Based on history, if one state enacts a new law, other states may follow suit. With child support enforcement punishing parents by suspending driver’s and professional licenses, denying passports denial and incarceration, there may be a new punishment on the horizon for Virginia parents. The new law may be construed as yet another citizen rights violation to Americans who happen to be parents and want to carry a concealed handgun. The 2nd Amendment guarantees that the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed (Cornell University Law School). Even though there is no direct legislation being introduced that will deny people the right to bear arms, there may be a backdoor attack being launched against carrying of concealed weapon (CCW) permits. Although every state has its own specific law related to carrying a concealed weapon, the basic idea is the same as it is in the 50th state to enact a CCW law, Illinois. According to Ciara McCarthy of Slate (2013), Illinois law allows concealed guns on private property and places of work and worship. While states require a permit in order to carry a weapon but not all states have implemented a policy that denies the right to the permit due to owing an outstanding debt. There are several states that revoke a CCW permit when a parent becomes delinquent on their child support payments.
Most child support cases have been initiated against a noncustodial parent due to the custodial parent applying for government assistance. By signing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) application for cash, food stamps and health insurance, the noncustodial parent is automatically the victim of several punishments that infringe upon his or her rights. In California, by the custodial parent receiving the monthly payment of $638, a noncustodial parent may face the risk of having their permit to carry a weapon, cancelled if child support payments are not made on time. Non-custodial parents are not only charged 10% interest for late payments, they can also face up to one year in prison and $2k in fines. Under the license restriction laws of California, CCW permits are up for grabs along with business, occupational and driver’s licenses. The National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL (2014), reports that the trigger criteria for license revocation is arrears in the amount of 30 calendar days or more. Revoking licenses can prevent a parent from earning a living, however, denying CCW permits can hinder a person from protecting themselves, their family and their property. Prohibiting a person the right to carry a weapon is of no benefit to the children or the collection of child support payments and it indirectly denies a person the right to bear arms. Knowing that child support laws already violate a citizen’s right to not be incarcerated because of owing a debt, the right to bear arms is in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately, there is no security against the government denying a person the right to bear arms if child support payments are late.
Moving on the Lone Star State the CCW law was updated by Governor Rick Perry in 2013. According to Claire Cardona of the Dallas Morning News (2013), new legislation allows people, including students, with concealed handgun licenses, to store their firearms in their cars on the university campuses and parking lots. This new law can add a sense of protections for those that may face danger while out running errands or attending classes. Regrettably, anyone that is delinquent on child support payments is not afforded this same luxury. This is because of the eligibility clause which states that an application for the carrying a handgun license may be denied for an individual finally determined to be delinquent in child support obligations, (Texas Department of Public Safety, 2011). This restriction violates equal protections under the law as it prohibits people, that happen to be parents, from protecting themselves if they cannot afford hefty child support arrears. Texas revokes licenses if the arrears amount is in the amount of three months or more, (NCSL, 2014). For parents that are owe arrears, there is always the possibility of a prison sentence of up to two years and a $10k fine. With the revocation of a CCW licenses, people must wonder if the government will deny the right to bear arms in Texas to parents and citizens as a whole when a debt is owed to the government. As the government applies more restrictions, more citizen’s rights are bound to be denied in the quest to improve state child support retention amounts and federal incentive payments. People have the right to defend themselves and the lack of money should not dictate who is entitled to that important, constitutionally protected, right to bear arms.
Opponents of the denial of CCW permits due to child support payment delinquencies can argue that there is a difference between a license and a permit when dealing with child support enforcement. However, in Tennessee, the law is clear as it relates to the CCW law and child support enforcement. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that Tennessee considers any concealed carry permit to be deemed a ‘license’ when dealing with the enforcement of child support obligations through license denial and revocation. This is an example of how the government can input certain language and transfer a policy to fit a specific purpose. A permit is clearly different than a license but in order to justify snatching the permit from someone who is otherwise eligible, changes must be implemented in the language of the law. If state officials are permitted to exercise such apparent violations, with no repercussions, there is no guarantee that the law will not be extended to include owning guns period when a person is late on child support payments. It is not enough that in exchange for a $185 monthly TANF grant, a delinquent noncustodial parent can face up to six years in prison and a $3k fine, they can now face denial of the right to own a firearm and protect themselves from danger. In Tennessee, licenses or permits in the case of child support enforcement can be revoked after arrears have amounted to at least $500 or are at least 90 days delinquent, (NCSL, 2014). It is a step too far to yank a CCW license away from parents that may have committed no other crime except for being too poor to pay exaggerated child support debt.
