April 9, 2014
Most Americans are aware of child support agencies and their role in families and to societies. As distorted as that role may seem, the primary reason it claims to exist is to collect money for the betterment of a child's life. The punishments are extreme and debt can be enormous for those that cannot pay their balance due to the state. For most, the realities associated with nonpayment of child support, such as license suspensions and imprisonment, are just normal punishments for parents. This punishment can be enforced over one missed payment or many, depending on the state and the law in that state. But what about the parents that do everything by the book and still find themselves facing harsh consequences supposedly reserved for the "deadbeat".
The first glimpse into the life of a wrongfully convicted father was experienced in America and brought to us from Houston, Texas. Clifford Hall was introduced to us a the father who overpaid child support and over visited his child and was still incarcerated by the courts of Houston. According to Stephan A. Crocket, Jr. of The Root (2014), Hall had the child support payments set up to be taken out of his check through his employer. For some vaguely explained reason, the payment amounts to be deducted varied from too much to none at all and Hall could not explain the reason for the discrepancies. Believing that everything was in order with his child support case, he was unaware of the order behind modified. Because of this he took no action involving the modification.
Because of the discrepancy, Hall was order to pay a lump sum of $3,000. After the money was paid, the ex-wife in the case requested that Hall pay her $3,000 legal bill and the judge agreed, (Crocket, Jr., 2014). It is ridiculous to force this father who visited his son regularly and paid support on time, to pay an additional charge of $3,000. Not only is the additional $3,000 being paid to a lawyer and not being used for the care of his child, he was also facing jail time as well. This means his son will be without has father whom he sees on a regular basis for at least 180 days. This father may lose job which will result in him really being unable to pay his child support debt in the future. The late fees interest, court costs, restitution will consume any money that he possibly makes and the child will be made to suffer in the long run. Currently, Change.org is urging people to sign a petition asking Governor Rick Scott to lift all charges against Clifford Hall, (Crockett, Jr., 2014).
More recently, a case was brought to us from Ft. Myers, Florida where Daniel McGee has been wrongfully arrested for failure to pay child support. The twist to the story is that he is, and has been, paying child support twice a month by money being deducted directly from his wages. Before the arrest, this father faced other punishments enforced by all child support agencies across the country. Even though this dad says he did pay, he lost his right to drive and his car, (Fox 4 News Staff, 2014). Mistakes caused by faulty computer systems or incompetent staff is no excuse for punishing parents that are following the rules and paying their support. Besides the fees associated with paying child support, additional money must be coughed up if one expects to see freedom.
McGee says he is out hundreds of dollars and wasted time, (Fox 4 News Staff, 2014). And there are no apologies, no money or time compensation, or any other remedy for those wrongfully arrested for failure to pay a debt. For the record, jailing people who owe debt was outlawed in the United States during the 1830s. Even after proof was provided that cleared both of these parents of any wrongdoing, the states refuse to admit the failure to impose these arguably unconstitutional sanctions correctly. This supposed "glitch" claimed by the worker at the Florida Department of Children and Family has cost McGee a total $1,000 to bond out, get his car back, and re-instate hi license, (Fox 4 News Staff, 2014). Once again, the children cannot benefit from a father behind bars nor one that becomes unemployed due to false arrest.
The child support system in America is broken. There is no reason that parents should be jailed for owing debt and are more victimized when being jailed for paying the debt. The system has so much control that mistakes such as the two in Houston and Florida can happen and there are no repercussions. As long the system remains above the law and in control of citizens who happen to be parents, miscarriages of justice will continue to happen. It is never okay to be punished for a crime that you did not commit, especially when the crime itself is arguably unconstitutional. Parents should not be jailed for child support or any other debt. More importantly, until the laws are changed, parents should not be punished while complying with all of the mandated policies.
Crockett Jr., S. A. (2014, January 11). Texas Man Pays Child-Support Debt Yet Still Heads to Prison - The Root. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/01/texas_man_pays_child_support_debt_yet_still_headed_to_prison.html
Fox 4 News Staff (2014, March 5). Fort Myers dad says he was wrongfully arrested for not making child support payment - WFTX-TV Fort Myers/Naples, FL. Retrieved March 11, 2014, from http://www.jrn.com/fox4now/news/Fort-Myers-dad-says-he-was-wrongfully-arrested-for-not-making-child-support-payment-248675721.html