County to create debit system for child support payments

BEAUFORT -- Child support in Beaufort County soon will be going plastic.

By year's end, Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith said, custodial parents will receive their child support payments via a reloadable debit card issued by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based bank BB&T.

"We hope to have this as our Christmas gift to the custodial parents of Beaufort County," she said.

Gone will be the days of parents anxiously awaiting the arrival of the mailman to deliver a child support check. In their place, parents will receive a Visa debit card onto which their child support payments will be transferred within 48 hours of payment.

The transition from checks to plastic also will be a boon for Beaufort County taxpayers.

Smith's office estimates the county will save about $45,000 a year on paper, postage, manpower and other labor costs that go into disbursing the checks, which number more than 400 a day.

Currently, parents paying child support have to report to the Beaufort County Courthouse to pay their weekly or monthly child support in cash, a cashier's check or a money order. Nearly 90 percent ask their employers to deduct the payments from their paychecks.

The employer then sends a check to the clerk's office. After that money has been received and certified, it can take three or four days for the clerk's office to print, cut and mail the child support checks to the custodial parents.

"We have a chance for our custodial parents to receive their money quicker and have the process be more user-friendly for them," said Vanessa Bryan, deputy clerk of court and head of the county's Family Court Division.

"It's going to be more secure because they no longer have to wait on the checks in the mail. They don't have to worry about checks being lost, having to do a stop payment on them, reissuing the checks ... that process will no longer (be a problem)."