Newly elected Governor Terry McAuliffe is attempting to enact a new law which, in part, follows his predecessors in confiscating permits from parents that fall behind on child support payments. According to The Daily Caller (2014), the Governor is seeking to arbitrarily strip some 9,000 Virginia parents of their right to hold concealed weapons permits for falling behind on child support payments. Again, paying child support has nothing to do with the right for a person to own a weapon or possess a concealed handgun. If American citizens allow the state government to finesse laws to suit its agenda, the federal government may attempt the same violations in the name of child support. As it stands, five licenses can be suspended in Virginia because of failure to pay child support. The NCSL (2014), explains that the trigger criteria for license suspension in Virginia is 90 day delinquency or arrears in the amount of $5k or more. A person will also face CCW permit seizure if he or she fails to appear in court once he or she is legally served with a subpoena.
The restrictions that parents face due to child support enforcement have gone above and beyond the alleged reasoning behind the operations of a child support office. It is not beneficial to children if a parent cannot drive to work or practice his or her profession because child support laws allow the revocation of their licenses. Just as importantly, a parent has the right to defend themselves and their children in the face of danger. The government has and will continue to overstep boundaries that violate rights that are supposed to be protected under clauses expressed in the US Constitution. While it is true that parents are legally obligated to provide for their children, the government must also adhere to its obligations to US citizens. Just as people should not be jailed because of owing a debt, a citizen should not be stripped of their guns if they become 30 days delinquent on child support payments. If Virginia enacts its controversial gun law targeting parents because of overdue child support bills, there will no limit to the violations of gun laws that may follow across the country. All 50 states allow some type of CCW law which permits people to carry a firearm, which means that all 50 states have the power to strip that right from its residents. The question that must be asked is when will the revocation of gun permits end? Not everyone that owns a gun should be subject to having their right to carry taken away by the state or, eventually, from the federal government. We, in America, have the right to bear arms, despite financial status or amount of debt owed to government or private corporations. We must fight to restore our rights against child support enforcement, state and federal governments or we may look up one day with all of our rights revoked.
Cardona, C. (2013, June 17). Perry signs handful of bills that tweak concealed handgun license, firearm laws | Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/06/perry-signs-handful-of-gun-bills-that-tweak-chl-laws.html/
Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). Annotated Constitution Prototype. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt2_user.html
The Daily Caller. (2014, December 17). Virginia: Governor McAuliffe Announces Next Grab For Your Gun Rights | The Daily Caller. Retrieved from http://dailycaller.com/2014/12/17/virginia-governor-mcauliffe-announces-next-grab-for-your-gun-rights/
McCarthy, C. (2013, July 11). Illinois concealed carry: Carrying guns in public is legal in all 50 states, and the NRA doesn’t want us to know what that really means. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/07/11/illinois_concealed_carry_carrying_guns_in_public_is_legal_in_all_50_states.html
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2014, January 30). License Restrictions for Failure to Pay Child Support. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/license-restrictions-for-failure-to-pay-child-support.aspx
Texas Department of Public Safety. (n.d.). TxDPS - CHL FAQs. Retrieved from http://dps.texas.gov/RSD/CHL/faqs/index.htm
United State Government Accountability Office. (2012, July). Gun Control States' laws and Requirements for Concealed carry permits vary across the Nation. Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592552.pdf
Recently, a Detroit native, Carnell Alexander, has been in the news because of a paternity fraud case that occurred decades ago and a $30k debt that he is expected to pay as reimbursement to the state for welfare benefits paid to the child’s (now adult) mother. Mr. Alexander armed with a DNA test and the truth from the child’s mother, felt confident in the state dismissing the debt owed to the government. Unfortunately, in the state of Michigan, a DNA test excusing a man of parenthood is not always enough to be excused from a child support debt. The reason that this erroneous debt has been allowed to stain Mr. Alexander’s life is due to an unfair child support law that forces a man to financially provide for a child that he did not actually father. According to the Michigan Legislative Website, in an action under The Paternity Act of 1956, the court shall enter an order of filiation declaring paternity and providing for the support of a child in certain situations. This law makes the legislatures and judges the ultimate decider of parentage and not genetics. The circumstances that are accepted as sufficient reasoning to order filiation are as outdated as designating a man the parent of a non-biological child and forcing him to pay child support. One of the acceptable reasons that a man can be declared the legal parent of a non-biological child is by the courts obtaining a default judgment against the man. The way that the judicial system is permitted to utilize this way of determining paternity is by serving the defendant (alleged father) with a child support summons and complaint accompanied with a subpoena to appear in court and the man fails to appear. The act of being served is critical in court proceedings and must be followed by the letter of the law. The Service of Process as defined by Cornell University Law School, is based on The Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution which prohibits courts from exercising personal jurisdiction over a defendant unless the defendant has proper notification of the court proceedings. In other words, without proper service, any court proceedings that follow are not legal and cannot be enforced against the plaintiff. A child support complaint must be served by a person that is not named in the subpoena, a specially appointed person or by law enforcement but the process is and should be exactly the same. “Service” or Service of Process is making sure the other side gets a copy of the papers that are being filed, (The Maryland People’s Law Library, 2010). Even in Michigan, where Mr. Alexander is being hounded for an outstanding child support debt, the state must follow the laws written in the Constitution when trying to get service on this defendant in child support cases. The Michigan courts specifically list the following steps that are needed in order to file a family support complaint:
After all of these steps have been properly completed, a judge can issue a child support order even in the absence of the defending party. However, if #4 is not properly executed, the following three steps are void. When all of these steps happen, the end result of the case will be an entry of order, (Michigan Courts). And herein lies the bigger problem in the case of the State of Michigan vs. Carnell Alexander. Although it is unfair that Mr. Alexander held be responsible for multi-thousand dollar debt to the state, his right to due process has been violated since he can proof that he was never properly served all of those years ago. The courts have proof that the service was not proper and yet, it refuses to terminate the court order and excuse this mountainous debt. The fact that he did not father the child in question has fallen on deaf ears, but the officials cannot be allowed to ignore the failure of proper service in this or any case. The Cornell University Law School webpage is clear in stating when establishing child support obligations that even the federal child support enforcement office must, within 90 days of locating a parent the court must:
- A complaint must be filed.
