Archive for child support

And so it goes. . .

Unable to pay child support, poor parents jailed – US news – Crime & courts – msnbc.com

We’ve been covering this for years now and it’s heartening to see MSNBC bring the issue to light of the state of Georgia creating debtors prisons (and let’s cut this de facto crap out: they are debtors prisons, no matter how they phrase it or mince words).  However, this article does bring some of the realities to light, even if I can take issue with a couple of parts of this article.
Most notably, the article covers the Turner v. Rogers decision, which gutted the right of indigent parents to have an attorney appointed to them  Though the court case made some possible exceptions for later on (such as in cases where the state is prosecuting), in large part it boiled down due process to “fill out this form and we’ll decide if you’re guilty”.  That makes action on the state level even more important.
The article also notes the racial disparity in several areas where African American defendants are paraded before white judges and attorneys, given their “15 seconds” of due process, and summarily jailed.  Race does play a huge role in several of these cases, but I think class also pays a larger role.  We’ve seen the “deadbeat lists”: Day laborer, day laborer, construction (seasonal) worker, etc. And that’s even assuming that they are employed, which in this economy is not certain.  Not exactly a Forbes 500 list.
The point is that the people who are being jailed without due process are at the lower end of the economic (and often educational) spectrum.  They have no concept of their rights or how they can explain their cases to the judges and prosecuting attorneys hellbent on running an assembly line conviction system.  Throwing a man with both hands tied behind his back into a shark tank seems a fair fight in comparison.
And the results are there, if not exactly clear thanks to the lack of bookkeeping by states: 10,000 parents, or about 1,7 percent of the US jail population.  That’s 1.7 percent of the population jailed for non-violent activity: namely, being poor.  Are some in there because they are deliberately hiding their income?  Absolutely, but I would suspect that number gets less and less the longer the person is incarcerated.
Of course, the system has its defenders, and MSNBC put one of those in the article (Georgia’s CSE wisely declined to put their foot in their mouth). 

But Seth Harp, a retired Georgia state senator and former member of the state’s Child Support Guidelines Commission, said the state’s judges use incarceration sparingly.

“The methodology to put someone in jail requires that the person be taken to court before a judge and there they have to be found in willful contempt — someone who actively refuses to seek work or is hiding assets, something like that,” he said. “Judges don’t want to put people in jail. … The whole purpose is to get these people to support their children.”

Harp said he’s seen the tactic work repeatedly in his long career as a family law attorney.

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip, but you can put the turnip in the cooler,” he said. “And in 34 years of doing this, it’s amazing, you put someone in the cooler and the money seems to come.”

Oh, we’ve seen the amazing collection rates put up by putting the turnips in the cooler.  Why, with that much, you can actually think about getting the kid a Wii for Christmas.  And Mr. Harp doesn’t get into where they get the money, more than likely cause he knows that they aren’t getting it by selling Ferraris and Mansions but by getting friends and family to loan them some money.

Well, that depends upon the actual intelligence of the. . .awwscrewit

Texas DNA child support exoneration bill – KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

It’s similar to the way people are exonerated from prison, but unlike released prisoners, there is no restitution or compensation for an exonerated parent.

And now for the other side of Texas, one that is seemingly so logical it’s a wonder why Texas, or any other state, wouldn’t already have the law on the books. The law would allow parents who are paying for children that are not theirs to end that relationship. And it passed both chambers of the Texas Assembly–unanimously.

The story does not note which way Texas Gov. Rick Perry will go. I’m assuming that if a bill has that much support it would be suicide to oppose it. We’ll have to see.

And I’m sure we’ll get the same old, tired arguments: “being a father is about more than genes” (apparently, in the man profiled in the show’s case; it is more than genes: it’s the wallet in those jeans). “These fathers are just doing this to get out of child support” (Wanting to get out of paying for a child you didn’t father and is not your responsibility. Yeah, that is so full of outrage right there). But I think that the majority of people out there would agree: if the child is not theirs biologically or if they did not enter a parental relationship knowing that fact (i.e. adoption) they should not be required to pay.

As the lawyer in the piece explains, this isn’t justice. This doesn’t compensate the men for what they’ve spent, nor does it punish the mother for lying. But what it does do is prevent further injustice. And that’s a big step forward.

Anthony Graves: Still a target of Greg Abbot’s spite

Anthony Graves Says He is Still Being Wronged by the State

When a $250 honorarium was withheld for a presentation to
students at Prairie View A&M University, Graves said it was just
too much.

