June 25, 2014

 

The Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) of 1992 altered how the states enforced the regulations and laws of the child support system.  The Act makes it a federal criminal offense to willfully refuse to pay child support, (Daniel Robert Zimijewski).  Since the threat of prison has been used as a deterrent for skipping payments or not making payments in a timely manner, many have challenged the constitutionality of the act.  One argument the opponents of the CSRA have is that the law interferes with traditional state rights.  In support of this argument, many would agree that the federal law absolutely interferes with state rights.  The states must adhere to strict guidelines when operating child support agencies or face strict penalties.

 

The proper name for the law that states must adhere to when operating child support enforcement agencies is The Child Support Performance and Incentive Act of 1998.  This law was implemented along with the laws that reformed both the welfare and child support systems.  One of the rules of this new act was to provide for an alternative penalty procedure for states that fail to meet Federal child support data processing requirements, (Office of Child Support Enforcement, 1998).  This first clause prohibits states from manipulating its own resources for the sake of child support collections.  To argue that the federal government does not intrude into state laws and procedures is absurd. The federal government is directly responsible for dictating standards that states must follow.

 

Secondly, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (1998), the act was designed to reform Federal incentive payments for effective child support performance.  Once again, the state is affected by federal mandates due to the reformation to the traditional state policies.  The reform of 1998 is still influencing all 50 states as it pertains to child support performance.  South Carolina, the last state to adopt an automated child support collection system, has failed to meet those performance measurements as of 2014.  As reported by Robert Kittle, a S. C. Capital Reporter, South Carolina taxpayers have been fined more than $104 million for not having a statewide child support enforcement computer system required by federal law in 1997.  This enormous fine will not only have a detrimental affect of traditional state laws, the citizens will also be impacted.

 

Finally, the law was enacted to provide a more flexible penalty procedure for states that violate interjurisdictional adoption requirements, (OCSE, 1998).  This means that all states face punishments when the guidelines are not followed.  By forcing these provisions unto the states, state officials are compelled to follow the federal law.  There is no middle ground for states that may feel differently about the execution of the child support enforcement based on needs of individual citizens and families.  Based on this information, the CSRA does interfere with state law even though the defense is that the federal government merely reinforces state laws which the states were unable to enforce themselves, (Zimijewski).

 

The fact that citizens are greatly influenced by federal laws means that state laws have faced interference.  The law is very clear in stating that one law can not and should not be influenced by the other.  The child support guidelines make it impossible for child support cheerleaders to argue legality because citizens cannot be treated equally when it comes to the execution of these laws. The state and federal governments seem to be one in the same relating to child support.  As parents and as citizens, we need to demand that our government abide by the same laws and scrutiny that it expects everyone else to follow.  This can begin by reforming the child support system.

 

References:

 

Kittle, R. (2014, April 3). S.C. taxpayers fined more than $100 Million for breaking federal - Local news, weather, sports savannah | WSAV On Your Side. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://www.wsav.com/story/24780348/sc-taxpayers-fined-more-than-100-million-for-breaking-federal-law

Office of Child Support Enfocement (1998, January 27). Child support performance and incentive act of 1998 | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/child-support-performance-and-incentive-act-of-1998

Office of Child Support Enforcement ( 27). Child support performance and incentive act of 1998 | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/child-support-performance-and-incentive-act-of-1998

Zimijewski, D. R. (n.d.). The child support recovery act and its constitutionality after US v. Morrison. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.nccr.info/attachments/394_zmijewski.pdf

 
 
June 18, 2014

 

Most people know someone with a child support horror story.  The seemingly never-ending payments, license suspensions and jail are but a few headaches parents may face when dealing with child support enforcement.  But there is a silver lining and a glimmer of hope that one day, at least 18 years into the future, child support will end.  The child will have reached adulthood and the headache of child support pressure will be over.  Unfortunately that silver lining is never uncovered and the hope quickly fades when parents realize that child support debt does not end when a child reaches adulthood. 

 

In some cases, child support ends when the minor reaches the age-of-majority.  This refers to the legal age established under state law at which an individual is no longer a minor, (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2014).  The law is clear, however, there are many parents making payment that are state owned and are not financially beneficial to the child.  The NCSL (2014) explains that by the age of majority, the individual, a young adult, has the right and responsibility to make certain legal choices that adults make.   Based on this law, parents should not be forced to pay support to people of legal age that financially care for themselves.  Nor should they be forced to pay an imaginary debt comprised of fees and interest once the child reaches adulthood.

 

There are two situations that require payments after adulthood.  In some cases, the child support debt, or arrears, is owed to the custodial parent.  According to Daniel R. Levinson, former Inspector General, (2007), debt owed to custodial parents is settled only at the discretion of the custodial parent.  This debt should be waived when the child reaches adulthood because there is no long a need to provide for a child.  This situation could be more supported if custodial parents were forced to provide receipts of all money spent on the child.  This would be a more solid reason for reimbursement.  Unfortunately, the current law does not force parents to prove how child support money is being spent.

