South Dakota is one of the most recent states to embrace the thought of enacting legislation in support of shared parenting in the United States. Shared parenting, by definition, is a collaborative arrangement in child custody or divorce determinations in which both parents have the right and responsibility of being actively involved in the raising of a child(ren), (Wikipedia). There have been numerous studies that report the benefits that children receive when raised by two parents while residing in single-parent homes. The laws governing joint custody and shared parenting are similar to child support guidelines in that they are written and regulated by state officials. These policies become complicated when deciding custody and visitation schedules and calculating child support payments that benefit the parents, and most importantly, the children. A study conducted by Linda Neilson of the Stanford Custody Project (2014), revealed that 51 out of 1406 children chosen randomly made better grades, were less depressed, and were more, well-adjusted behaviorally than the 355 adolescents who lived primarily with their mother. With this information, being not only available, but relevant in proving that children are overall more emotionally stable, there is no reason that a strong shared-parenting plan is not a mandate in all child support and custody decisions.
One could deduce that custody and child support are equally important which would mean that all decisions involving both should be made simultaneously. That is not true in the US. Every state has specific guidelines written in its policies that distinctly identify that child support and custody topics are two separate issues. For example, in Ohio, the law is very clear that child support and visitation are not related. According to Brian D. Watts (2007), the duty to pay support is separate and distinct from the right to parenting time with a child. While it is true that both parents are financially responsible for their children, the expenses accrued by noncustodial parents during visitation and/or overnight stays, are often ignored when it pertains to child support and visitation. Even though South Dakota has updated its legislation, researchers have not recognized one state that has outstanding shared parenting policies in place nor has any serious legislation been considered to decrease or eliminate child support completely.
Almost all states have some type of shared parenting plan that allow adjustments to child support payments based on time spent with the children. There are eighteen states that offer some adjustments to child support amounts based on the time the nonresidential parent spends with his or her child. According to the National Conference of State Legislation or NCSL, in Alaska, the government offers a reduction based on a cross-credit formula of a 1.5 multiplier based on a 30% shared parenting time threshold. The cross-credit formula is the most common used method and this formula can be greatly beneficial to the noncustodial parent. Jo M. Beld and Len Biernat explained in the Family Law Quarterly (2003), that states apply a multiplier, usually 1.5 to the base support order before making an adjustment based on additional visitation to offset fixed costs of the residence when the child is not home. The 1.5 approach adjusts for costs expended by the noncustodial parent while recognizing the costs associated with maintaining two households. By using this method, the best interest of the child truly be appreciated. The parents are both able to maintain adequate and comfortable households wherever the child has a ‘sleepover’ and the livelihood of the noncustodial parent is not threatened by paying child support/fixed costs at the custodial parent. Additionally, it has been proven that as the actual amount of overnight time they ( the child and the parent) spent together during adolescence increased from 1% to 50%, the young adults’ positive ratings of their relationships with their fathers also increased, (Neilson, 2014). This means that the government, both federal and state, should strongly consider implanting stronger and more meaningful shared parenting plans. This needs to be done while applying reductions to child support payments so that the children are financially and emotionally provided for by both parents.
A visitation credit may be applied in some cases in states that recognize the per diem method when deviating from the custody and child support orders. This method is utilized and supported in Missouri along with the per diem shared parenting time formula. The visitation credit is a percentage of the base child support amount that does not include any of the additional expenses, (Matt Allen, 2011). It only makes sense that parents should receive reductions in child support when adequate time is spent with their children. The more time a child suspends, with the exclusion of fixed costs like rent, the more money the parent could spend directly on the child. With the per diem method, a parent is credited with an obligation for the number of days the child spends with the parent, (David M. Betson). By using this method, the noncustodial parent receives some type of financial relief while actively participating in the raising of his or her child. When children are involved in a co-parenting situation, they are less likely to experience some of the issues that children raised in single-family homes tend to endure. The Neilson Analysis found that when 83 children (35 shared parented and 58 sole residences) were tested, the shared children were better adjusted emotionally, (Neilson, 2014). These findings should be included when and if legislation is introduced to promote nationwide shared parenting plans. These positive outcomes showing children who benefit emotionally should be worth more than a parent that benefits financially from receiving child support payments from the noncustodial parent. It is, however, detrimental that both parents spend adequate time with their children and have the financial ability to provide basic needs for both themselves and their children.
The threshold of time is important when figuring deductions relating to the amount of time parents spend with their children. According to Patricia R Brown and Tonya Brito of the Institute for Research and Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2007), the threshold identified the point along the continuum of time-share above which an adjustment of child support should be made in order to take in account the direct costs of caring for the child incurred by the lesser-time parent. Deductions are applied based on when the threshold is met and these vary between states. Some states, like Kentucky and Mississippi do not have such thresholds, but the majority of states offer thresholds ranging from 10% to 40%. Missouri, on the other hand, does offer threshold deductions. The ‘Show Me’ State is on the low-end reporting a 10% threshold, but this percentage is subject to increase in certain situations. Missouri guidelines allows for a deviation when children spend ‘substantially’ equal time with both parents, (NCSL). The benefit of a possible deviation, coupled with the fact that Missouri is one of 24 states that requires a “friendly parent” factor when deciding parenting plans, only earns an average grade when it comes to litigating child custody issues.
The “Friendly Parent” factor, as defined by The National Parents Organization (2007), means that states have language in a custody statute that recognizes and rewards a parents’ willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a closer and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child. It is not clear why every state does not require courts to implement a friendly parent factory when deciding shared parenting plans. This rule should be on the forefront in all custody cases, especially since children are more stable when being raised by both parents, even in separate homes. Another method that states utilize when determining deductions to child support obligations based on shared parenting time is the modified Betson approach. This method is less common, as only New Jersey and Arizona, practice this formula when determining parenting plans. The Betson Method, based on Arizona guidelines, can be used after it has been determined that there are no additional costs accrued when choosing a shared parenting plan instead of using the joint custody option. According to David M, Betson, a credit is computed based upon the number of overnights spent with the parent with the obligation. Arizona does not consider a shared parenting threshold when computing the child support obligation in reference to a percentage of time spent with the noncustodial parent.