Note, this is the first of two stories I’m going to write about regarding Texas, and believe me, they are on opposite sides of the logic spectrum.

Anthony Graves spent 18 years in prison and on death row for a crime that he did not commit. Now that’s bad enough. Most of us would have a rather huge chip on our shoulders–about the size of, say, the Rock of Gibraltar–if we spent nearly two decades awaiting a hot shot for something we didn’t do. It was only through the intervention of some very dedicated attorneys and a special prosecutor who found that prosecutors in the original case elicited false testimony.

The result was so overwhelmingly in favor of Graves that District Attorney Bill Parham told reporters that he was absolutely convinced of Graves’ innocence. Think about that. You have a prosecutor saying that he’s absolutely convinced that a person is innocent. I know we were shocked by the events in the Duke Lacrosse case, but those types of pronunciations from prosecutors are rare. Prosecutors are like the rest of us: they want to win. Owning up to when they screwed the pooch is a bit hard, but Parham did it.

So now Graves is a free man and, under Texas law, entitled to compensation for the years he spent in prison. It won’t give him back his life, of course, but it may help. Actually, it wouldn’t? Why? Because the comptroller of the state is refusing to sign off on it because the decree didn’t contain the words “actual innocence” (I guess according to this logic we shouldn’t accept Susan Combs’ diploma since it doesn’t contain the words “actual intelligence”).

But hey, at least he’s free from the state, right? Well, no. It seems that Anthony Graves’ has children and the state determined that despite the fact that he was on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, he still owes child support. And as such, ol’ Greggie Poo has been garnishing his checks, including taking all of a $250 honorarium Graves got from speaking at a college. Really? $250 over a $5,000 debt which he might have been able to pay off within a minute if you hadn’t screwed up the order? What’s wrong: was holding him up for his lunch money a little bit too hands on for you?

A lot of people may read this and think: what’s $250? It’s a big tempest over a little amount. Maybe. But when piled up with the state’s refusal to pay the man what he is owed for his time and charging him for not supporting his children because he was on death row at the time, this is more like the straw that broke the camels back.

Greg Abbott is trotting out his ol “I vaz just vollowing orderz” defense while claiming he has nothing but sympathy for Mr. Graves. Yeah, sure. Considering the fact that Mr. Abbot’s office is waging a war against lower income fathers who he labels as deadbeats and his office also tried to get two lawyers to perjure themselves to take down Judge David Henschen, I’m sure Mr. Graves could wipe his ass with Mr. Abbot’s sympathy (assuming he could stand the rash).

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (not somebody who I support in most cases) is taking up for Mr. Graves, and the students at the college that Mr. Graves spoke are trying to raise the funds. I would have a piece of advice for them: try not to do it at mid-day. Most bandit’s prefer to do their dirty work at night, but Mr. Abbott is of the type with no fear–when it comes to exonerated men who can’t fight back, that is.

Surrogate keeps child; father told to continue paying $900/month

Couple Ordered To Pay Child Support After Surrogate Decides To Keep Baby

You would think that after all the stories that we have seen come and go that somehow we would have finally seen it all. And then somebody pulls out the C4 and blasts a little deeper, as we can see from our friends across the pond.

Mr. and Mrs W wanted kids, but unfortunately Mrs. W, had had cancer of the womb and could not bear children. So they did what many people these days do: they sought out a surrogate mother on the internet. The mother, known as Miss N., agreed to be inseminated with Mr. W’s sperm. They worked out a deal where Miss N would be paid $10,000

Later on in the pregnancy, Miss N apparently started to demand more money. When the couple refused, apparently Miss N decided that she would be keeping the child. This culminated in the birth of the child and a long legal battle. Each side threw about its own accusations. Miss N accused Mr. W of being violent toward the wife (the couple denied the charge, but that’s easy to explain to the victims’ advocates crowd: she’s just a battered wife enabling him). The couple accused the surrogate of keeping a filthy house and neglecting her sons. The result?

In January, in a rare case, Miss N was awarded custody after a judge deemed it was in the child’s best interests because there was a ‘clear attachment’ between the mother and daughter. . . . Surrogacy agreements are not legally binding in court, even with a formal written contract. It is illegal to profit from surrogacy but ‘reasonable expenses’ are permitted.

Two thoughts here: of course the child had a ‘clear attachment’. The reason why she had that attachment was the mother pulled out of the surrogacy contract and kept the child from the parents in the first place. That’s no reason to keep the child from the parents who had planned for the child. Kidnapping victims often suffer Stockholm Syndrome where they begin to form attachments with their captors, but nobody in their right mind suggests that the captors should still be allowed to keep their victims because of that.

