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.
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