Instead, the size of the credit is the product of the obligation times the percentage found in the look up tables based on overnights spent, (Betson). The modified Betson would be an ideal solution in the eyes of most because the best interest of the child and the parents are being met and possibly exceeded. The child will spend more time with the nonresidential parent while the parent is able to adequately provide during the time the child in his or her custody. Too often, parents are expected to not only provide child support, but maintain a standard of living for themselves and another family in cases where the parent remarries. The days of reducing a parent to nothing in order to satisfy unrealistic child support debt should quickly become a thing of the past. By sharing parental responsibilities (excluding money), the child(ren) has the chance to experience better emotional and physical outcomes.
Surprisingly, there are several arguments in support of denying shared parenting even when there is no reports of violence which would, and should, prevent both parents from raising their child(ren). One argument is that shared parenting leads to different inconsistencies for the child. Opponents of shared parenting argue that disciplinary consistency is almost impossible when a child is divided between two households. Individuals have the right to raise and discipline their children as they feel appropriate as long as there are no laws are being broken. This should apply to all parents, regardless of whether the child is being raised in one or two households. It is a personal decision on how to raise children. One parent has no right to tell another how to discipline or when to discipline their child. Equal protections enter into the arena as the question should be asked, are married parents forced to disclose and negotiate their parenting styles in order to appease another? Short of behaving in an illegal manner, the answer is no. Another argument against shared parenting are the issues that may arise when parents choose to remarry. According to Families.com, parents who manage to peacefully co-parent before, are taken aback completely when the other parent remarries. This, of course should have no impact on the parent and child relationship. Nor should it prohibit the child from being raised by both parents. The reality is that many parents remarry and if the residential parent can remarry and move a new adult person into the household without recourse or judgment, the nonresidential parent should enjoy that same opportunity. Research has shown that shared parenting is more likely to decrease the negative impact of high ongoing conflict than sole residence parenting plans, (Neilson, 2014).
The arguments against shared parenting will continue to grow as more states embrace this reality of changing separated family dynamics. If there are no signs and proof of abuse, there should be no restrictions place on parents that choose a shared parenting plan no matter who initiated the action. The government bashes the American ‘fatherless’ society, while perpetuating the rise of single parent homes. Parents should have child support payments reduced based on the amount of time and money he or she spends with the child(ren), Unfortunately, too many parents rely on child support payments as a source of income. Because of this fact, any reduction in the support amount may force residential parents to seek gainful employment. This is another reason that naysayers to shared parenting plans refuse to adopt this reinvented option of co-parenting. Noncustodial parents often beg to spend time and help raise their children, however, are often labeled as a deadbeat if they happen to be unemployed and unable to pay child support debt. It has been overstated that children need both parents.
Studies and research have proven that being raised by both parents is in a child’s best interest and yet shared parenting plans are not mandated across the country. Less than 25 states currently require ‘friendly parent’ factors be included in their statutes. The National Parents Organization recently conducted a study to grade the state on their shared parenting plans. There were no states that scored an A. The other states earned grades ranging from a B in states like Arizona and Minnesota to an F which was received by New York and Rhode Island. The family courts, child support enforcement, and parents relying of children as paychecks, will continue to oppose any legislation that favors strong parenting plans that ultimately favor the noncustodial parents and the child. There is too much money involved in executing theses biased systems. Until we force the government to mandate effective shared parenting plans and child support reform legislation, the fatherless generation will linger and children will be deprived of being raised by both parents.
Allen, M. (2011, April 1). What is a visitation credit? - St. Louis divorce support | Examiner.com. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/what-is-a-visitation-credit
Beld, J. M., & Biernat, L. (2003). Federal intent for state child support guidelines: Income shares, cost shares, and the realities of shared parenting. Family Law Quarterly, 37(165). Retrieved from www.alacourt.gov/pdfppt/FEDERAL_INTENT.pdf
Betson, D. M. (n.d.). Work product of Indiana judicial council review for support guidelines- Shared parenting, visitation and child support. Retrieved from http://www3.nd.edu/~dbetson/research/documents/SharedParentingFinal.pdf
Brown, P. R., & Brito, T. (2007). Characteristics of shared-placement child support formulas in the fifty states. Retrieved from Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Bureau of Child Support website: http://www.irp.wisc.edu/research/childsup/cspolicy/pdfs/Brown_Brito_Task11.pdf
Families.com. (n.d.). The Case Against Joint Physical Custody Parents Families.com. Retrieved from http://www.families.com/blog/the-case-against-joint-physical-custody
National Conference of State Legislatures. (n.d.). States' treatment of shared parenting time. Retrieved from www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/states-treatment-of-shared-parenting-time.aspx
National Parents Organization. (2014, November 10). 2014 shared parenting reporting card a new look at child welfare a state-by-state ranking. Retrieved from https://nationalparentsorganization.org/docs/2014_Shared_Parenting_Report_Card%2011-10-2014.pdf
Nielson, L. (2014). Shared physical custody: Summary of 40 studies on outcomes for children. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55, 614-636. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2014.965578
Watts, B. D. (n.d.). Child custody and parenting. Retrieved from http://www.brianwattslaw.com/Family/childcustody.html
Wikipedia. (2014, November 5). Shared parenting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 27, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_parenting
While all of my writing, thus far, has unintentionally excluded information pertaining to tribal child support enforcement, the recent settlement of a class action suit brought these victims of the child support hustle to the forefront. According to the Administration for Children & Families or ACF (2015), The Cobell vs, Salazar case involved claims that the federal government violated its trust duties and mismanaged individual Indian trust funds. The lawsuit has been in litigation for more than 100 years and was finally settled in 2009. The settlement amount of $3.3 billion was part of the Claims Reduction Act of 2010 which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 8th at the Whitehouse. The Three Affiliated Tribe Division of Child Support or the TAT DCSE on North Dakota has constructed an underhanded method to seize payments from noncustodial parents that owe arrears on their child support cases. This tribe is not the first to realize that it could possibly collect on the overdue child support debt owed by its tribe members. The difference between TAT and other tribes is that the other tribe officials recognized the protections that the settlement monies held and tried other approaches to secure some type of payment.