Secondly, it seems that the court is talking out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, it’s saying that surrogacy agreements are not valid in court. Yet on another, it’s saying that "reasonable" expenses are permitted. Flip this case around: let’s say the mother and father get the child out of the hospital but don’t pay the "reasonable expenses" fee of $10,000. Would the court let that stand? I highly doubt it.

Needless to say, as the case wound down, the couple decided to take the high road and voluntarily relinquished parenting time rights. They wanted to make a clean break, and didn’t think that subjecting the baby to two homes would be unfair. I would argue that point with the couple, but it’s not an unreasonable thought. The family thought they had put this behind them. Right?

Oh, you know better than that, especially when CSA is involved.

But now Mr W must also pay £568 in child support every month as the biological father of the eight-month-old girl. ‘She cannot say, “I am keeping your child and now you must pay for it”,’ he said. ‘She has taken away our baby and now she is taking our money. To me, that is completely wrong. The CSA has made the decision as if we were a couple who had broken up, but our situation is unique.

Unique or no, CSA is trying to jackhammer a square peg into a round hole (please keep the sexual comments to a minimum). And they can’t play the whole "it takes more than genes to be a father" card. Why? Because in this case, that’s exactly all the father gave. He didn’t give any sort of emotional father bond. He wanted to, but Miss N apparently decided that she’d much rather take a long term payout than a short term and stick to her word.

By the way, both articles characterize this as the couple being ordered to pay child support. I suppose that is true in one sense that they are a couple and share income and expenses. But the court didn’t rule that both had a duty to support their child. All they ruled was that the father had to pay. I’m supposing that if the two divorce (and with a stresser like this I wouldn’t put it past) that only the father would be continuing to pay child support.

Let me make this clear: I am not saying that Mrs. W is going to divorce or any sort of implication like that. What I am saying is that the father was the target of this. The father is apparently a chef that makes a good amount of money and suspects the surrogate had it in mind to fleece him (or some other high-income man) all the while. And I can’t argue against that. In fact I won’t.

It’s time that the law caught up to women like Miss N who can fleece over the system with impunity. If these agreements are not given the teeth to make surrogate mothers hand over the child, they should at least not make an incentive for them to do so with guaranteed monthly payments for 18 years. If you sign an agreement like this and decide to keep your child, it should be treated as an adoption from the parents who donated sperm (or eggs) and any sort of child support should be cut off.

Mr. W. is contacting Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s office) and his local member of parliament. I wish him good luck, and I hope that activists on this side of the Atlantic make sure that this can not happen over here.

Beam me up, Scotty

Process server accused of fraud, perjury – Pascagoula – SunHerald.com

(Guy F.) Jernigan claimed to have served 152 summonses in Jackson County between midnight and 3 a.m. May 6, 2010. He then appeared in Ridgeland, three hours away, between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. that same morning to have proofs of service notarized.

Surprisingly, the judge shot this guy and other process servers the stank-eye when they apparently claimed to have access to Star Trek-like transportation right before he declared them in contempt of court for their garbage service. And guess who he was working for? Yep, the DHS serving chlid support notices. Shocking, I know.

Dog whistle politics come to UK child support reform

BBC News – Child support reforms to stress parental responsibility

“The current statutory system costs about £460m a year to run and can drive a wedge between parents and their children – encouraging conflict.

“The government believes that reaching a settlement independently is far more likely to produce better outcomes for the child.”

The proposals are designed to build on changes introduced by the Labour government designed to ensure parents living apart fulfil their responsibilities to support their children financially.

For those who don’t know what “dog-whistle” politics are, they are the practice of using code words to communicate ideas through other words that won’t conjure up the original idea. Racists, for instance, have been using this in the United States with terms like “states’ rights”.

Now apparently, they’ve come to the United Kingdom and child support with these new reforms that will stress “parental responsibility”. Of course we all know what the dog whistle is really saying here. “Have the non-custodial parent act like a walking wallet.”

There is no indication that this system will in any way provide better (or even different results) than the first one. The only difference is that it will be provided by organizations other than the government, saving the government a lot of money. Of course, that’s not really the reason the government is doing it (wink, wink):

The government stress that the proposals put child welfare first and are not being driven by the need to make savings across the public sector.

“The plans, which focus on strengthening families, will encourage responsibility,” the Department for Work and Pensions said.

