There is a growing epidemic in America concerning the treatment of noncustodial parents when dealing with child support enforcement agencies and the family court system. Unfortunately, there are no federal agencies that conduct investigations into complaints filed against local agencies by parents with any type of grievance. Although there are parents that may have problems with their local agencies, parents are forced to remedy their complaints. Parents must be sure that employees of state agencies are held accountable as they deal with the public. As public servants, tax dollars pay their salaries and parents’ rights should be respected especially during such sensitive situations. There are two child support agencies in particular that have proven to be ineffective when dealing with parents and complaints.
The first county with a horrible process in dealing with child support complaints is Bay County, Michigan. In this county, just like many others, there is no lenience granted to parents that regularly make payments and for whatever reason, miss a couple during the course. In Michigan, complaints must be filed through the Friend of the Court. The Bay County, Michigan agency is a direct agency of the 18th Judicial Circuit Family Division. According to the Michigan Friend of the Court (FOC) Information Handbook, the FOC Act provides a grievance procedure for complaints about the FOC operations and employees. This can only mean that the grievances are handled by the coworkers and supervisors of the people named in the complaints. There can be no serious resolution when the police are policing the police. Since most complaints will involve court decisions concerning custody or child support, an effective system must be in place to overturn those polices that are proven problematic to the complaint filer.
The complaint process can be quite tedious as those with objections must interact with the agency at the butt of the action. The parents with complaints will find themselves facing other obstacles when dealing with the Bay County, Michigan child support agency. A grievance cannot be used to object to a FOC recommendation, or to disagree with the decision of the judge. This barrier in the complaint process is only an added disappointment to parents in need of justice, perpetuates any unfair treatment, and leaves employees free of punishment for any unethical or illegal actions. Since the FOC does not accept any grievance concerning court orders, they only advise that the complainant discuss legal options with an attorney. This option will, more than likely, be time consuming and costly. There is information provided in the handbook about filing complaints against Bay City judges. However, these complaints are handled by the Judicial Tenure Commission but this group can do nothing about changing a court order. Based on all of this information, one really has no operative way of filing a complaint and receiving an unbiased result when unhappy with the child support agency.
The next county is a located in the bordering state of Ohio. Franklin County is not only where the reformed child support system was piloted in the 1990s courtesy of Former President Bill Clinton, it too offers no adequate complaint procedures for anguished parents. While Bay County had an ineffective complaint process in place, it at least offered some sort of remedy process. In Franklin County, as soon as a problem is expressed by a parent, the run-around is started by the agency and the court employees. After an exhaustive two hour online search and emails to agency employees in regards to the complaint process, there have been no answers offered to date. When searching the Attorney General website, the complaint listing includes information for Medicaid fraud, complaining against charitable organizations, and even a link to filing a complaint against organizations that offer bingo games. There is, however, no complaint link to an agency that reportedly serves more than 3.3 million people, including 1.3 million children (Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, 2013). This is just evidence of the lack of concern that the state has for the parents that they are supposed to service.
Effective complaint systems must be in place when an agency, and more importantly, individuals have to power to decide the fate of millions of people. Child support enforcement employees can decide garnishment amounts, permissions to drive and fish, and if one is free or locked away. With such authority, there must be control, transparency, and a plan for complainants when boundaries are stretched and broken at someone else’s expense. Citizens, who happen to be parents, must know that there are regulations and policies in place that protect them against people and procedures that may be abusive to our rights. As been the case for many years, the government (local, state, and federal) err too. Taxpayers can take a look at Congress and find several instances where people have abused their power and were forced to answer to a higher office for their blunders. There must be strong rules in place for people that have complaints to guarantee that we are heard and that solutions are obtainable. When dealing with such a flawed system like the child support agencies, attention must be paid when operations are failing the customers and only benefiting the government.
Michigan Supreme Court. (2013). Friend of the Court Handbook. Retrieved from
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. (2013, February 27). Executive Budget Recommendations for SFY 2014-2015. Retrieved from http://www.gongwer-oh.com/public/130/JFSTestimony-Colbert.pdf
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..