One of the first Tribes to collect on the federal settlement was the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. According to The Child Support Report (2012), the tribe’s settlement fund distributed was not eligible for garnishments. The ‘no garnishment’ rule is supposed to apply to other government monies such as VA benefits and Social Security awards, but unfortunately, the restrictions are not always followed when collecting child support payments. This did not deter the Coeur d’Alene child support staff from exploring other avenues in order to recoup a portion of the delinquent child support money from parents. The staff, instead of garnishing the payments, contacted all noncustodial parents in their caseload, by phone and letter, to encourage parents to discuss debt management on their case(s), (ACF, 2012). Even though the noncustodial parents were under no legal obligation to pay any money from the settlement, the parents made strong efforts to pay some money to the child support offices.
The agency reported that the Coeur d’Alene child program’s 2012 3rd quarter collections increased 76.25 percent over the 2nd quarter, (Mathieson, 2012). This proves that most parents will pay support and provide for their children when they have the money to pay. By utilizing other collection tactics, such as negotiations and open communication, the agency was able to collect money without violating federal laws. This cannot be said about other tribal child support agencies as they attempt to raid the pockets of the recipients of federal settlement monies. The TAT DCSE officers went through great pains to collect payments from the settlement. As outlined in The Child Support Report (2015), by mid-December, the division collected more than $240,000 in payments from a 1996 class action law suit that had been applied to child support arrears. This is quite an extraordinary accomplishment especially when it is taken into account that this money is supposedly protected from any garnishments.
One of the collection tactics used by TAT DCSE officers involved restricting certain accounts once settlement payments had been distributed. According to ACF (2015), program officials decided to make a concerted effort to restrict accounts of obligors with arrears exceeding $1,000. Although the child support agencies attribute its practices to providing what is in the best interest of the children, illegally obtaining payments should not be permitted under any circumstances. The federal government provides a lengthy list of monies exempt from garnishments. According to Vicki Turestky, Commissioner for the Office of Child Support Enforcement or OCSE (2013), inappropriate garnishments result in financial hardships for the parties, and are contrary to law. That was of no consideration when the TAD DSCE began crafting is plan to relieve parents of their settlement payments. Staff members filed numerous motions and participated in court hearings to get orders in place before the funds were distributed, (ACF, 2015). Cobell attorneys began diligently fighting in an effort to protect its clients and the settlement payouts from returning to the hands of the very government that had fought for years against the lawsuit. The TAT child support officers decided to use another maneuver in an attempt to snatch thousands of dollars away from parents and children.
The lawyers at Cobell filed the necessary paperwork to ensure that parents received their money directly while, hopefully, avoiding any garnishments. The child support officers, determined to confiscate at least a couple of hundred dollars, began focusing all efforts on collecting from the indebted tribal parents. The office suspended other child support duties for a two-to-three day period so that all staff could obtain proper orders, (ACF, 2015). The department officials, adamant in securing a portion of the $25 million owed in arrears, seemed to forget that the settlement money was exempt from garnishment and proceeded full steam ahead with the collection process. Eventually, the scheming of the child support workers, no matter how underhanded and illegal, paid off for the agency. The Garden City Group, a company tasked with the logistical operations and distribution of the payouts, struck a deal that was a more beneficial for the tribe then the settlement legatees.
According to the ACF (2015), individuals would receive 50 percent of funds due and payable to them and the child support office would receive the other 50 percent. This agreement could possibly be a favorable alternative for both parents and the children if the state did not have its hat in the ring for money. The TAT DCSE, no different than any other child support enforcement office in any state, lists a very significant clause in its child support distribution policies. Since the garnishing of the settlement money is illegal, there is no direct entries that deal with the collection and distribution of such funds. However, similar offsets can be used to demonstrate the distribution rules. Federal income tax refunds, which are government funds, are subject to offsets when a parent owes child support debt. The TAT DCSE reported the Federal income tax refunds can be offset for past-due support of over $500 owed on behalf of minor children not receiving cash assistance and offset refunds for debt over $150 owed to the state that public assistance has been provided to the family.
Since most child support debt is held by parents with low or no income, it can be deduced that most of the children reside in households that currently or have previously received some type of state assistance. The law of the TAT DCSE is no different to the laws that govern the land, meaning that the state can be the primary and initial recipient of money collected on behalf of the low-income children. The TAT DCSE reinforces that money collected by federal tax offsets must go first to repay the state and federal governments for assistance provided before the money can be distributed to the families. Despite the fact that the TAT workers finagled opportunities to invade individual disbursement accounts in order to satisfy a child support debt, the children , in all likelihood, will not benefit from one dollar of the $240,000 collected in their names. The proof can be found by reviewing the reported distribution of monies over the past years.
North Dakota, as a state, does not pass-through or disregard any money to its TANF (past or present) families. As of 2013, the total amount of arrears owed was $191,664,331 which includes the 6.5% of interest charged on late child support payments. The collection of this lawsuit award will only add to the large amount of revenue that North Dakota and all states generate by using children as justification for its deceptions. Thanks to the due diligence of this enforcement agency, fifty percent of the settlement money can be combined with the $16,746,155 of undistributed child support collections to equal quite a hefty sum, especially for unearned income.
