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Child support, paid with a mouse click

Parents can now make and track payments online. Soon, folks will be able to pay traffic tickets that way, as well.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 3, 2002


Court clerks are trying to make it easier for parents to pay child support.

Parents now can submit payments online.

"We hope to increase collections and get money to those deserving children," said Beth Allman, spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Court Clerks.

With their Social Security and case numbers, parents can log on to www.myfloridacounty.com and set up payments. They also can see when payments are placed into accounts and disbursed.

The service comes with a charge: 3.2 percent of the total payment, or a $3.50 minimum fee.

"It's a convenience fee," Allman said. "It's fairly minimal compared to most online services."

Simply checking account information is free, Allman said.

The clerks association oversees the Florida State Disbursement Unit, established in 1999 to process the state's child support payments. That unit distributes more than $1-billion in payments every year and receives about 400,000 calls each month from parents inquiring about payments.

Allman hopes the online service will reduce the calls and allow parents to have access to their accounts at all times. Parents who do not have computers can find them at most public libraries, she said.

The main goal is to get more parents paying on time, Allman said. She estimates that 50 to 60 percent of parents pay their required child support.

Karen Nicolai, clerk of the circuit court in Hernando County, said the service, which started last week, is one more way that the courts are trying to be convenient.

She noted that starting Jan. 1, Hernando County residents will be able to pay traffic tickets online.

"I think it's a way to keep people from parking in our lot and climbing the hill," she said. "It gives them one more resource."

-- Jamie Jones covers law enforcement in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to jjones@sptimes.com.

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