- Fees must be paid.
- A summons must be issued
- The parties must be served notice of the complaint.
- Hearings must be scheduled and notices must be given
- Answers must be given and
- Hearings must be attended
When a person is not properly served, the complaint process cannot proceed and an entry of default judgment cannot be ordered against the alleged father. There has been new legislation enacted in Michigan concerning paternity in recent years. Senate Bill No.557 allows acknowledgments, determinations and judgments relating to paternity be set aside in certain circumstances (State of Michigan, 2012). There are circumstances, including mistakes in fact or a case of fraud, which must occur in order for the paternity to be rescinded. However, there is one step that must occur before any action can be taken by the courts. All parties involved must receive the court documents by proper Service of Process in order to avoid violating due process laws. It is crucial that American citizens hold the government responsible when executing the laws that govern, not only the child support system, but all judicial systems. One of the most critical steps in securing a child support order is properly serving the child support complaint to the defendant. When this process is not executed properly, all subsequent actions are legally void. It is the right of every US citizen to be aware of any legal actions being brought against him or her with very rare exception. Parents should ensure that their child support orders were properly served to them at the time that the child support was established, even in cases where the judgment was entered by default. Default judgments are the leading type of judgment in child support cases. Because the defendant failed to appear, all actions of the court are deemed valid, even in their absence. People with such judgments should ask for court documentation and proof that proper service was obtained. If that proof is not provided, all enforcements such as license revocation, bank account seizures, garnishments, tax refund offsets, arrest warrants and prison sentences may have been illegally executed by the court of law. It is time to force the government to be as accountable for its actions just as it holds its citizens accountable for our actions, both legal and illegal. References: Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). 303.4 Establishment of support obligations. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/45/303.4 Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). Service of Process | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/service_of_process The Maryland People's Law Library. (2010, September 20). Frequently Asked Questions About "Service" | The Maryland People's Law Library. Retrieved from http://www.peoples-law.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-service Michigan Courts. (n.d.). Types of court cases. Retrieved from http://courts.mi.gov/self help/center/casetype/pages/familysupport.aspx Michigan Legislative Website. (2009). Michigan Legislature - Section 722.717. Retrieved from http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(1wcjmnakmbqb02554lrbac45))/mileg.aspx?page=GetO bject&objectname=mcl-722-717 State of Michigan. (2012). Enrolled senate bill No. 557. Retrieved from https://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/publicact/pdf/2012-PA-0159.pdf
- Establish an order for support,
- Complete service of process necessary to commence proceedings or
- Document unsuccessful attempts to serve process despite diligent efforts to obtain service of process.
Trickle-down economics has been the basis of many arguments concerning the benefits of this model for the working class and poor people in a society. InvestorWords defines trickle-down economics as an economic theory which advocates letting businesses flourish since their profits ultimately trickle down to lower-income individuals and the rest of the economy. The child support system is a perfect example of the trickle-down theory and how it fails low-income children and families. The government, in this instance, is the business that is flourishing and has been collecting huge profits since the reform of the child support system under former President Clinton in the early 1990’s. One alleged objective of the child support system is to recover money to recoup welfare payments awarded to low-income families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits program. The price of this grant is huge for the recipient of the award. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL, under federal law, states are allowed to retain collected child support to reimburse themselves and the federal government for any welfare payments to a family. Based on the trickle-down theory, the billions of dollars that the government collects through child support enforcement, is paid to the low-income families in very small amounts.