Together, as a nation, the American people must band together to end the unconstitutional and illegal practices of state, federal, and tribal child support agencies. It is not enough that wages are garnished, licenses suspended, and parents are jailed because of child support debt. Settlements that have been awarded because of a wrong perpetrated against Native Americans are now being seized and returned to the very government named as the defendant in the lawsuit. Not only was the law enforced in this and in too many other cases, the children do not directly, nor indirectly, benefit from the money. As public programs continue to shrink, government revenues will continue to balloon. This is, of course, unless we, the people, demand our parental and financial freedoms back from the government. Our lives and our children’s lives depend on this fight for reform to the child support system.
Administration for Children & Families. (2012, October). Child support report. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/programs/css/csr1211.pdf
Administration for Children & Families. (2015, January). January 2015 child support report | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/january-2015-child-support-report
Office of Child Support Enforcement, & Turetsky, V. (2013, February 27). Garnishment of supplemental security income benefits | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/garnishment-of-supplemental-security-income-benefits
There are little arguments from child support collection agencies, both public and private, about their main goal being the collection of child support payments from noncustodial parents. There may be a change on the horizon related to the authority of private child support agencies when enforcing child support laws and collection policies. The distribution process practiced by private agencies is one that leaves The Department of Health and Human Services or HHS questioning their procedures. One of the major issues, as outlined by HHS (2014), are the difficulties that families encounter when child support payments are disbursed directly to the private collection agencies. Families could complain about the difficulties that they experience when attempting to collect child support monies from the state collection and disbursement agencies and centers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (2015), under federal law, states are allowed to retain collected child support to reimburse themselves and the federal government for any welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF) payments to the family. There are very few limits to how much and for how long the government can retain payments in order to repay a TANF grant, which is being treated as a loan.
The main differences between the two entities are slight and may only be a matter of if and how a private agency is being regulated by the federal government. The HHS lists the failure to regulate private agencies as one of the most critical problems with these agencies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has determined that child support collections are not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, §15 U.S.C., (HHS, 2014). Some of these prohibited acts are eerily similar to those practiced by government agencies when attempting to collect child support payments and arrears. The HHS lists the fact the child support debt is not considered consumer debt and is, therefore, subject to different collection practices. One area in which private agencies have been accused of violating the rights of parents is by practicing deceptive advertising, (HHS, 2014). There are states and local law enforcement departments that use deception when pursuing parents that owe child support debt. Besides the fact that people are often arrested due to owing thousands of dollars of debt, which consists of interest, late fees, court costs, and restitution, the police have offered prizes to debtors’ under false pretenses. Florida has used this underhanded strategies when pursing delinquent parents. These deceptive practices have led to arresting people by luring them to locations with promises of some type of winnings. According to Joel Marino of the Sun Sentinel (2009), convinced they were picking up money being given away by a government agency, people were instead picked up by police. This is no different than what the HHS is complaining about when dealing with private agencies.
There are no distinctions made between parents who willfully fail to pay support or those that simply cannot afford to pay support when these sneaky raids are perpetrated against people. This illusive practice is not unusual for many public agencies to use in pursuit of alleged ‘deadbeat’ parents. The same underhanded tactic used in Florida was practiced by the Alabama County police in August of 2011 using tickets as bait. The Huffington Post (2011), reported that they (suspects) were promised a free football game, but they got handcuffed instead. The tickets were for the Iron Bowl and people were arrested upon arrival in a sting labeled the Iron Snare. This practice is no different from the way that private collection agencies deceive parents except this deception is legally permitted by the government. For instance, §807 of the Fair Debt Collection Act states that a debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means with the collection of any debt, (FTC, 1996). The government regularly uses these misleading maneuvers as demonstrated in Florida and Alabama and the same applies to private agencies. The Children’s Rights Council (CRC) points out that agencies threaten to attach liens on the noncustodial parent’s care, house, and other property. This threat is misleading as private collection agencies do not possess the same power and authority to execute such severe collection methods. According to Supportkids, a private collection agency, their collectors use collection tools and techniques including garnishing wages or placing liens on property and assets. It seems that the government may want to limit the use of private agencies because of the amount of money these agencies charge parents for collection money on their behalf. Not only does this decrease the amount of money that the government collects which optimizes performance measures, private collection agencies are decreasing the amount of child support money that can be retained by the states.
Supportkids deducts a case development fee of $475 from the first $475 collected on a case. This charge can easily be compared to the money retained on current and former TANF cases as well as collection fees that are charged to the noncustodial parents account. After the Case Development fee has been collected, Supportkids charges a service fee of 34% of each payment received, (Supportkids). The government, both state and federal, collect shares from child support money. During 2013 alone, the amounts collected by the states and the District of Columbia in state and federal shares totaled $626,957,254 and $791,239,835 respectively. This is a significantly larger amount of money being charged in collection fees in comparison to the money charged by private collection agencies. The proposed restrictions initiated by the federal government are nothing more than a ploy to further monopolize child support collections in America. The Federal Register mentions that private collection agencies enforce perpetual service contracts that require direct payment to the company and prohibits cancellation, (HHS, 2014). This may be true with some private agencies but this complaint is not far removed from the complaints of never ending child support debt owed by noncustodial parents.
The CRC explains that some contracts may have clauses that make the contract ‘self-renewing’ for up to six months after the last child support payment comes in. Some parents may complain about lengthy service contracts, but these contract will have an end date eventually. This is unlike public child support collectors, court orders, and child support debt that seems to last for an eternity. Low-income parents are even more unlikely to pay the child support arrears over a course of two decades because of the extraordinary amounts owed. To reiterate the extremely enormous amount of arrears owed by parents, the Administration for Children and Families or ACF (2014) reported that the total amount of arrears owed by noncustodial parents, as of 2013, equaled a whopping $116,149,340,011. This is money largely owed to the government and not to the families. A significant amount of this money will, in all likelihood, be owed long after the child reaches the age of emancipation which can therefore be compared to a lifelong debt. The main difference between these two long-term contracts comes down to the agreement between the noncustodial parent and the collection agency. The public child support contract does not require a signature from the noncustodial parent in order for the contract (court order) to be legally binding in a court of law, whereas, the private agency acquires a signature from the noncustodial parent agreeing to make payments.
