Sunday, February 11, 2007


Child Support - Another Example of Failed Government Policy

I routinely accept appointments to represent parents - mostly men, but an increasing number of women - who are facing contempt proceedings for failing to pay child support to their former spouse. This system has good intentions - the welfare of the child - but is often misused by the former spouse, abused by the State (in this case, the District Attorneys), and misunderstood by my clients.

I'm not saying that mothers and fathers shouldn't fulfill their responsibilities as such. I would think that any regular reader of this blog would know better than to think that I would take such a rash position in the face of personal responsibility. However, the system that is currently in place in Tennessee is irrational at best and a focused attempt to jail the impoverished at worst. Yes, some people are trying to get away with paying their child support, and they should be punished for doing so. However, some people are being jailed for the single reason that they are poor.

I understand the General Assembly's stance. They want to appear tough on "deadbeat Dads." They even revamped the child support laws two years ago, selling the bill of goods as "more friendly to fathers." In my experience, it has been anything but that. When one runs a couple's income through the current calculations and compares it to the old system, it seems that the numbers are quite harsh with the new system.

It appears that the state of child support inequality is not exclusive to Tennessee. Check out this story from Florida:


FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Sixteen months after his divorce, Richard Parker made a devastating discovery. A DNA test revealed that his 3-year-old son had been fathered by someone else.

Mr. Parker immediately filed a lawsuit claiming fraud by his apparently unfaithful ex-wife. He took his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

Last week, the Florida justices ruled 7-0 against him. They said that Parker must continue to pay $1,200 a month in child support because he had missed the one-year postdivorce deadline for filing his lawsuit. His court-ordered payments would total more than $200,000 over 15 years to support another man's child.

"We find that the balance of policy considerations favors protecting the best interests of the child over protecting the interests of one parent defrauded by the other parent in the midst of a divorce proceeding," writes Justice Kenneth Bell for the court.

"We recognize that the former husband in this case may feel victimized," he writes. He then quotes a scholar to explain the ruling: "While some individuals are innocent victims of deceptive partners, adults are aware of the high incidence of infidelity and only they, not the children, are able to act to ensure that the biological ties they may deem essential are present."

In effect, the high court is saying it's partly Parker's fault for trusting his wife.


And herein lies the problem. The vast majority of my clients know nothing about how to challenge paternity (and by the time they get to me, it is often too late). The reason that I tend to get their cases is that they know nothing about how to file a modification of their existing child support when a change of circumstances (losing a job, a child aging out, etc.) occurs.

The system is broken. Putting a father or mother in jail - which means that they usually lose their job and cannot make future payments - doesn't help most of the kids at issue here. More often than not, it isn't even about the money. It's about vengeance, retribution. It's not a coincidence that many contempt petitions are filed soon after the former spouse starts dating again.

I'm not saying that this is the situation in every case. In some cases, the only way to get through to the man or woman is to throw their carcass in the County Jail. And most judges are more than happy to accommodate them - up to the 180 days that the General Assembly allows them to. But in most cases, I fail to see how this is helping the children.

I would love to see the General Assembly address the problem, but it won't happen. After skimming through the list of proposed bills thus far by the 2007 General Assembly, I see few that will help the problem. (Honestly, Democrat Rep. Sherry Jones seems to have the best bills in this respect.) Other bills proposed by Rep. Frank Buck, Senator Charlotte Burks, Senator Jamie Woodson, Senator Doug Jackson, and Senator Roy Herron will do nothing to help out parties in child support cases, serve as "window dressing," or will actually hurt the most economically vulnerable of our citizens.

No one wants to talk about this problem, and maybe I shouldn't have done so here. However, just because no one is talking about it doesn't mean that a problem doesn't exist.

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I may have a caption that will fit that I will check and see. If not it can be offered as an ammendment if a bill with a wide enough caption reaches the floor. Touch base with me previous to session next year with bill ideas.
To me the worst wart of this was the judges comments regarding infidelity: "He then quotes a scholar to explain the ruling: "While some individuals are innocent victims of deceptive partners, adults are aware of the high incidence of infidelity and only they, not the children, are able to act to ensure that the biological ties they may deem essential are present."

Maybe infidelity is a big thing in the judges immediate circle of friends and family, but most folks would be surprised to find out their spouse was unfaithful.
Stacey -

We'll talk. I'll try to come up with some solutions that might work.

In this case, identifying the problem was the easy part. Fixing it? Not so easy.


Bill -

I don't have any statistic to back this up, but I would wager that the divorce rate is higher amongst judges and lawyers than it is for the general population - and probably by a pretty decent margin.

If one takes infidelity as a significant cause of many divorces, then I suppose that you very well may find that the situation that you lay out here may actually be the case. Perhaps judges do expect failure when it comes to monogamy.



The Family Court System is designed to defraud men by victimizing women. Divorce, Child Support, Custody, Alimony etc-- every aspect of the Family Court System evolves around demonizing, exploiting and defrauding men.