Since many states fail to pay any child support money to the families receiving TANF benefits, the payment only trickles down in the way of the low grant amount. Time limits and strict qualification criteria often significantly decreases the number of payments that families receives which often leave the family with a zero dollar monthly income. The grant amounts, although helpful in assisting families satisfy some basic needs, are often extremely low in many states across the country. States like Mississippi and Tennessee provide less than $200 for a family of three in monthly TANF benefits. Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina all fall short of a $250 monthly cash benefit for its neediest families. Yet, struggling families are forced to forfeit their rights to their own child support payments in favor of receiving temporary help while the government any collections. This money is magically supposed to drip down to the families and somehow better their situations. If the money was paid directly and in full to the owners of the money, there would be no need for government involvement. Even though some states pay a small amount or pass-through some money to the families, the government is the true beneficiary. Any child support collected on behalf of the family is shared between the state and the federal governments, (NCSL). The trickle-down theory is an utter failure when the family cannot rely on TANF benefits or child support payments because the government is hoarding the money.
Currently 27 states do not pass-through or allow any money to trickle-down to TANF recipients. Some of the other states have policies in place but not all let the child support money trickle-down to its rightful owners. Minnesota, for instance, is supposed to pay some money to families receiving state benefits. Michelle Vinson and Vicki Turetsky wrote in a Center for Law and Social Policy or CLASP (2009) report that Minnesota should pass-through all support to court-ordered amount but does not disregard any for purposes of calculating benefits. Unfortunately, the state failed to pass-through any of the money it collected during 2009-2013 to any families receiving welfare benefits. According to the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) (2014), in 2013, the state of Minnesota reports its share of child support collections at $12,514,455 and the federal share almost equaled that amount at $12,514,462. The major problem, yet again, is that out of the reported $584,830,863 distributed child support collections, zero dollars trickled-down to the most vulnerable American families. The people in favor of the trickle-down theory argue that if the ‘too big to fail’ entities continue to turn a profit, some of the money will eventually reach the pockets of the lower class. But as clearly stated in the 2013 ACF preliminary child support report, none of the over half a billion dollars collected seemed trickle-down to the families that depend on child support for survival.
Michigan, is a little different, in its policies of passing-through or trickling down collection money to low-income families. According to the Vinson, et al. (2009), up to $50 is passed-through and the amount is disregarded for purposes of eligibility and benefits. Michigan has paid some of the $1,296,510,912 collected in 2013 to some TANF families. Unfortunately, for the families, the amount of the trickle-down money decreased from $5,987,766 in 2009 to a mere $341 in 2013, (ACF, 2014). The reason for this drastic plummet in trickle-down money is a restriction to the Client Participation Payment (CPP). The Michigan Department of Human Services (2012), announced that as of October 1, 2011,due to changes in the department’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget, the state of Michigan will no longer pass-through $50 CPP to the family. The state and federal governments continue to reap the financial benefits of the child support system despite the alleged budged deficits. In fact, in 2013, the state reported $21,333,881 as its share in collections, (ACF, 2014). The federal government exceeded the states multi-million dollar payday courtesy of the less fortunate children and families. According to the ACF (2014), the federal government collected and retained $42,140,924 as its share of the child support collections. The problem with the trickle-down theory is that the millions retained by the government did nothing to help decrease the 24% of children currently living in poverty in the Michigan or any the other state across the country.
Washington State must have shared its budget cut idea with Michigan as it had already failed to pay any significant money to its residents receiving TANF benefits. The $47,076,931 that trickled-down to the families between 2009 and 2011 decreased to a measly $3,484 in 2012 and 2013, (ACF, 1014). This is due to a new law, affective May 1, 2011, Washington State suspended pass-through payments. It has been over three years and several budgets later, but Washington officials have failed to reinstate the original pass-through law. Before the uncompassionate change to the law, the state increased the pass-through and disregard to $100 for one child and $200 for two children, (Vinson, et al., 2009). The state and federal governments were able to collect $29,137,879 and $29,317,887 respectively in child support money. Again, none of the money reached the low-income families and this exemplifies the reasons that trickle-down economics is a failure when utilized by the child support system.
The wealthiest corporations, in this case the state and federal governments, pocket the money while leaving the poorest citizens to live in poverty. For decades, the higher powers have argued that the money paid to wealthy corporations and individuals, would mysteriously appear in the purses and wallets of the middle and lower class. The trickle-down theory did not work when it was first introduced by Former President Reagan and it does not work now. There is a grave misconception that ignores the fact that public assistance benefits are paid for by taxes. The child support system demands that grant money, already paid for, should be reimbursed by noncustodial parents. After the government receives its ‘repayment’ of the money, the remainder will be paid to the families that the money is owed to anyway. More than half of the states retain 100% of the child support payments which means that zero dollars is trickling down to the people that need it the most. The states that do pay some money limit the payment to a maximum of $200 a month. This is done while the government continues to collect billions of dollars on the backs of US children. Even worse, states that did pay a small amount of money to the families have ended the policies blaming budget constraints to justify these prolonged interruptions in payments. As long as the less fortunate are expected to wait patiently for money to trickle-down from the government, poverty levels will, more than likely continue to rise. We, the people, must force the government to reform the child support system because the trickle-down theory has been and continues to be a dismal failure to the children of America.
