has been "sympathetic," but that's all.
"Now obviously, we made a mistake," Lee said. "We should have been more attentive."
In Tennessee, after being served with what's called an income withholding order, the employer is required by law to garnish the non-custodial parent's wages.
The process begins within 14 days after receiving the initial order.
The income withholding order sent by the state also includes the non-custodial parent's child support case and docket numbers, as well as Social Security numbers.
The Gorman's were given a hint as to what might have gone wrong in their case.
"The finance person at child support said they just transposed the numbers," Robbin said.
The Department of Human Services told 6 On Your Side, "We are currently investigating this matter, and will rectify it as soon as possible and get it resolved."
"She earned it, and she's entitled to get it back and not wait for who knows how many years this investigation may take," Lee asserted.
State officials say it will not take years but just days to resolve the mistake. They're looking at this issue as a high priority.
Heads of payroll departments told 6 On Your Side if you have direct deposit but don't get a copy of your pay stub, find out where you can see it so you can check it.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at (865) 633-5974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.