“The current statutory system costs about £460m a year to run and can drive a wedge between parents and their children – encouraging conflict.

The only problem with that is the fact that when there is money involved between two people with an amount of animus between them, there is very likely to be conflict. Can we eliminate it entirely? Of course not, nor should we. We could reduce it by encouraging more shared parenting and enforcing parenting time agreements, but nowhere in this article is that mentioned and I would be surprised if it was in the plan.

Now many might accuse me to be engaging in my own dog whistle politics by using “shared parenting” as “lowering child support”. It would be if I didn’t continue to say that child support on poverty-stricken fathers should be lowered and I do and will. But if anybody thinks that raising a child is akin to paying no child support (especially a non custodial), you might want to look at the real costs of raising a child.

No, what shared parenting would do is allow each parent to directly spend the money on the child rather than pay an arbitrary and outside figure set by a judge (or even a mediator). If one parent gets into trouble they can adjust figures quickly in their own household without the threat of jail hanging over their heads. None of these things are mentioned in the plan, which leads me to believe that this will just be a continuation of the government’s plan, albeit in a more civilized, “private” forum.

Here’s another excelleent article pointing

Jail for child support debt questioned  | ajc.com

This article illustrates the tragedy of child support, like the previous article illustrates the comedy of the situation.

Randy Miller lost a job with AT&T.  I don’t know what job he had, but from my own neck of the woods jobs at AT&T pay significantly more than the outside world even at the entry level customer support level.  So no doubt he had a pretty good living.  Fast forward a year, numerous attempts to get a  job and 39 cents in his bank account: he lands in court on a contempt charge and is given a “choice”: pay $3,000 or spend 120 days in confinement.  I don’t think you have to be an accountant to figure this one out.

Needless to say, Mr. Miller’s lawyer thinks that is wrong and has a good case.  Both the US Supreme Court and the Georgia Supreme Court have ruled that judges cannot incarcerate someone if they are unable to pay their court-ordered fines or child support.  Seems a pretty clear cut case.

But wait, the CSE has a response to this conundrum:

(Doug) Slade (an attorney representing CSE) said sending someone to jail is a last resort. He acknowledged that the courts have ruled that judges may not incarcerate someone on a civil contempt charge if they lack the ability to pay. But there is an exception under state law, he said, that allows judges to send inmates to work-release centers so they can work jobs during the day and sleep at the centers at night.

So it’s not jail. They tell them where to sleep they tell them when to come in, and its not a deprivation of freedom. Let me tell you something: you can dress up a jail anyway you like, but the moment you tell an adult how to live, that is jail.

Mr. Slade even expresses frustration at the number of inmates who choose jail over “not-jail”. No doubt a lot suffer from problems but I’m also guessing a lot are looking at this and saying, “You may want to play your PR games, but I’ll just stay in real jail and let you pay real money for the privilege.” John Mutari, for instance, wasn’t about to let the state get away with some sort of facade. He made them exert as much energy as he could make them.

And he gets to pay $140 for the privilege of “not-jail” in addition to the $135 back child support. And I like how he says its local law. I may not be brushed up on federalism as Mr. Slade, but I do know the Supreme Court does not make exceptions for local law. If they did, we’d be looking at a very different South right about now.

New Jersey brings the fail. . .again

Sweep recoups $233,000 in child support | courierpostonline.com | Courier-Post

People who just looked at the headline in this story would be inclined to consider this operation a success. $233,000 is a lot of cash. It is, unless you consider just how many pieces it was broken up into.

A statewide sweep for noncustodial parents lagging on child-support payments recouped $233,000 after law enforcement officers served 953 warrants against offenders in all 21 counties, authorities said Friday.

$233,000 divided up against 953 warrants leads to an average payout of. . .wait for it. . .$244.49. that’s right, for the costs of policing, paperwork, and incarceration, each warrant netted about the post tax cost of a Wii. If you’re in New Jersey and feeling a bit wet right now that’s the government pissing on you.

Later on in the article it stubbornly admits the failure rate.

About half of the individuals have been released after paying child support. Collectively, they owed $1.3 million. Nearly $14,000 in back child support payments was collected, Eife said.

That amounts to little (emphasis on little) more than 1 percent return. Put it this way; if you were a bill collector and you were presented with an average of 1 percent pretty soon you would be the one fending off the bill collectors.

