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Child Support Unfairness Causes Suicide and Violence

Several stories supporting the idea that current child support laws are unfair and drive men to suicide. Men commit suicide more than 10X more often than women after divorce.  What does this say about the system?  A large contributor is the unfair financial burden combined with little access to the their children and any support system.

Victims advocates work with women because of the exaggeration of domestic violence issues that generate huge government funding which sometimes actually bribes women with money to report domestic violence that has not even occurred for extra financial support, cars, shelter and other benefits.  No such support exists for men who are harmed far more by divorce in many ways. The divorce system is an out of control bureaucracy that is destroying fathers, father-child bonds and the entire family unnecessarily.



Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Family Law News From Around the World

Four items this issue, all related to child support:

1. FEDERAL LAWSUIT REGARDING CHILD SUPPORT: Guy in state of Delaware sues state in Federal Court for essentially forcing him into a type of slavery where he must work overtime hours through child support system.

2. CHILD SUPPORT MAY DETER UNWED FATHERS: There were a number of stories on this study. I resent one representative article.

(Rinaldo's Notes: Does high child support also deter potential fathers from having children in intact marriages? Many speculate that the system is becoming so unfair, many men shun marriage and having children out of fear that things may go wrong and they may be treated extremely unfairly.)


4. Experts in Australia support child support reform opining it will reduce the number of suicides.


ITEM 1: Federal lawsuit:

Rinaldo's Notes: The idea may at first blush, to the non-lawyers, sound frivilous. Peonage, however, by definition is forcing an individual to work against his will, however done--by pure brute force slavery, work contracts where one cannot quit, or being compelled by force of law underthreat of arrest. The Supreme Court has ruled that slavery under the 13th amendment refers to all forms of peonage, not just traditional, chains and bonds and shoot them if they run type of slavery.



Lawsuit targets support system

By Randall Chase, Associated Press

DOVER As state lawmakers continue a review of Delaware's child support enforcement agency, a Newark man who claims he is being treated unfairly is waging a one-man legal battle against the child support bureaucracy.

In a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month, Timothy Joynes claims state officials have conspired to violate his constitutional rights and have reduced him to involuntary servitude by forcing him to work overtime to meet his child support payments.

"The defendants used the state of Delaware `legal' process to force the plaintiff to a life of a peon and compelled the plaintiff to work against his will by threats and coercion," Mr. Joynes claims in a 61- page complaint he filed without the help of an attorney.

Mr. Joynes' complaint names 29 defendants, ranging from his wife to top administrators in the Department of Health and Social Services to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. It cites more than 40 federal court cases, dating to 1879.

"I've been practicing since 1981, and I have never seen a complaint like this. It is the longest complaint I've ever seen," said Christine Demsey, an attorney representing Mr. Joynes' wife, Denise Lewis.

Lori Sitler, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said only that the state will "vigorously defend" the lawsuit.

Mr. Joynes, 35, a bus driver for the state Department of Transportation who can rattle off code citations and court cases from memory, said he spent a year doing research and two months writing the complaint, which he said was born of a frustration and desperation shared by others.

"The state of Delaware preys on people being ignorant and stupid when it comes to the law," he said. "I don't have to go to a law school to understand what's going on."

Mr. Joynes argues that the state unfairly favors custodial parents, mostly women, over noncustodial parents like himself and other men, and that officials increase child support amounts to qualify for federal incentive funds. He claims Family Court officials based his payments not on his salary, but on overtime pay that is not guaranteed. As a result, he says, he has sometimes worked 70 to 80 hours a week, fallen behind on rent and car payments, and twice had his utilities turned off.

"These people that make the rules, they go home at night and sleep,"
said Mr. Joynes, whose repeated attempts to have his support order modified have been rejected. "They don't know what they're doing to people."

Charles Hayward, director of the Division of Child Support Enforcement, said there is no direct correlation between the dollar amount of child support orders and federal incentive payments, which are based on five different performance measures and totaled almost
$1 million in fiscal 2004.

"It's more based on the overall program, not individual cases," said Mr. Hayward, who defended the fairness of the system. Mr. Hayward said it's not unusual for people to complain about their child support orders, but that he didn't know anything about Mr. Joynes'

"I never heard of the man until I got the suit," said Mr. Hayward, adding that he had read the complaint but not been formally served.

