Child support and custody CA
moves to help Reservists
Families Need Fathers: FNF supports
Blairs call for better parenting
STORY 3: (final story):
Here is one of the best articles I
have read on child support.
Prosecuting Low Income Parents—A Glenn
Persecuting Low Income
September 2, 2005
by Jeffrey Leving and Glenn Sacks
In a highly-publicized
move, Jefferson County, Kentucky Attorney
Irv Maze recently published the names
and addresses of 1,000 alleged “deadbeat
parents” in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
The move has drawn praise nationally,
and Maze says the list is helping
his office locate debtors. However,
most of the parents on Maze’s humiliating
list are not those who won’t pay,
but instead those who can’t pay.
Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement
data shows that two-thirds of those
who owe child support nationwide earned
less than $10,000 in the previous
year. According to the largest federally
funded study of divorced dads ever
conducted, unemployment, not willful
neglect, is the largest cause of failure
to pay child support. A US Government
Accounting Office survey of custodial
mothers who were not receiving the
support they were owed found that
two-thirds of those fathers who do
not pay their child support fail to
do so because they are indigent.
These research findings
are reflected in Kentucky's Top 10
Most Wanted Parents list. Of those
“deadbeats” currently listed, only
one appears to have any education
at all, and the most common designation
for occupation is "laborer."
Far from being a list of well-heeled
businessmen, lawyers, and accountants,
these men do low wage and often seasonal
work, and owe large sums of money
which most could never hope to pay
Kentucky’s list of
low income "deadbeats"
is typical of the child support
evaders lists put out by most states.
For example, Virginia's new list
is topped by a laborer, a carnival
hired hand, and a construction worker,
who collectively somehow "owe”
over a quarter million dollars in
force behind child support arrearages
is not bad parents, but instead
rigid child support systems which
are mulishly impervious to the
economic realities noncustodial parents
face, such as layoffs, wage cuts,
and work-related injuries. According
to the Urban Institute, less
than one in 20 non-custodial
parents who suffer substantial income
drops are able to get courts
to reduce their child support payments. In
such cases, the amounts owed mount
quickly, as do interest and penalties.
Compounding the problem is the fact
that the federal Bradley Amendment
bars judges from retroactively forgiving
child support arrearages, even when
they determine that the arrearage
occurred through no fault of the obligor.
Bradley is so problematic that Congress
will be conducting hearings on the
amendment this fall.
In one McCracken
County, Kentucky case, Francis
Borgia, a carpet cleaner in Paducah,
slit his throat in the courtroom after
being sentenced to two years in jail
for being $7,000 behind on child support.
According to newspaper accounts, Borgia
had become a “deadbeat” after he lost
a good paying job working in a casino
and could not get a downward modification
on his support.
Also victimized by
Maze’s list are those who are named
in error. For example, according to
television station WAVE 3 in Louisville,
Maze mistakenly listed James R. Frazier
as a deadbeat who owes $57,000, and
gave out his current home address.
Frazier and his wife Bertha have been
erroneously targeted by enforcement
officials before, and have spent years
fighting to straighten out the error.
The agency had previously acknowledged
its mistake—and then went ahead and
published the erroneous information anyway.
Child support collection
agencies are notorious for their errors
and bureaucratic bungling, as even
supporters of the lists such as the
Association for Children for Enforcement
of Support admit. A study conducted
by ACES revealed that state child
support enforcement agencies nationwide
had failed to distribute over $500
million which had been paid by noncustodial
Beyond mistaken identity,
as in the Frazier case, common agency
errors include: mathematical errors;
failure to record or transfer records
of payments; billing men for children
they did not father; failing to stop
child support when a child reaches
the age of emancipation; accepting
custodial parents' false reports of
nonpayment; and failure to update
child support orders with later court
rulings affecting modifications.
and evaluations have shown that errors
comprise a third of all arrearages
in some states and counties.
It is true that jailing those behind
on child support does sometimes result
in some of the arrearages being paid.
However, this is usually not because
the low income dad they’ve arrested
has decided to sell his Porsche and
his vacation home, but instead because
his family and friends have put up
the money to keep him out of jail.
Even when dealing
with the small percentage of fathers
who have the money to pay but choose
not to, Maze’s approach is at times
misguided. According to the
Children's Rights Council, a Washington-based
advocacy group, more than five million
American children each year have their
access to their noncustodial parents
interfered with or blocked by custodial
parents. Family courts are often tragically
indifferent to enforcing noncustodial
parents’ visitation rights. One can
understand why noncustodial parents
who have been driven out of their
children’s lives feel little motivation
to subsidize the custodial parent’s
filching of their children.
In contrast to Maze’s
abusive, overkill approach, state child
support systems need to be made more
flexible and responsive, so that low
income parents aren't made into criminals
because they’ve failed to pay child
support obligations which are beyond
their reach. As Borgia, who
survived his courtroom suicide attempt,
“My only ‘crime’
was my failure to make as much money
as the state demanded…I couldn't quite
understand why I was treated so harshly.
I'm not a deadbeat dad. I'm a broke
This article first
appeared in the Cincinnati Post &
the Kentucky Post (8/26/05).
Jeffrey Leving &