The perpetual debt owed to the states is so severe to low-income parents that the average amount of arrears owed in Racine County Wisconsin, as of February 28, 2013, equaled $13,512.50, (Stephanie Jones, 2013). Couple overdue child support debt with interest being charged on late payments, the debt owed can accumulate at an alarmingly quick rate. States such as Wisconsin, Colorado, and Kentucky charge its citizens 12% on late payments. Interest charges are another way too add money to the often nonconsensual contract between state and parent. Many of the parents are ex-offenders that accrue child support arrears while incarcerated. Almost every state views incarceration as voluntary unemployment and will therefore grant judges the freedom to deny a petition for a child support modification. For a father in Racine County, the max owed in back child support was $50,000, (Jones, 2013). There are virtually no realistic ways that can guarantee that the full amount of debt can be paid by an ex-offender who, in all likelihood, is unemployed or underemployed after release. As long as the debt is outstanding, interest can be charged along with late fees and penalties. This proves that public and private child support collection agencies are quite similar when dealing with never ending contracts. The public agencies hold lifelong contracts for low-income, noncustodial parents.
Another complaint listed on The Federal Register in relation to private collection agency tactics when collecting child support money is that they demand money that is not owed by the noncustodial parents. This is a concern that can be attributed to both private and public collection agencies. According to CRC, private collection agencies typically charge a fee of 35% or more for any amounts that may be collected. This means that if a noncustodial parent is ordered to pay $200 a month, the private agency is entitled to at least $68 of the payment. These fees are usually charged to any money the parent might receive through direct communication with the non-paying parent, (CRC). This collection and retention practice is not dissimilar to the pass-through and disregard policies enforced by almost half of the United States, including Washington D.C. A pass-through, as defined by Lippold Nichols, and Sorenson of the Urban Institute (2010) are state child support federally regulated programs which allows states to distribute child support payments to TANF families and not count those payments when calculating their TANF benefits. For the payments that are not disregarded or passed-through, the state retains that money to repay TANF benefits and help reimburse the state for collection practices and enforcements. Although there are 21 states that claim to pass-through or disregard child support payments, not all of these states adhere to their own policies.
For example, according to Michael Vinson and Vicki Turesky (2009), Alaska is supposed to pass-through up to $50 of the child support payment collected while the amount is disregarded for purposes of eligibility and benefits. However, the state did not pass-through or disregard one dollar during 2009 and 2013, (ACF, 2014). This is money that noncustodial parents are being charged for alleged child support services and enforcement that is not legally owed by the parents. The TANF money, when paid to the family, is a grant and does not require repayment. Not to mention, custodial parents must complete a work or school program in order to qualify for TANF benefits. This means that benefits have already been paid for through the work completed by the custodial parents. Alaska is not the only state guilty of charging and collecting money from noncustodial parents that is not owed. Vermont is supposed to pass-through all current support with the first $50 disregarded (Vinson and Turetsky, 2009). Unfortunately, the families of the “Freedom and Unity” state are being deceived and robbed by their government. ACF (2014) reported that Vermont pass-through a total of $0 between 2009 and 2013. Again, the state is collecting money that is, technically, owed from the noncustodial parent and pocketing the payments. The federal and state governments are actually committing deceptive acts in the name of child support collections.
The Federal Register also lists falsely representing the business as a government office and demanding payments from grandparents as two other problems with private collection agencies. One could argue that both private and public agencies practice the same collection tactics when pursuing noncustodial parents for payments, but the public agencies are worse. This can be explained by observing the many comparisons that have been listed in this writing, numerous news articles, and by government official themselves when presenting evidence of the bully tactics exercised by government and nongovernment collection agencies. There does not seem to be a real drive to change the child support collection policies or agency behaviors. The issues presented in The Federal Registry may be an indication of future legislation that may be drafted in an attempt to dismantle the private child support collection industry. There are no significant differences between the private and the public entities. Even though the public sector is supposed to adhere to federal collection laws, the people enforcing the law use illegal tactics when seeking payment. The harassment, the embarrassing of debt holders, and the issuing of arrest warrants are but a few constitutional violations under the laws that are supposed to protect citizens during the attempts to collect a debt. Until we, as American citizens, force the government to adhere to the same laws by which we are forced to abide by, citizens will continue to lose our rights and our freedoms.
Children Right's Council. (n.d.). Private collection agencies | Children's rights council. Retrieved from http://www.crckids.org/child-support/using-a-private-collection-agency/
Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Flexibility, efficiency, and modernization in child support enforcement programs: Proposed rule. Federal Register, 79(221), 68547-68587. Retrieved from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-11-17/html/2014-26822.htm
Fair debt collection practices A\act | Federal trade commission. (1996, September 30). Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/rules/rulemaking-regulatory-reform-proceedings/fair-debt-collection-practices-act-text
Lippold, K., Nichols, A., & Sorenson, E. (2010). Evaluation of the $150 child support pass-through and disregard policy in the District of Columbia. Project report. Retrieved from http://www. urban.org/publications/412779.html
National Conference of State Legislatures. (n.d.). Child support 101.2. Retrieved from www.ncsl.org/research/human--services/enforcement-collecting-and-distributing-support.aspxservices/enforcement-collecting-and-distributing-support.aspx
Office of the Administration for Children & Families. (2015, April 1). FY2013 Preliminary Report - Table P-30 | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2013-preliminary-report-table-p-30
Supportkids Services, Inc. (2015). Supportkids - How we work. Retrieved from http://www.supportkids.com/how-we-work/
Vinson, M., & Turetsky, V. (2009, June 12). State child support pass-through policies. Retrieved from http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-support-and-fathers/highlights/state-child-support-pass-through-policies
Veterans of the United States Armed Forces are people that should be celebrated and supported in an effort to show appreciation for their time-in-service. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for our soldiers as they return home and must often fight many non-combat battles. Homelessness, mental health issues and unemloyment often plague veterans as they transition from military to civilian life. Along with these difficulties of adjustments are debt-related issues such as spousal and child support obligations. Based on federal law, veteran’s benefits should not be garnished, but, regrettably, this law is not always honored in veteran child support cases. According to the American Bar Associate or ABA (2011), under U.S.C. §5301 (a) (1), benefits paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are not subject to levy, seizure, or attachment. Since child support money is deducted through an order of garnishment, VA benefits should be excluded from such collections. This is not always the outcome when decisions concerning child and spousal support are being argued in favor of the custodial parent. We, as Americans, see again that certain rules and laws apply to certain individuals and in certain situations. These rules and laws seem to be used more when they are used to shelter those that need little protection and attack the most vulnerable. Laws should always protect veteran benefits and should not be used as a convenience to those that the government deem worthy of protection.