Mr. Joynes, however, cites in his lawsuit a July 2004 letter from Mr.
Hayward responding to a letter in which Mr. Joynes complained the division failed to adequately investigate his wife's child support petition.

Mr. Demsey, the attorney representing Mr. Joynes' wife, said she believes the state applies the child support laws evenly.

"It costs a lot to raise a kid," she said, adding that Mr. Joynes'
wife is working full-time to help support the couple's 6-year-old son. "I think in the long run the custodial parent pays more than what child support enforcement is."

Mr. Joynes' lawsuit comes as lawmakers are scrutinizing the operations of the Division of Child Support Enforcement, which has been the target of criticism from other parents.

At a recent meeting of the legislature's Joint Sunset Committee, Heidi Pugh-Phillipson of Dover described the state's child support bureaucracy as "insane." While many noncustodial parents complain about the amounts they are forced to pay, Ms. Phillipson said custodial parents like herself often find themselves in financial straits because the system is bogged down in paperwork and slow in processing payments. She noted it took two years for the state to deny a grievance appeal she filed.

"I fall through every crack in our system," said Ms. Phillipson, a divorced mother of two.

The legislative committee, which has the power to abolish state agencies it no longer deems effective, voted last month to extend its review of the DSCE into next year.

In the meantime, lawmakers have approved 14 recommendations aimed at improving the division, which managed about 55,000 cases last year but collected only about 60 percent of the child support payments due. While that percentage is in line with other states, it is well below the federal standard of 80 percent.

The division's paternity establishment rate of about 74 percent, meanwhile, remains well below both the federal standard and the national average. It's cost effectiveness is measured at about $3 collected for every dollar spent, well below the federal standard of
5 to 1.

The committee has given the division until Sept. 30 to report on plans for updating its aging computer system, increasing the paternity establishment rate, bringing the reliability of paternity data up to federal standards, improving the collection of back payments, and establishing a direct-deposit system for custodial parents.


ITEM 2: Tough Child Support Detering Unwed Fathers

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland Newspaper)


Tough child support laws may cut unwed births, study says Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rebecca Cook
Associated Press

Seattle- Tough child-support laws may dissuade men from becoming unwed fathers, as states with the most-stringent laws and strict enforcement have up to 20 percent fewer out-of- wedlock births, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Columbia University said Friday that child- support laws' power to reduce single parenthood is an unintended consequence of a policy designed to help children and cut welfare costs.

"Often the unintended effects are bad, so it's refreshing to see that," said lead study author Robert Plotnick, a University of Washington professor of public affairs. He added that women living in states that do a better job of enforcing child support are less likely to become unwed mothers.

The percentage of unmarried births in the United States has increased from 10 percent in the 1960s to about a third of all births today.

The study, which has not yet been published, looked at a nationwide sample of 5,195 women of childbearing age using data from 1980 to 1993. It did not show whether tougher child support laws prevented pregnancies or encouraged marriage.




Child Support Guideline Changes in Minnesota and Australia

June 17, 2005

by Roger F. Gay

The Australian government recently announced a new proposal for their child support guidelines. The design, presented by Patrick Parkinson, has been dubbed the Parkinson formula. But the basics of the formula are not new. They are in fact quite similar to guidelines fathers' rights advocates in the states have been complaining about since their introduction in late 1989.

Australia, like several states in the U.S., has been using a percent formula in which basic child support is assessed simply as a percent of a payer's income adjusted for the number of children being supported. Several states, including Minnesota have considered switching to the more popular variation based on what is known as the Income Shares model. {Rinaldo's Notes: Massachusetts sort of, kind of, does this. Mass puts mothers income into formula, but disregards so much money--$20,000--that it really is more a straight percentage deal.)

The Income Shares approach was proposed by child support collection entrepreneur Robert Williams (Policy Studies, Inc.) at the request of the federal collection agency in the U.S. (Office of Child Support Enforcement within the Department of Health and Human Services). Government enforcement agencies receive bonuses from federal funds based on the amount of child support paid through their system. Pseudo private collection agencies, such as Williams', retain a percent of the amount paid as commission for their services. Both groups favor formulae that arbitrarily increase support orders because of the increased income their agencies receive as a result.