 

The second instance, and most popular, is reserved for the parents who owe money to the state and can only be forgiven by the state that holds the child support note.  Debt compromise is offered by just over half of the states and qualifying mandated criteria make it difficult for low-income parents.  It is complicated to track how many parents have successfully been granted debt forgiveness because there is little or no information provided by the participating states. The reason for this is that The Office of Child Support Enforcement Agency has not issued guidelines regarding the administration of state debt compromise programs and does not track or monitor those states that have implemented such programs, (Levisnson, 2007).  Another explanation for the lack of available data could be due to the limited number of parents who have successfully erased their child support debt.  Most of these programs require between 12 and 24 consistent monthly payments before a compromise will be granted. 

 

This can be a difficult accomplishments in populations exceed double unemployment numbers.  Making complete and regular child support payments may be easy for some, but for low-income parents, the choice between eating and paying child support for an adult child is a no brainer.  Parents should not be on the hook for child support debt owed to the state for a TANF grant, interest, and late fees.  The money does not benefit anyone or anything except for the government.   For those arrears cases where money is owed directly to the parent, receipts need to be provided documentation in order to account for every dollar spent on the child.  In its current state, the child support system is similar to an unlimited bank account.  The I.O.U. is one that never expires and the trap is set for citizens who happen to be parents to pay child support for an adult child for a long time.  The adult child seems to transform itself into the government.

 

References:

 

Levinson, D. R. (2007, October). State use of debt compromise to reduce child support arrears. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-06-00070.pdf

National Conference of State Legislatures (2014, January). Termination of Child Support- Age of Majority. Retrieved March 12, 2014, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/termination-of-child-support-age-of-majority.aspx

 
 
June 12, 2014

 

States do not force parents to pay certain fees when the family is receiving public assistance directly but there is always some type of fees associated with the child support system.  According to the Fiscal Management Extranet or FMX based in Texas, courts are authorized to charge a fee to cover any court-ordered attorney fees. These fees are to be collected in addition to the actual child support payment.  The courts can also force payment for costs relating from an action to enforce child support withholding orders (FMX).  These withholding orders are forwarded to employers across the country. 

 

ADP is one of the leading payroll processing companies and has the responsibility of following federal regulations associated with income withholding.  ADP explains that most states allow an employer to charge a fee to the employee for the administrative costs of processing court-ordered support withholdings.  In most states, the fees range from $1 to $5 which is money that could be included in the actual payment or kept by the payee.  Other states charge much more for the same processing.  Texas and Washington both charge $10 for the first remittance but Washington charges an additional $1 for each deduction after the first, (ADP).  This money can add up quickly in states with a large number of child support orders and working parents.

 

For example, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), 2012, there was a total of 1,345,121 open child support cases on record.  For the sake of grasping the scope of the amount of money being charged, one might consider that these cases have not received any public assistance.  This number decreases to 895,805 when all cases related to public assistance have been eliminated.  For this example, when adding the number of parents that were employed and subject to wage withholding, employers would make quite a hefty sum.  When using the aforementioned scenario and data, Texas employers would have netted $4,299,025 in fees charged for processing income withholdings. 

 

Georgia charges a $25 fee for both filing an application for child support services and authorizes a $25 fee for employers to process the first deduction.  Employers are permitted to retain $3 after the first $25 is collected.  The fees, unfortunately, do not end there.  There is an annual maintenance fee of $25 and the charges associated with the 7% interest rate charged on all child support judgments.  Interest is charged automatically when the noncustodial parent becomes 30 days delinquent (Georgia Department of Social Services).  It becomes clearer how the child support system is not really about the welfare of the children.  This system is a multi-billion collection agency and there are plenty of businesses that have a hand in the collection pot.

 

For any parents that file a modification due to uncontrollable circumstance causing a decrease in monthly income, there is a hefty fee for this request.  According to the Georgia Department of Social Services, the non-refundable $100 fee is due for each child support case, regardless of the final result.  Since the approval of modifications are based on the judge’s discretion, people that pay the fee will be stripped of both their money and a decreased monthly payment.  This only increases revenues for the states.  This $100 fee could be better used to support the children that the system was supposedly designed to assist.  It seems more and more that the only beneficiaries of the child support system are the courts, local and state governments, and businesses. 

 

Banks are part of the scheme to make money off of the backs of innocent children too.   Due to the technological advancements of automated banking, child support payments are now uploaded to a bank card in almost all states.  Ohio uploads child support payments on an e-QuickPay card.  Each transaction comes with a cost.  There is a $.40 fee for balance inquiries and a $.75 fee for ATM withdrawals.  In 2012, OCSE reported having a child support caseload of 925,740 open cases in Ohio.  If every one on those cases collected child support on an uploaded bank card, the bank would profit $685,047.60 for withdrawals and $370,296 for balance inquiries.  This amount does not include the possible surcharges of $1 to $3 that may be charged by the banks that operate a particular ATM. 

