AUSTIN, FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Texas parents who are delinquent in paying child support should be prepared. Texas is on the move, often seizing the accounts of deadbeat parents with the help of Texas credit unions. A Texas mandate requires all Texas financial institutions to participate in the Financial Institution Data Match Program (FIDM), a program designed to locate the financial assets of parents who have been delinquent in making child support payments. FIDM's ultimate goal is to provide custodial parents and their children with the financial support that is their legal right according to federal and state laws. TIER Technologies in Trenton, N.J., the service provider of the Texas Attorney General's office, maintains a file of Texas delinquent child support obligors. Credit unions and other financial institutions are required to work with TIER on matching the names of their account holders with names in the file. Quarterly reports are generated based upon these matches. Share draft, savings, retirement and equivalent types of accounts are subject to the data matching process. Credit unions may comply in one of two ways – by providing the Attorney General's office with a list of all their account holders so that TIER can run a data match, or by running an in-house data match with information supplied by TIER. The majority of credit unions will choose the latter; however, smaller credit unions may choose the first option because the list of delinquent child support obligors is so large, according to Michael Generali, FIDM program manager at the Texas Attorney General's office. Any costs incurred by credit unions cannot be reimbursed by the state. TIER, abiding by a strict confidentiality clause in its contract with the state, deletes all account records that do not match. Federal and state laws protect credit unions from liability relating to the disclosure of account information. When a credit union reports a match, the Attorney General's office conducts a thorough investigation. If a positive identification is made, the obligor is notified that a lien has been placed on the accounts, and the credit union is instructed to freeze all accounts held by the obligor. If the obligor contacts the Attorney General's office, arrangements for payment can be made. If the obligor ignores the notification, the accounts can be seized by the Attorney General's office. The credit union is instructed to withdraw the amount due by the obligor and turn it over to the Attorney General's office. A new law allows the process to work more expeditiously. In the past, the Attorney General's office was required to obtain a court order before seizing the accounts of an obligor. As of Sept. 1, 2001, the Attorney General's office can seize accounts without a court order. Credit unions have responded positively to the information sent out by the Attorney General's office. "We've been aggressive in communicating this requirement to credit unions," said Kevin Hamby, general counsel at the Texas Credit Union League. -


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