While exposing the true purpose of the child support system in America, which is arguably collecting money to be retained by the state, there may be confusion between child support and child support arrears. The Free Dictionary defines child support as a payment that a noncustodial parent makes as a contribution to the costs of raising his or her child. There is very little disagreement to the need of financial support when raising children. When the custodial parent does not receive public assistance and the parents have a mutual agreement void government involvement, child support arrears never enter the realm of their families. Child support arrears occur when the courts are involved by voluntary or involuntary enrollment and can be extremely expensive, in many ways to the noncustodial parents. Anna Assad of Demand Media, defines arrears as the past due child support owed to a custodial parent. Unfortunately, because the rights to the payments are assigned to the state in public assistance cases, the recipient of the payments are not due to the custodial parents. The money, when collected in most case, are retained in full by the state. Child support arrears consist of unpaid child support that can include interest, late fees, penalties and any fines that can and will be added to the total amount.
These additional costs can include medical bills, day care expenses or other expenses that have not been included in the child support order but has been deemed a financial responsibility by the custodial parent and the court system. The interest charged on late child support payments are one of the leading causes of huge child support arears, or deb, to accumulate so rapidly in such a short amount of time. More than half of the states in the U.S. charge interest on child support debt. Based on a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL (2013), interest rates range from 4% in Mississippi and New Mexico to 12% in states such as Kentucky and Colorado. Even though the government acknowledges that most child support arrears are owed by parents with low or no income the system seems like a trap when parents continue to be charged interest when they cannot afford the regular payments. One study conducted by Sorensen, Sousa and Schaner of The Urban Institute (2007) showed that 40% of the current obligors have no or low reported income, but they generated 60% of the unpaid current support. Parents that struggle to pay support should not be expected to pay even more money for imaginary debt created out of thin air in interest.
Child support arrears cannot be forgiven no matter what the circumstances thanks to the enactment of the Bradley Amendment. This amendment mandated that child support arrears be considered a judgment by law (Sorensen, et al., 2007). This law permitted states to keep people in debt for indefinite amounts of time. According to Douglas Reid Wiener of the American Law Division, the Bradley Amendment prohibits the retroactive State modification of child support arrearages. Even in situations where paternity fraud has occurred, the man named as the father is still responsible for child support arrears. Child support arrears are the reason that states report such huge amounts of arrears when compared to actual support allegedly owed by noncustodial parents.
When looking at the child support collections in the state of Alabama, the open 230,000 open child support cases demands an alarming amount of arrears. According to NCSL (2014), the amount of current support due in 2013 was $431,286,947 while the amount in arrears owed was $3,143,992,093. Alabama charges 7.5% interest on late payments and only offers one debt forgiveness program to its parents that have fallen behind on child support payments. The program is offered on a case-by-case basis and has strict criteria before it is granted to the applicant. An interest rebate law allows the forgiveness of interest owed to the state and the custodial parents in cases where current support is paid consistently for at least 12 months, (NCSL, 2014). A significant catch to this and many debt forgiveness programs is that the custodial parent must agree with the terms of the program. Because many child support cases are bitter, the discretion of any decisions made should not be granted to either parent. Besides that, the retroactive arrears owed to the state cannot be dismissed because of the Bradley Amendment. This program, like so many others, only offer an illusion of possible debt forgiveness but in reality the debt will never disappear.
Florida, in keeping up with the other 49 states, reports a disproportionate amount of actual support owed in comparison to the amount of arrears owed in approximately 855,000 open child support cases. The amount of current support owed in 2013 was $2,087,249,201 while child support arrears totaled $7,407,508,809, (NCSL, 2014). There is no set interest amount in Florida for late payments, however, interest is assessed because the child support order is a judgment in the court of law. According to NCSL (2013), interest charges are assessed by the clerk of court in the county that issued the order or otherwise maintains the official payment record. This explains why the arrears are so much higher than the amount of money that is actually owed in payments. Florida does not offer any specific debt forgiveness opportunities nor are the limited programs offered on a regular basis. Debt continues to accumulate with no opportunity to waive the money owed to the state or the arrears.