 

It is clear that the government regulating the child support system benefits more from the money collected than the majority of the children that are supposed to be the beneficiaries.  The government places the blame on parents that cannot afford the payments and adds the label of a deadbeat as an extra insult.  The truth is that the government is the real deadbeat as they collect revenues on behalf of less fortunate children.  The banks and other private entities can also join the list of deadbeats as they nickel and dime parents to death before they release the money.  As long as we say nothing about these questionable tactics, the government will continue to grow their revenues while growing the debt owed by Americans who happen to be parents.  The only way to do this is to reform the system so that the best interest of children is truly observed.

 

References:

 

ADP, Inc (2014). Guide for child support and garnishment processing. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://www.adp.com/pdf/03-172-058.pdf

Child Support Withholding and Fees - Texas Payroll/Personnel Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2014, from https://fmx.cpa.state.tx.us/fm/pubs/paypol/mandatory_deductions/index.php?section=child_support&page=child_support

Georgia Department of Human Services (n.d.). Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) Fees | Division of Child Support Services. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://dcss.dhs.georgia.gov/office-child-support-services-ocss-fees

Office of ChildSupport Enforcement (2014, April 1). FY2013 Preliminary report. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2013-preliminary

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (2013, September 30). ODJFS Online | Office of Child Support. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from https://jfs.ohio.gov/Ocs/OCSFAQs.stm

 
 
June 6th, 2014

 
One of the most difficult challenges that a parent may be forced to endure is the death of a child.  But what about the parent traumatized by being forced to pay child support debt for a deceased child?  Because the federal government does not establish specific guidelines in relation to termination of the child support orders, the responsibility falls to the states to draft legislation.  In Ohio, for instance, a child support order may be terminated for many reasons including the death of either the child or the person paying child support (Ohio State Bar Association, 2014).  This should be universal across the country; however, common with other child support issues, this law has not been adopted everywhere.

 

It, unfortunately, is becoming more common for parents to be forced to pay child support debt for a deceased child.  Those same parents can expect little or no relief once the death of the child has been proven to the courts.  In 2014, a Kentucky man discovered that he had been paying child support for his deceased son to the state of Michigan.  Lionel Campbell, concerned about the continuation of child support payments, contacted the court and was told that the support was for his deceased son.   Armed with the death certificate, he traveled to the state to prove that his son had passed away in 1988.  According to Kimberly Craig of WXYZ Detroit (2013), Campbell was told he still owed about $43,000 for his diseased son. 

 

The thought that child support was still being paid after 25 years on behalf of a deceased child should upset any citizen because the state is collecting and retaining that money under false pretenses.  It is also disturbing because if Campbell had been making payments for the past 25 years, added fees and interest can be the only reason that the debt is still so extremely high.  This is a clear example of the government making parents indebted to the system for a lifetime for doing nothing more than becoming a parent. After Campbell protested the amount owed, Detroit did reduce his debt but not to zero. The latest audit resulted in what court officials believe to be an accurate amount of $6,460.08. Clearly, this money will never be paid to the mother or the son.  This is 100% profit to the state of Detroit.

 

More recently, an incarcerated father was ordered to pay child support for his deceased daughter in Indiana.  According to Douglas Walker of the Detroit Free Press (2014), the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that David Shane must continue to pay 55% of his prison wage to catch up on his child support.  It is difficult to understand how a parent can be forced to pay for an adult child and even more confusing to force payment on behalf of a deceased child.  Shane’s 18 year old daughter, Ashlie, died in a Kentucky house fire in April 2006 (Walker, 2014).  The court ordered Shane to pay 55% of his $.95 an hour income earned from working in the laundry facilities in the prison.

 

An estimation of a work schedule of 40 hours a week and 30 days a month would yield a dismal $228.00 for Shane to live on, albeit, in prison.  After Indiana confiscates its money for child support arrears, the father is only left with approximately $100 a month.  The two tragedies only show how child support is less about the benefit and well-being of a child and more about generating revenues for government. The child support agencies have been transformed into a combination of the former welfare department and a new collection agency.  The combination is wreaking havoc on an already disadvantaged population.  Forcing citizens to pay interest, late fees, and penalties along with the child support payment on living children is already a very stressful situation.  Forcing parents to pay that same debt on adult or deceased children makes a bad situation even worse.  It is a policy that needs to be banned.  If the money is not benefiting the child, the reason for the collection is a lie.

 

References:

Craig, K. (2013, February 15). Father says he's still paying child support for 3-year-old son who died 25 years ago - WXYZ.com. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://www.wxyz.com/news/father-says-hes-still-paying-child-support-for-3-year-old-son-who-died-25-years-ago

Ohio State Bar Association (2014, April 1). Child Support Orders Are Terminated for Many Reasons. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from https://www.ohiobar.org/ForPublic/Resources/LawYouCanUse/Pages/LawYouCanUse-617.aspx

Walker, D. (2014, March 31). Nation/World | Detroit Free Press | freep.com. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://www.freep.com/article/20140331/NEWS07/303310056/killer%20child%20support%20daughter