One key reasons that supports the government’s ability to garnish veteran’s benefits is that ‘family’ support and ‘child’ support have been decided to mean exactly the same thing as far as deductions are concerned. Even though a veteran’s disability benefits are compensation for the veteran, certain courts have forced the vet to satisfy debts accrued due to family obligations. A veteran can be held in contempt of court and jailed if he/she fails to pay support even if their disability is proven to be their only form of income. This is because the disability compensation somehow belongs to other people besides the person that sacrificed life for country. According to the ABA (2011), in the case of Rose v. Rose (1981), the Supreme Court held that neither the Veteran’s Benefits provision of Title 38 nor the garnishment provisions of The Child Support Enforcement Act of Title 42 indicate unequivocally that a veteran’s disability benefits are provided solely for the veteran’s support. This ruling and others that are similar, cross a very thin line as to who is entitled to a veterans’ benefits after that individual has been harmed during duty. Disability compensation, as defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to veterans with disabilities that are a result of disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. That should mean that disability money is paid for the sole purpose of caring for the needs of the veteran. If there is a need, other money should be set aside to care for children similar to the system practiced by the Social Security Administration. Based on the legal definition, there is no mention of the veteran being required to share the compensation payment nor is there a mention of who may be entitled to receive money from the disability payment. The seizing of money paid to compensate a person for pain and suffering should not be available for garnishment or offset in order to satisfy a debt.
Another underhanded manner in which the federal government is able to garnish allegedly exempt veteran compensation is by invoking a clause listed in Section §3.750-1, the Retired Military section of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). Military retired pay is payment received by a veteran that is classified as retired by the Service Department. There are many areas included under this umbrella of employers, including the Armed Forces and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but the same rules apply when garnishments or deductions are attached to payments. The retirement money and disability compensation can be received concurrently and in full in certain situations. According to Cornell University (2009), a veteran who is entitled to military retired pay and disability compensation for a service-connected disability rated 50% or more, or has a combination of service-connected disabilities, is entitled to receive both payments. This entitlement is subject to phase-in periods. The phase-in period is a 10-year period in which military retirement pay was increased 10% each year until the recipient began receiving full military retirement pay (Ryan Guina, 2014). A veteran may be awarded both forms of payment after 20 years of service and in compliance with Chapter 61 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code. In all other situations, veterans receiving both retirement pay and disability compensation must file a waiver to receive full benefits. This waiver is required, as explained by the Department of Veterans Affairs (2009), if the veteran’s disability retired pay exceeds the amount of retired pay that the veteran would have received based on length of service. The money that is waived is subject to garnishment.
While it is somewhat true that the money is, and should be, considered disability compensation, the money in question has raised serious doubts as to its real exemption status. On one hand, the money should be considered disability as it pertains to providing income to a soldier who was injured during his or her service. This money should not be considered retirement money. Under this premise, these benefits are specifically exempt by federal law of child support withholdings, (Bureau of Fiscal Services, 2005). The federal government has even found a way to ignore this law and garnish these protected benefits. There have been several cases over the years that contradict the federal law and have granted garnishment orders against a veteran’s supposed protected income. According to the ABA (2011), child support may be awarded based on disability payments to either parent being considered as income. There are no mentions of retirement waivers or phase-in periods. Even though the federal law prohibits veteran disability money from being touched, veterans are still having their money withheld.
One reason that has been provided by the court system is that federal law does not prohibit treating child support obligor’s veteran administration disability benefits as income under support guidelines, (ABA, 2011). Again, the federal statute clearly states that child support withholdings cannot be deducted from these specific benefits. The statutory exemption, 38 U.S.C. § 5301(a), was not considered when the Supreme Court held that a father was forced to be forced to pay child support from his disability compensation. The justification provided by the US Supreme Court was that the benefits were intended to support not only the veteran but the veteran’s family as well, (ABA, 2011). It seems as if the rules and laws are meant to be followed except when it comes to the state and federal governments and how officials collect money from citizens. It is quite insulting that one government agency exempts a certain form of income from offsets, while another agency bypasses the statute in order to steal money from our wounded veterans. Many veterans rely on their disability compensation as their only source of income. This does not deter the judges from attaching garnishment orders to that money. Again, in the case of Rose vs. Rose, the law was altered in order to abide by the laws of garnishing disability benefits. The Montana Supreme Court ruled that none of the garnishment provisions of The Child Support Act of Title 42 preempt the authority of state courts to enforce a child support order against a veteran, (ABA, 2011). This directly violated the garnishment rule mandated by 38 U.S.C. Furthermore, the court ruled that the child support can be enforced even where the veteran’s income is composed of VA disability benefits, (ABA, 2011). This money is supposed to provide disabled veterans some financial stability as they battle life after service. It was not meant to be returned to the federal government as free money.