The process begins by a court order, issued upon affidavit which may be freely perjured without penalty, enforced without notice and hearing, and literally throwing GOOD FATHERS out of thier homes and onto the street. The female is then allowed her freedom as she takes the majority of assets on grounds contrived, all without cause as a practical matter. Women have, freely at their disposal, the right to demand tribute from her prostrated mate under the guise of child support, but unrelated to the cost of raising children and amounting to tax-free alimony and transfer of wealth, collected on her behalf by huge armies of government bureaucrats virtually unrestrained in their powers and efficiency.

I should add here that, while much bad legislation has been enacted, the real culprits in the final analysis are family court judges with unbridled discretion; because their power is virtually unchecked in law and practice. No branch of the American judiciary has brought so much disgrace to the bench and generated so much hatred for authority, as our family courts, the lawyers who practice before them, and the judges who preside.

*before you decide not to post this, remember that the truth shall set you free*
hi i feel like suicide sometime becuase of child support. theyve.put me in jail over and over again because of someelse kids how can a woman say on the stand that im not the biolgical fatherand the jugde still make me pay for the child its a sick feeling to see a child with his father and your payinh for him and your biological kids at homesuffer so bad i bring home 172 out of 497 per week you know that just enough to keep the electric on and gas money depression comes on me when my bilogicalkids ask me for something and i never have enough for them can any one help
Here's one for the record books. The great Child Support Gods in my area of TN decided since I did not pay support during the first five years since our divorce, they would arrest me, drag me into court, and make me face the music. The only reason they did this was she decided to go completely on welfare, and further was given SSI due to her drug abuse problem which, by the way was one of the contributing facters to our divorce. After appearing before the (So-Called) honorable judge, (who by the way had early granted her full custody based soley on the fact that she was the mother, regardless of the evidence which clearly showed she had endangered the children on numerous occasions), I proved that not only had I paid my support in Full every week (thank God I keep all those cancelled checks she so willing endorsed on the back), I had also provided reciepts that both children had and was reccieving all ther food, clothing, etc., from me. After all this he dicided that since she apologized and made the baseless claim that she didn't know she was suppose to turn it in, he would not have her prosecuted for welfare fraud. However, he refused to give me any credit on the arrearage I now had and left me to then to pay for another lawyer to get this removed. I lost that case too by the way. Yes, I did pay it off. Since that time the state has taken over the duties of child support enforcement and I am forced to appear every 3 months before a referee that is employed and works out of the same office as the district attorney's for the division. Since this time my arrearage is now over 25,000 primarily due to the fact that even though the oldest is now amancipated (18) her cost of living is higher. I am currently paying about 680.00 a month plus 100.00 in arrears. My net salary is 600.00 a month. You see, the company I once worked for finally found a way to stop their harrassment by laying me off. Yes, it may be illegal but, proving it was another manner. In the last ten years of this, I have been arrested over a dozen times, lost four jobs, and didn't even see my oldest from the time he was 8 until, he himself was arrested for drugs that she had given him. He now is 21, and has lived with me for the last 3 years, because at 18 she through him out. My 16 year old is pregnant by one of my ex's boy friends. And finally to add to this sham of a court system, my license to drive was taken, so I can't go to a better job other than within walking distance of this otherwise economically depleated welfare area I'm forced to live in (yes, as so order by the same referee, Capt. Kangeroo), My license to teach was revoked (yes, I returned to school and finished my degree as so ordered by this court). Did I mention that she now owns 2 houses (one which is a rental), 2 cars, draws both welfare and AFDC, and SSI?
I did remarry by the way to a good Christian lady. We have 2 wonderful children. Our youngest has both Down's Syndrome and other disabilities. We have be deny any Aid from AFDC including Tenn Care, and we cannot get or afford insurance. Even she has about reached her breaking point.
My latest arrest came at the local High School where I had worked as a Substitute Teacher. I was imidiately informed that I would not be called to work anymore within the county school system. My second job that is also working within the public, (I a part-time nite-clerk at a local motel) has informed me that if I am arrested again, that they too would have to let me go. It's hard to work from a jail cell. I was informed via letter yesterday, that court was held last week without my knowledge and that an attatchment was placed for me to be picked up yet again. Though I usually am not informed by them when they hold court, I was this time, and they specifically set the court at a time they knew and was informed of that my youngest son would be in the hospital for surgery, and my only way to get there would be if my wife drove me the 30 miles to the court house. She was not going to leave our son at the hospital and they knew it. The funniest part of all is I just recently found out that I am not the father of my now 21 year old son. This was her latest attempt to deny me any sort of happeness.
So is the child support laws unconstitutional? Yes. Do the regular courts consider any of the actions of a custodial spouse illegal, no. They consider it a Civil matter, even though TN laws state that it is illegal to falsely make claims in order to recieve state support or deny the non-custodial parent their visitation rights. And no, an attorney will not be provided for you, because legally you did not commit a crime when your arrested for child support, even though you were treated like a common criminal. P.S. no one is yet to be prosecuted or arrested for getting my 16 year old pregnant, but I am told I will be responsible for both her health care and posssibly the baby's until such time she turns 18.
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