July 2, 2014
The state of Ohio, along with every other state, mandates certain criteria be met before permanently assigned arrears can be waived. According to the Ohio Department Job and Family Services or ODJFS, the director or administrator of the child support enforcement agency (CSEA) may elect to accept a request or compromise permanently assigned arrears. Problems arise because these are public employees assigned the authority to preside over cases usually reserved for magistrates and judges. This may be a direct reason that there are so few successful debt compromise examples available. Since the child support enforcement agencies are primarily responsible for the collection of money, there is no sympathy to the personal situations that may occur in the life of the parent.
Another reason for the lack of approved compromise of child support debt is that the criterion is so strict, waivers are very rarely granted. One reason that the director could compromise arrears is if there is a lack of income received over a period of time. For instance, the gross income if an obligor has been, for at least the twelve months preceding the date of the request, less than two-hundred twenty-five percent of the federal poverty for one person (ODJFS). Based on this guideline, more people qualify for debt compromise programs because they live in poverty; however, the debt continues to accrue on these low-income parents. Criteria and information that is meant to help these financially less fortunate parents seems to be lost when researching the compromised arrears statistics in the state of Ohio.
Out of the eight counties in Ohio that offer some form of debt compromise programs, there is no data available that describes the effectiveness of these programs or the results. These programs are paid for by federal grants paid to the states and then to the counties to supposedly assist parents with accumulated debt. It is impossible to determine the success or failure of the programs without empirical evidence. This is something that the state has yet to provide its citizens. Another reason that the child support debt may be excused is if the permanently assigned arrears accrued during periods that the obligor was incapacitated, unemployed, underemployed, or incarcerated, (ODJFS). By this merit, many parents should be excused from the child support debt without consequences. Unfortunately, this is not happening in Ohio or in many other states that supposedly help those in trouble with child support debt.
Underemployment is extremely common across America in the post-recession era. On the surface, the CSE makes parents believe that the reasons listed are not acceptable grounds for debt compromise. According to ODJFS, the obligor may have been eligible for a modification of the child support obligation had a modification been pursued for those periods that a financial hardship occurred. Regrettably, most parents that are suffering through such circumstances are only met with resistance and are not provided information necessary to reduce payment amounts. The obligor needs to be given the opportunity to present mitigating circumstances as to why no such modification was sought, (ODJFS). This is another piece of the puzzle that is met with resistance by the child support debt collectors turned judges and magistrates.
Again, the decisions are made by directors and not official law professionals which may lead to bias results to termination requests. The bias decision may stem from the fact that child support officials are only employed because of the child support system. Without open child support cases, the entire agency would be closed. These enforcement workers literally make a living from child support, which is yet another section of the system that depends on these children as a source of revenue. It is nearly impossible to believe that the assigned decision-makers will not be more concerned with their own livelihoods instead of the livelihoods of the parents and the children that they are hired to serve.
As long as information is hidden from the most affected citizens, the parents, it will remain nearly impossible to change a child support order or compromise the debt. The child support guidelines seem to offer some remedy, but the officiators feel it more beneficial to keep people blind to the laws that govern child support. Unfair and unconstitutional laws are harmful to families and especially to the noncustodial parents. As long as the decisions are left to civil servants instead of elected judges, the faux rulings will not be impartial to the parents. It is time to reform the system so that the children are the true beneficiaries from child support and not the government and its employees.
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. (n.d.). OCS: Request to waive or compromise arrears rules. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/clearances/show.asp?id=5709
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..