Homeless veterans face a more difficult time when dealing with child support issues. One way these vets receive some type of assistance with child support and other issues is by offering Stand Down Events. These events are hosed by several organizations and a number of resources to the most brave Americans One of the most important of these resources, along with health screening, food and shelter, is the legal counseling provided to homeless vets. Child support issues are covered in these counseling sessions. According to Administration for Children & Families or ACF (2012), about half of the states have more than 10,000 veterans in their child support caseload. The government being permitted to garnish the compensation money could mean the difference between having a home and becoming or remaining homeless. It has already been established that veterans face an array of barriers in addition to those faced by nonveteran non-custodial parents. In addition to the difficulty of finding employment and earning low-incomes, veterans are older than other parents, they are more likely to have an interstate case and they are more likely to have higher child support arrears, (ACF, 2012). When dealing with arrears, a majority of the money owed is comprised of interest, late fees, penalties, and court fees. If and when the disability money is garnished, as with any payment received for child support, the state will deduct money owed to it before disbursing any money to the families. This is money that could be used to assist the disabled veteran and his or her children.
The states have no right to, first, disobey the federal law and garnish untouchable money and second, retain the money so that no family member benefits from the garnishment. There is very little being done to help our heroes deal the child support obligations when they cannot afford the payments. The three day Stand Down events may help temporarily but there is no information detailing the long-term success or failures of these events. Counties boast about distributing pamphlets to parents or reviewing case files, but there are little remedies available to assist veteran parents dig themselves out of their deep financial graves. Child support obligations not only hurt financially, but it can have a negative impact on one’s mental well-being. Child support debt can also be a psychological barriers to reestablishing family relationships, (ACF, 2012). Couple this with other mental illnesses often suffered by veterans such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, the end results are bound to be disastrous.
The government must be held accountable for disobeying its own laws. By taking money paid to compensate injuries suffered under the threat of death in order to satisfy an often exaggerated debt is akin to stealing benefits from 9/11 survivors to cover debt that accrued after they responded to the terrorist attack. These people deserve every medal, every honor, and every dollar earned during their commitment to our country. If more money is needed to support children of veterans, the federal government should provide that money. The federal government has already declared this money exempt from liens, seizures and attachments so states should not be permitted to loophole itself into the bank accounts of our disable veterans. As this country fights for reform to the child support system, we must consider our brave women and men who have been promised compensation if injured during service to the country. The US must restore that promise, and it must start by enforcing the statutory exemption 38 U.S.C. Until we force a change in child support guidelines, we must force the government to, at least, abide by the laws that are already established. It is time to starting to start treating our veterans, disabled, and otherwise, with the respect that they truly deserve when they return home.
Administration for Children & Families. (2012, November). Child support participation in stand down events | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/child-support-participation-in-stand-down-events
American Bar Association. (2011, September). Fact sheet-V.A. payments and family support. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/.../201109_flmc_vapayments.pdf
Bureau of Fiscal Services. (2005, March). Treasury offset program. Retrieved from https://www.fms.treas.gov/.../dmexmpt.pdf
Concurrent receipt rules - Concurrent retirement disability pay (CRDP). (2014, March 4). Retrieved from http://themilitarywallet.com/concurrent-receipt-military-retirement-pay/
Cornell University Law School. (2009, April 5). 38 CFR 3.750 - Entitlement to concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation. | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/3.750
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Compensation home. Retrieved from http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/
There are endless news reports concerning ‘deadbeat’ roundups and proposals of stricter child support legislation in an effort to increase child support collections. There is, however, a lack of information and articles that promote the limited number of work-oriented programs that are being offered to noncustodial parents across the country. While most states only offer one or two programs for noncustodial parents, others offer multiple programs in several counties across the state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL (2014), as of February 2014, 30 states and the District of Columbia are operating 77 work-oriented child support programs. This is an extremely low number of programs considering that there are 15,588,775 total open child support cases nationwide and most child support debt is held by parents with low or no income. For those unemployed parents, these job programs are critical in helping to remove barriers that hinder them from finding and maintaining long-term employment. Not to mention, having employment for these individuals can literally mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment. If the child support system is in operation to truly benefit the children, there needs to be more work-oriented programs for the parents so that they may provide steady and reliable payments. Child support programs have been proven an effective vehicle for programs that assist noncustodial parents in overcoming barriers to economic stability (NCSL, 2014). It is then a wonder why states with hundreds of thousands (two with over a million) child support cases, do not offer more work-oriented programs for those struggling noncustodial parents.
The state with the most programs offered to parents is New York with a reported 12 programs. Since the state has an open caseload of 920,000, such programs are not only necessary but critical to parents that have been sued for child support. Two of the programs are funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and Federal State Employment Tax (FSET) funds while other programs are funded by the individual counties. The Department of Labor or DOL offered a program which provided unemployed noncustodial parents with transitional job placements, case management, and other support services (Office of Child Support, 2014). With the country still recovering from the recession, accompanied with other factors which prohibit parents from finding and keeping employment, programs such as these need to be offered on a continuous basis. Unfortunately for parents in Onondaga County New York, the DOL grant ended on December 31, 2014. There was no mention of the grant being funded in 2015, but considering that a New York parent could face up to four years in prison for a nonsupport conviction, these work-oriented programs should always be funded and available for unemployed, low-income parents.
Michigan is a state that proudly posts its arrests of parents that fall behind on child support payments, fails to mention that it offers five work-oriented child support programs for struggling parents. The programs rely on a variety of funding sources including a grant from the Federal Office Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), however, the grant expired in September of last year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), Michigan reported one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 6.7% as of November 2014. This unemployment number should mean that the number of programs offered will increase from five to an amounted needed to satisfy the demand of unemployed parents that are actively seeking work.
