JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Despite paying thousands of dollars’ worth of child support to the State of Tennessee, the State of Florida also took money from a Johnson City father.
Stephen Johnson was informed in a letter from the Florida Department of Revenue in October that he owed the state more than $6,000 in back child support. Florida took things a step further in November when the Department of Revenue notified the father that his employer would take $350/month from his paycheck for current child support and $70/month for past-due child support.
“It’s stressful,” Johnson said earlier this month. “I don’t know where the money’s going to come from, because it’s all being taken.”
Johnson’s 8-year-old daughter and her mother moved to Florida years ago, but both parents signed an agreement in Tennessee in June 2014. The agreement said Johnson would pay monthly child support in Tennessee, according to juvenile court records. Since then, records show he’s paid at least $7,000 in child support in that Tennessee case.
“Somebody’s not doing their job, just as simple as that,” Johnson said of the situation.
Attorney Doug Carter says he’s tried multiple times to set the record straight with Florida. Carter provided WJHL with the multiple letters he’s sent to Florida officials, calling the state’s attempts to take Johnson’s money an abuse and a violation of his rights.
“It’s not unusual to deal with deadbeat dads. He’s not that,” Carter said. “It really is a mess and the little guy is getting ground down by the system.”
Carter says he also gave Florida documents showing the man is current with his child support payments in Tennessee, all without any luck.
“They don’t seem to want to recognize the fact that we’ve got a father that’s trying to do the right thing,” he said. “They won’t talk to me, they won’t to him and as far as I know, they haven’t talked to Tennessee.”
The Florida Department of Revenue responded to WJHL’s inquiries, eventually confirming the state closed its case just five days after WJHL’s initial questions. However, Florida would not release specifics, citing privacy law.
“According to our Child Support Program, an open case still existed in Florida,” Communications Director Valerie Wickboldt said. “One of our Child Support Program team members is attempting to reach the father to discuss information and/or updates regarding this case with him.”
The Tennessee Department of Human Services also would not release specifics, but did promise to work with Johnson’s attorney.
When contacted, the mother of Johnson’s child told WJHL she just found out about the Florida case in recent weeks and as soon as she found out, she asked Florida to close the case.
Johnson says Florida has since called him and apologized. He now expects to be credited for his garnished wages.