Finally, in Michigan the difference between the support owed and arrears is astronomical. The NCSL (2014), reported that the current amount of support due was $1,430,429,570 in 2013, yet the arrears owed were $8,406,415,371. The state is prohibited from charging interest on child support debt but the legislators have found a loophole in order to charge a fee on late payments anyway. A surcharge is calculated at six month intervals at five-year US Treasury bill rate plus one percent per annum, (NCSL, 2013). This law explains the huge difference between the support owed and the huge arrears amount. Michigan does offer a few programs that will reduce arrears, but again, strict criteria must be met before a waiver is granted. One of the laws allow the noncustodial parents who do not have the ability pay the arrearage in full, presently or in foreseeable future, to request a payment plan (for a minimum 24 months), (NCSL, 2013). The problem, of course, is that most parents that owe child support debt are under or unemployed. The majority of parents would not owe any debt if they had money to pay child support. The law violates equal protections that are supposed to protect low-income citizens. Most working and wealthy people never face the severe punishments that are the direct result of not paying extremely high arrearage amounts.
Although some states offer some form of a debt forgiveness program, the sheer volume of the arrearagess across the country prove that the programs are not effective in reducing child support debt. The debt continues to grow while the chances of the children collecting any of the money shrinks. The arrears are mainly state owed and state owed because of the mandate of signing rights to child support payments over to the state when applying for any public assistance. The Bradley Amendment prohibits retroactive debt forgiveness on child support arrears in any situation. The child support system guarantees that parents will always be in debt if, for whatever reason, he or she cannot afford the child support payments. The money owed to the state could be better spent on the children especially since the program is supposed to be operating in the best interest of the children. It is time to force the government to change the child support laws because they are legally robbing children, parents and families across the nation.
Assad, A. (n.d.). Definition of Unassigned Arrears in Child Support | LegalZoom: Legal Info. Retrieved from http://info.legalzoom.com/definition-unassigned-arrears-child-support-24736.html
The Free Dictionary. (n.d.). Child Support legal definition of Child Support. Retrieved from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Child+Support
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2013, May). Interest on Child Support Arrears. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/interest-on-child-support-arrears.aspx
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2014, May 20). 2013 State by State Data on Child Support Collections. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/2013-state-by-state-data-on-child-support-collections.aspx
Sorensen, E., Sousa, L., & Schaner, S. (2007, July 11). Assessing child support arrears in nine large states and the nation. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/assessing-cs-debt/report.pdf
Wiemer, D. R. (n.d.). THE BRADLEY AMENDMENT: PROHIBITION AGAINST RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT ARREARAGES. Retrieved from http://congressionalresearch.com/RS20642/document.php?study=THE+BRADLEY+AMENDMENT+PROHIBITION+AGAINST+RETROACTIVE+MODIFICATION+OF+CHILD+SUPPORT+ARREARAGES
The state and federal government collects billions of dollars from the child support system. Besides the incentive money that states collect from the federal government because it meets or exceeds the performance measurements, certain states/counties can also earn grant money. The Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has awarded nearly $4 million to state-run child support agencies around the country in an effort to better understand individuals’ behavior and decision-making ability when it comes to paying child support, (ACF, 2014). The money has been distributed almost equally amongst certain state child support agencies The Office of Child Support Enforcement Agency or OCSE (2014), announced that it awarded eight grants to state child support agencies under the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services (BICS). The grants totaled 800,000 and counties in California, Ohio, and Georgia were among the eight recipients. Many can argue that the money could be better spent decreasing the number of children living in poverty and the unemployment rates across the country instead of spending tax dollars on exploring the reasons that child support is not paid consistently and in-full. Sacramento County and San Joaquin counties in California have been awarded $150,000 to fund the Dedicated Daddies Make a Difference program. The platform was designed to explore ways to engage parents through fatherhood based programs, (ACF, 2014). This seems to be an unnecessary use of funds since it has already been proven that child support collections and relationships improve when parents are able to actually pay support. The concept of Family-Centered Child Support Services is not a newly implemented approach to improving the child support system. In fact, the ACF recognized that collecting support depends on responsive child support services and employment for non-custodial parents. There hardly seems the need to grant two counties over $100 thousand to repeat what was discovered by the officials at least three years ago. The family centered approach has recognized the need for cooperation between parents and parents’ emotional connection with their children, (ACF). This, again, is nothing new and grant money being paid to support agencies will not alter the results that have already been discovered. The grant money could be better spent by offering more employment opportunities to parents that are included in the 7.3% of Californians that are out-of-work. Using the grant money to assist low-income parents and families would certainly decrease the 23% child poverty rate. The government should not be permitted to through away money to fund programs that are repetitive and do nothing to impact barriers of low income families on either a short or long-term basis. According to ACF (2014), the grantee, Attorney General for the District of Columbia Child Support Service Division, will be receiving $150,000 as it plans to explore ways to right-size child support orders for the recently unemployed. This topic, too, has been explored and analyzed over the years and hardly requires another dime be paid towards researching this issue. The OCSE (2014) reported that child support orders should be realistic and based on the noncustodial parent’s actual ability to comply with orders. Quite simply, if a parent is unemployed, the child support becomes unrealistic no matter what the amount. Unfortunately, instead of discontinuing the child support order while the parent searches for new employment, the payments and late fees continue to accumulate. The ACF (2012) wrote that increasing noncustodial parent involvement can have a positive effect on noncustodial parent engagement in the lives of the children. Perhaps reading previous reports about this issue could save both the government and taxpayers at least $150,000. Again, this money could be better utilized finding gainful employment for the 7.6 unemployed citizens living D.C. The 27% child poverty rate would surely decrease because, as previous reports have shown, employed parents pay the most child support through income withholdings and income tax refund offsets. After the government collects the money, the remaining money should (theoretically) trickle down to the children. Georgia will be receiving its $125,083 grant which will be divided between four counties. The Behavioral Interventions of Early Engagement for Georgia Child Support Services hopes to increase child support payments by increasing commination and engagement from the moment an order is established, (ACF, 2014). Again, this dilemma of realistic child support orders and parent participation has already been discussed and remedies have been offered across the country. Because so many child support orders are established by default, the payment amounts are almost always imputed. The ACF (2012) shared that engaging noncustodial parents early in the order establishment is more likely to result in setting realistic orders and avoiding default orders. This information is hardly new and should be used instead of awarding grants to explore topics that have already been researched at the cost of taxpayers. Engaging noncustodial parents early also means that they may avoid the unnecessary build up over arrears and it may increase parental communication and involvement, (ACF, 2012). The child support agencies, both state and federal, have no problem collecting money to research topics that have already been researched and analyzed time and time again. As with California and D.C., Georgia could be spending this additional money helping its 7.7% of unemployed people find and keep jobs. This would surely benefit the 27% of children living in poverty especially since most people that have been mandated to comply with child support laws have little or no income. It is no secret that the local, state and federal governments collect billions of dollars from citizens in the name of child support. These grants are being awarded and justified as a reason to explore situations and solutions for problems that have already been resolved. This is just another piece to the child support hustle. As long as parents continue to suffer injustices in the name of child support while the government agents to continue to prosper, there will always be a need for reform. The powers that be have already decided how to best keep parents in debt, but the government offers some sort of solution as to disguise the unconstitutionality of the child support system. Unfortunately, the officials are only repeating the same information but are not changing any of the policies and laws that hinders the economic growth of children and families. It is time to repair what is truly broken and not allow the government to keep funding these programs that do not produce any positive and substantive results. These grant awards are only giving the illusion that the government is interested in the well-being of children and families and in revamping the child support system. References: Administration for Children & Families. (2012). Establishing realistic child support orders: Engaging noncustodial parents (1). Retrieved from Office of Child Support Enforcement website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocse/establishing_realistic_child_support_orders.pdf Administration for Children & Families. (2014, October 7). ACF grant to explore link between psychology, behavior and child support payments | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/media/press/acf-grant-to-explore-link-between-psychology-behavior-and-child-support-payments Administration for Children & Families. (2014, June 6). Grants | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2014-ACF-OCSE-FD-0822 Administration for Children & Families. (n.d.). Family-centered innovations improve child support outcomes (1). Retrieved from Office of Child Support Enforcement website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ocse/family_centered_innovations.pdf Office of Child Support Enforcement. (2014). November/December 2014 Child Support Report | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families (36/11). Retrieved from Administration of Children & Families website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/november-december-2014-child-support-report
As much as someone may feel that the current child support system is unfair and unconstitutional towards unmarried parents, people that are married during the birth of a child face different discriminatory laws. According to Paula Roberts of the Center for Law and Social Policy, there is a long-standing legal presumption that a child born in the context of marriage is the child of the couple. This may have been acceptable during the inception of the child support system decades ago, but with the advancement in genetic testing, a man should not be forced to provide for a child that he did not father. Married men can become victims of paternity fraud just as easily as men that have not tied the knot. Heather Draper (2007) defined paternity fraud or misattributed paternity, as a term that suggests that the mother knew about the true paternity and deceived the man for financial gain. Usually when a form of fraud can be proven, the victim can be relieved of any burdens inflicted due to the fraud. This is, unfortunately, not true with many paternity fraud cases. This is especially true in cases when the couple are married. Even though DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing is available to identify biological fathers, men are still being forced to provide for children that do not share their blood type.
One example was reported in an article by Huff Post Divorce in 2013 which showcased an ex-husband and alleged father that was being billed for child support arrears for another man’s child. Joseph Chmelar received a letter stating that he owed $8,500 in back child support, (Huff Post Divorce, 2013). This after another man had been named as the father. Most would deduce that the biological father would become responsible for all financial obligations related to his children, but that is not what happened in this situation. Because of a Michigan law drafted in 1956, the biological father would not be held responsible. Betty Wang of FindLaw (2013) wrote that the Paternity Act says that for any child born out of wedlock, the biological father has no legal rights. This prehistoric law gives the husband legal rights to the child, but also mandates that he be burdened with all financial liability of that child. Unfortunately, Michigan is not the only state that forces these outdated and unfair laws onto male citizens when the mandates are linked to child support. Married men, just like single men, can be victims of the child support hustle while suffering from paternity fraud.