Introducing the proposed change, John Hirst of The Australian reports that "It is hard to estimate the proportions of winners and losers in this scheme." Not really. Professors Sanford Braver at Arizona State University and David Stockburger at Southwest Missouri State University have already done a great deal of work on analyzing the differences between the two models. When looking at "new" proposals, the public should have greater awareness that child support issues are far from new.

The effort to replace judicial child support decisions with child support formulae began two decades ago. The use of presumptively correct child support formula began in the U.S. and Australia in 1989. Prior to that, state courts, local bar, and other professional associations worked on child support guidelines. More than one effort and some scientific analysis appeared in publications.

Aside from that, state courts in the U.S. had more than two centuries and Australia more than one to perfect child support decision theory. Even those efforts had a starting point in British common law that had evolved over hundreds of previous years. The effort to codify issues related to divorce presented in a commonly familiar written record goes back literally to the time of Moses, and there is archeological evidence that divorce issues and their settlements predate even that in a variety of cultures.

Despite the fact that the problem of making appropriate child support decisions has such a long history, it is widely agreed that child support formulae in use today do not do a proper job. In preparing new proposals for governments, serious work on developing a valid mathematical decision model is ignored.

Australians and Minnesotans are being told that the Income Shares model takes a step toward fairness compared to the percent formula. While there may be some slight truth to this view, for the most part the switch is from one formula that produces arbitrarily high results to one that produces a different set of arbitrarily high results. Neither model has been developed from the principles that emerged from hundreds of years of experience in adjudication of child support on several continents. Both were created to arbitrary increase the size of payments.

The recent history of child support reform in both the U.S. and Australia hinges on a single fundamental change. Child support (as well as other family issues) has been transformed as a matter of law from the private domain to the public. Decisions are now taken en masse and entirely open to political manipulation. The connection to principles of purpose and fairness were lost in the transition.

John Hirst puts the task of altering child support guidelines in the current context; "can the burden on fathers be lifted without harming children and outraging their mothers, supported by a strong feminist lobby?"

Not long ago, such a question would have been treated with contempt. Courts were, until recently, required to make independent and objective decisions. The suggestion that special interest groups may influence such decisions would have immediately been labeled for what it is: corruption. Any judge known to bow to such pressure may have been dismissed for bad behavior. When legislators bowed to such pressure, it would have been seen as a scandal at the very least.

Roger F. Gay




Experts welcome child support reforms
June 17, 2005 - 4:44PM

Mental health experts welcome proposed changes to the child support system, believing they may result in fewer suicides and a fall in violent attacks involving aggrieved parents.

Most divorced and separated fathers would pay less child support under recommendations made by a government task force this week.

Psychologist Michael Woods, co-director of the Men's Health Information and Resource Centre at the University of Western Sydney, said research suggests the trauma of divorce and loss of children could contribute to suicide and depression.

"I do think that the financial problems could be enough to tip some of them over the edge," he said in an interview.

"I'm certainly not going to say child support equals suicide but it is one of the factors that adds to the problem."

Mr Woods, a senior lecturer in public health, predicted the proposed changes plus a shift in culture at the Family Court would make a substantial difference to Australia's suicide rate.

The Family Court's much more prepared to see dads getting more time with their kids," he said.

Psychiatrist Gordon Parker, of Sydney's Black Dog Institute which researches mood disorders, said suicide was undoubtedly more likely to occur when people felt oppressed, isolated and misunderstood.

"Situations of marital separation and the consequences, particularly the ongoing financial implications and the anger that often goes with senses of injustice, can be contributors to the suicide rate," Professor Parker said.

"Whenever there's a system of injustice - we've got other ones in the community at the moment with the refugees - suicide rates are high."

Prof Parker said if people felt aggrieved, they were more likely to get depressed or angry.

"They spew and they fume about the injustice and this must flow through in many instances to the ex-wives, to the kids," he said.

"The capacity for the family to get involved in acts of violence, I think, is just as important as suicide.

"If you can make any system fairer and equitable I think it's encouraging and should be applauded."

Under the proposals, the incomes of both parents would be taken into account when calculating the cost of child support.

Payments would increase when children turn 13 and fathers would get a discount if their child stayed with them at least one night a week.

But there would be a crackdown on fathers rorting the system by not paying their fair share.