It is unfortunate that Michigan, along with all other states, criminalize parents for being low-income and being unable to afford outrageous amounts of child support debt. Because of this factor, the four remaining programs offered in Michigan are only offered after the court system has become involved with the case. For example, Charlevoix County provides a case manager to assist the parent with managing their case. According OSCE (2014), a Friend of the Court (FOC) staff member provides intensive case management, individualized child support services, assessments, job search assistance, and referrals to unemployed noncustodial parents who are court-ordered to seek work. These fundamental services should be made available to all of the parents included in the nearly one million open cases in Michigan, if employment services are requested by the parent. It is absurd to offer such a valuable helping hand to parents only after they have been jailed and the court has ordered participation in a jobs program. Early access to these programs could prevent parents from being sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of refusing to support their children, thus, saving the taxpayers money that is spent to house a prisoner. Preventative maintenance is key to the reduction of arrears and the improvement of collection rates as gainful employment can be achieved through these programs.
Florida has an open child support caseload of 854,923 as of May 2014, but only offers one work-oriented child support program for its unemployed noncustodial parents. In Duval and Nassau Counties in Jacksonville, there were only 282 noncustodial parents served by program funded by the federal child support enforcement agency in 2013. The OSCE (2014), reported that the child support program in the Jacksonville area works with several employment agencies to find jobs for unemployed noncustodial parents. There are no reports announcing the success of the, but a parent does not have to be court ordered in order to receive employment assistance. Even when considering the declining unemployment rate at a reported 5.8% in November, 2014, noncustodial parents still need assistance when seeking employment. This, especially since the punishment for failing to provide for dependents is a felony in Florida and can result in up to five years in prison. Even though jailing a person for owing is debt is illegal in the United States, people should be able to rely on help when it relates to securing a job so that they can avoid prison.
The states with the largest number of open child support cases, California and Texas, also fall short in providing significant assistance for parents when faced with roadblocks to gainful employment. California reports 1,209,703 in open child support cases yet only offers six work-oriented child support programs. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 7.2%, one would think that the number of programs offered would increase since, statistically, most working parents pay child support. The programs offered are funded by different sources and some are maintained by the courts. There is no specific data provided that specifies success and failure rates, however, it is known that these programs are a necessity in child support enforcement. Although, child support enforcement is, arguably, unconstitutional, the government should offer some type of relief for low-income parents as a form of fairness in the unjust pursuit for the collection of money. Demanding money from people that struggle to provide basic living needs and jailing those that fail to meet those obligations is akin to cruel and unusual punishment. Offering work-oriented programs does not justify the punishments executed against delinquent parents, but it can offer a shelter, of sorts, from critics of the child support program as a whole. As long as it can be said that something is offered to the poor, it can hardly be said that what is offered is not enough.
Texas fares no better when allegedly offering employment assistance for their unemployed parents. Currently Texas has one program which is funded by TANF and Incentive funds to help parents in 31 counties throughout the state. According to OSCE (2014), NCP Choices provides enhanced child support and compliance monitoring and employment services for noncustodial parent who are unemployed or underemployed and are not compliant with their child support obligations. There are over approximately 1,500,000 open child support cases in Texas, but the program only served a little over 3500 parents in 2013, (OSCE, 2014). The number of parents with access to the program is just as ridiculous as almost every other aspect of the child support system as it relates to low-income people. To claim that a lack of funds prohibits the government from providing more employment assistance to vulnerable parents would not be a viable excuse when examining the money collected and retained by child support enforcement. According to The Administration of Children & Families or ACF (2014), Texas reported $18,533 939 in 2013 in undistributed child support collections and a total of $88,239,793 for the past five years. This is money that the state adds to future budgets that would be better utilized funding programs that assist parents in finding employment. Texas also reported its state and federal shares of child support collections at $17,767,696 and $16,025,140 respectively in 2013, (ACF, 2014). This is money that could diverted from costs associated with posting pictures of delinquent parents, ‘deadbeat’ roundups, and housing prisoners to job programs for the less fortunate parents that are constantly being funneled through the family court system due to nonpayment of child support.
It is, and should be acknowledged again, that incarcerating people for owing a debt is an actual crime and the targets are low-income and poor people. Child support debt continues to balloon because of double digit interest rates, fines, and penalties associated with late child support payments and, yet, there are very few programs available to meet the demands of unemployed parents. The cold hard truth is that the government, county, state, and federal, care nothing about the welfare of low-income children or families. If the government did care, the children would be the true beneficiaries of all money collected on their behalf, instead of what the government allows to trickle-down to the families. The work-oriented child support programs seems more of an afterthought designed to pacify the opposition when questions are asked and the country becomes unsettled over the treatment of parents trapped in the child support system. The noncustodial parents must be provided the means to pay support once the judgment has been rendered or face a lifetime of debt and a revolving prison door. Again, I say, that the child support system in America in unfair, at least, and unconstitutional, at best, and needs desperately to be reformed. Offering punishments with no means of defense is worse than sentencing a person to prison with legal representation. Unfortunately, both situations apply to low-income parents as they are consumed by the child support agencies and court systems, not to mention the debt that they are supposed to repay with little to no money. Something must change before all parents are victims of modern day slavery by way of the child support system.
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2014, June 20). Work-Oriented child support programs. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/work-oriented-child-support-programs.aspx
The Administration of Children & Families. (2014, April 1). FY2013 Preliminary report - Table P-16 | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2013-preliminary-report-table-p-16
Office of the Child Support Enforcement. (2014, February). Work-Oriented programs for noncustodial parents | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/work-oriented-programs-for-noncustodial-parents-with-active-child-support
The Administration for Children & Families. (2014, April 1). FY2013 Preliminary report - Table P-14 | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2013-preliminary-report-table-p-14
The Administration of Children & Families. (2014, April 1). FY2013 Preliminary report - Table P-15 | Office of child support enforcement | Administration for children and families. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2013-preliminary-report-table-p-15
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014, November). Unemployment rates for States. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
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:
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:
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.
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
State of Michigan. (2012). Enrolled senate bill No. 557. Retrieved from
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.
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
A parent and an author who has survived adverse situations and lived to write about it..