Several other states financially punish men after divorce when he has been proven not to father children post-marriage. In Kansas, a couple married and divorced after which the ex-husband requested a DNA test when the mother told him that he did not father a child. Kansas, followed the typical presumptive mandate and named him the legal father of the child. The law states that a child born 300 days before, during, or after a marriage automatically belongs to the husband and the judge denied a petition which would have excused the man from any parental responsibility. The Kansas Court of Appeals reversed and overturned the lower courts findings after DNA testing proved that the man did not father the child. According to Roberts, the court held that tests should never have been done until the trial court held a hearing on the best interest of the child. There is rarely any consideration given in regards to the best interest of the man in such court cases. The mothers in these cases should be held responsible for their actions and that includes what is in the best interest of ‘her’ child once DNA testing has exonerated a man from being the father. Any case that has evidence that a man did not father a child should be immediately terminated and any support paid should be refunded, in full, to the victim of paternity fraud. Some would venture into more serious remedies and demand that a mother be jailed for committing paternity fraud. This type of punishment could possibly lead to further damage to the child who is but an innocent victim of the child support hustle.
New Mexico has offered a different remedy for paternity fraud committed while legally married. The ex-husband supported his alleged daughter after the divorce and during her college years. Once the financial obligation ended, the mother decided to sue the biological father for retroactive child support. The case was dismissed on the grounds of collateral estoppel, (Roberts). Unfortunately, too many child support cases are dismissed because the court has decided that another judge has already ruled and therefore cannot be heard again. In this case, the daughter (without the mother) was permitted to sue her biological father. Roberts explains that the trial court established his (the biological father) paternity and ordered retroactive support back to the date of birth. Even though the ex-husband had already provided for the child up to and beyond childhood the court decided, arguably unfairly, that the adult child was entitled to even more money.
The biological father, and not the mother, was ordered to repay the ex-husband but none of the parties involved could reimburse this man for the intangible hardships that the mandate of automatic fatherhood when married may have caused over the years. The court felt no responsibility in repaying the man even though the system definitely collected some monies from him over the years. The husband was collaterally estopped from pursuing reimbursement, (Roberts). Since the financial burden of payment to both the daughter and the ex-husband fell on the shoulders of the biological father, unless he is extremely wealthy, the chances of both being paid in full is slim to none. To further the imbalanced ruling by the judge, the father was probably subjected to all penalties, interest and court costs usually charged in child support cases involving minors.
The last example shows that the government has several opportunities to collect money and enforce child support illegalities, not once but twice. These penalties can be imposed on not one, but two different men for one child. The law makers attempt to justify these unconstitutionalities as actions based on what is best for the children in these already difficult situations. It is obvious that regardless of relationship status of the adults involved, the government will always find a way to trap people, parent or not, into the grasp of the child support system. It is traumatic to children to lose a person believed to be their father. It can be even more tragic for a married man to learn that he did not father a child believed to be his own. The excuse of hiding behind the best interest of the child should be abolished along with the outdated law that makes men parents when they are, in fact, not parents at all. The responsibility of providing for these children should only fall on the shoulders of the mother and biological father. Since the government has refused to update the laws that make men proven not to be fathers exempt from any and all financial liability related to the child, this must be a demand made be the people. There is too much money being collected in this and in other areas of the child support system and it will continue until we demand reform. The time is now!
Center for Law and Social Policy., & Roberts, P. (n.d.). Truth and Circumstances: Part II Questioning the Paternity of Marital Children. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCoQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fresearch.policyarchive.org%2F14067.pdf&ei=pdJ8VKGMEdjnoASa5YL4Dg&usg=AFQjCNFzcL9EnJ0_Maj-lZYc9JxTHTNshw&sig2=ufGmbzRV6kTRjf6-L9Z-cw&bvm=bv.80642063,d.cGU
Draper, H. (2007). Paternity fraud and compensation for misattributed paternity. Journal of Medical Ethics, 33, 475-480. doi:10.1136/jme.2005.013268
Huff Post Divorce. (2013, July 29). Child Support Law Requires Man To Pay For Another Man's Child. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/child-support_n_3672474.html
Wang, B. (2013, July 30). Mich. Dad Fights Order to Pay Child Support for Another Man's Kid - Legally Weird. Retrieved from http://blogs.findlaw.com/legally_weird/2013/07/mich-dad-fights-order-to-pay-child-support-for-another-mans-kid.html