- Posted October 12, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Child Support Court Orders Are Often Dropped Due to Non-Compliance
I know, we all hear the tug-of-war stories about child support and the custodial parent inevitably is dubbed as greedy for expecting their ex to help care for the child/children that they created. I'm certainly not advocating waiting for money to fall from the sky or doing nothing to better your life while waiting for money to appear in the bank. I have hustled for years to support my kids as my ex racked up child support arrears totaling over $32,000!
The Interstate Family Support Act is in place in an attempt to ensure that all 50 states are in a legal position to enforce child support rulings. Unfortunately each state is left to their own devices to decide exactly how they will proceed. Many states, including PA have wanted lists that splash those labeled “non-compliant” across the newspaper and all sorts of other privileges can easily be suspended such as driving and other professional licenses. If you owe a back balance of greater than $2,500 you'll never get a new passport and many deadbeats find their bank accounts frozen and assets drained. Texas treats non-compliance as a felony and offenders can spend 4 years behind bars.
Is the act of choosing not to take care of children that you helped usher into this world an epidemic? Well, with 41.2% of all custodial parents not receiving their child support payments on time- if at all- I would say it's certainly well on its' way to becoming one. My ex has been incarcerated on two occasions in the last 5 years for non-payment and they have been looking for him again for nearly a year. It's a game for him, dodge and hide until they accidentally catch you, serve 6 months and then begin the same pattern all over again. In PA non-compliance eventually equals contempt of court and that carries a 6 month prison sentence regardless of the details of the case.
What most people aren't aware of is that in a few short clicks of the mouse an entire case can disappear under the guidelines of “rule 75”. This states that if a defendant hasn't paid for their children in a long time then the state can legally close out the case completely, meaning that even the arrears balance disappears! In other words, if you break the law and stand in contempt of court for long enough, eventually it all just goes away and your name is cleared!
I have actually contemplated closing out the case at different times because it is obviously invisible money that will never appear and my kids are doing just fine, so for me it's not at all about the cash but the principle. How can we send the message that it's absolutely okay to abandon not only your kids, but the responsibility that comes with having them?
While the U.S. has a unified set of laws in place, allowing states to pick and choose their own protocol ultimately creates one heck of a mess. Some states are more aggressive and actually have the equivalent to bounty hunters that go out looking for deadbeats, while others don't attempt to do anything. If less than half of the custodial parents are actually receiving the funds to help provide for their kids then doesn't that kind of demonstrate just how the system in place is failing in a big way?
If states like PA are simply closing cases then it certainly sends the message that if you stay off the books and hide for long enough then eventually it'll all disappear. Let's face it, it's not the deadbeat winning but in many cases their children are really losing. If most married parents need two incomes just to make ends meet then why on earth would the court system decide that a single parent should assume all financial burden on their own?
Ironically by not enforcing the child support laws it actually creates an even larger problem for the Welfare system that already is continuously under fire. If child support isn't being paid then each state will pay out a small amount of cash assistance each month for those children. The custodial parent signs off on any incoming child support that may pop up and the state kind of pays it forward to help the struggling parent. So basically by not enforcing the stiff penalties that do exist states like PA are actually paying out far more cash assistance then they would need to otherwise. In other words, everyone that is working and taking care of their obligations also ends up helping to support the kids left in the dust by a deadbeat!
I'm not going to pretend that I have any kind of solution here. What I do know is that if our government continues to decide that child support court orders are optional then eventually other kinds of court rulings will also come with a built in expiration date. As it stands right now I've gotten the message loud and clear that breaking at least this law is okay and my children aren't valuable enough for a court ruling to stand. The saddest part is that according to my child support enforcement officer dozens of letters similar to mine get mailed from their office each week! If children truly are our future then shouldn't their needs come first?