Also notice what the article said. About half of those paid out. That illustrates the statistical impossibility. When I say that $244 was collected per debt I’m speaking in the average. The chances of each and every one of those individuals paying out $244 is extremely small. So some paid more, but others paid less or not at all, and the latter category is still sitting in jail with “three hots and a cot” all at taxpayer expense. All for the crime of being poor.

And this is not the first instance of New Jersey overspending. We’ve covered their efforts before. In fact, the last article had New Jersey collecting $267,833.31. So the diminishing law of returns is catching up to them. So what do they do? They put the larger number up and hope people don’t crunch it. Even the newspaper is not accepting comments. Hmm, wonder why.

New Jersey, once again splurging a hundie to gain a Washington.

I think you meant “provide for me”, Ms. Meer

Amityville Horror’s Andrew Douglas sues ex-wife after she duped him over daughter | Mail Online

‘Of course I didn’t lie. I obviously didn’t think that he wasn’t her father,’ (Ameena Meer) said. ‘If he wants to be her father, he should provide for her. Isn’t that what’s fair?’

That’s Ms. Meer disputing that she lied to Andrew Douglas about the paternity of a child. DNA results revealed that the daughter, who Andrew had raised as his own biologically, was not. Mr. Douglas is now suing Ms. Meer for back child support as well as emotional damages. While I don’t think that existing caselaw will help him, the story that he tells is one that should not only be a warning for potential paternity fraud victims but a case for paternity fraud reform.

Mr. Douglas began his relationship with Ms Meer in 1989 when he did photographs for an interview she had with Salman Rushdie. The relationship continued for three years and then she told him that she was pregnant with his child and wanted him to marry her because her parents, being devout Muslims, would have been shamed by the prospect of a birth outside of marriage. So Andrew married her.

The marriage ended months after it began. No big shocker here; marriages founded on external pressures (not to mention internal deceit) don’t tend to last that long. Initially Andrew had little contact with his daughter until her tenth birthday, but started to change that around with no thanks to Ms. Meer, who had since married a second husband. This is where the story gets interesting. On her 17th birthday the presumed daughter called dad asking about his blood type. Andrew put two and two together and figured there wasn’t that much chance of him being her biological father. Sure enough, a DNA test confirmed that.

When Andrew confronted her, Ms. Meer said, sardonically, that the child was the product of an immaculate conception (something she disputes). According to the lawsuit, Ms. Meer had an affair with an unnamed British man. When the child resulted, she tried to get him to marry her. That plan fails, she goes to plan B, marrying Mr. Douglas. Since then she’s upped her demands for back rent and kitchen remodeling.

And now back to the quote, and a point that Robert Franklin made quite eloquently. Taking her at her word that she didn’t know who the father was, she most certainly knew who the possible fathers were (absent extraordinary circumstances). At the very least she knew that there was a chance that Andrew may not be the father. A simple DNA test could have cleared up the issue. At that point, Mr. Douglas could have made a reasoned, informed decision on whether or not to marry Ms. Meer and adopt the child. All of these could have been done if Ms. Meer just came forward with all the facts.

But the law does not require that. Indeed, some states put the onus on the father to figure out whether or not he is the father. And one final point: you recall that the presumed daughter called the father about blood typing information. I would surmise, based upon that, that the daughter did not know. Supposing this information was needed for a medical procedure or searching for a disease. And suppose the mother’s lies needlessly delayed or worse, invalidated any treatment. That would have made this more than a case of dollars and cents (or pounds and shillings, as the case may be); it could have become literally a matter of life and death. Paternity fraud goes far beyond money, ladies and gentlemen.

A bit of good news

Judge keeps Dauphin County in play in lawsuit – PennLive.com

Lawyers for both counties sought dismissal of the suit, but U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III refused to do so in an order issued this month.

Jones overrode part of a recommendation from a federal magisterial judge who had urged that both counties be released from the suit. However, Jones did dismiss two Montgomery County employees as defendants in the case and barred Sharpe from pursuing punitive damages against the counties.

In case you need a refresher on this whole story, check out the Article from the Patriot News. It is a testimony of bureaucratic incompetence and malice all rolled into one. Mr. Sharpe signs for a certified letter and ends up getting jailed four times for paying for child support. CSE changes the man’s name in the records in order to prove he is the father (and if that isn’t a basis for punitive damages I don’t know what is). And to top all of that off, the paper finds the kids real father, who is the custodial parent, in less than an hour.

Still the lawsuit stands. Should he actually win, CSEs will be on notice that it will be much more costly to make up a father than to take the time to find the real father. It’s a strange notion, I know, but it’s true.