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St. Croix County pilots child support debit cards

In a few months, child support checks will be a thing of the past in Wisconsin.

Instead, parents who receive court-ordered child support will have the money deposited directly into their checking accounts or credited to debit cards.

Among the first to see the change are families in St. Croix County, as they and families in Jefferson County participate in a pilot program.

On Sept. 12, 71 St. Croix child support payments came in and became the first to be flipped to debit cards, said Child Support Administrator Katy Kapaun. From that day on, all support payments received for St. Croix families will be deposited to debit cards, unless the family is already using direct deposit.

Kapaun said St. Croix has over 3,000 child support cases. About 1,200 used direct deposit prior to Sept. 12, and their method of receiving payments won't change.

The others that didn't have direct deposit will be switched to debit cards as payments from noncustodial parents come in.

"This is all a gradual transition," said Kapaun. As payments are received and posted to the new VISA accounts, JP Morgan Chase Bank will mail out new debit cards, also called check cards. The cards can be activated by calling the toll-free number found on a sticker on the card.

Kapaun said the debit cards can be used to receive cash from ATM machines or to make purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and other stores that accept debit cards.

According to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which administers child support payments statewide, the new system will get the money to families faster than the old system of mailing checks from Milwaukee.

Parents still have the option of choosing direct deposit, but by early next year that and the debit cards will be the only options offered. By early 2008, all Wisconsin parents who haven't signed up for direct deposit will receive a VISA debit card.

Not everyone is happy with the new cards, admitted Kapaun, who said she had just talked to a woman who complained about the change.

"She's a person who doesn't want to use a debit card," said Kapaun. "She prefers to get a check."

Also, said Kapaun, some ATMs charge a fee and some parents don't want to pay that cost.

But, said Kapaun, fee-free ATMs are available in most communities in the county.

JP Morgan Chase will provide account and balance information online at and toll-free at 866-817-0761. Parents will also receive a monthly statement of their debit card accounts.

Wisconsin has 71 county child support agencies that provide case management services for more than 340,000 child support cases. Once a court issues an order for child support, that information is entered into a statewide computer system operated by the Bureau of Child Support, a division of the Department of Workforce Development.

Payments from non-custodial parents are sent directly to the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund, a centralized operation responsible for processing all child support collections, including posting, adjusting and issuing payments.

For a comparison of child support payment options, go to Local child support agencies will also have debit card brochures.