The 1986 federal Bradley Amendment seems innocent and helpful to Americans on the surface. The federal law is purported to collect child support that could normally never be collected, with the idea of decreasing poverty in America. It was hatched from the national hysteria whipped up in the 1980s, derived from the legendary and abusive behavior of “deadbeat dads” as well as the intense need for welfare reform.
A Short History Lesson
Government administrators decided that instituting the Amendment was not enough because enforcement measures were not in place at the inception of the Amendment. In 1993, as part of an ambitious and aggressive initiative by the Massachusetts State Administration to improve child support enforcement in advance of welfare reform, the first financial institution data match was made. It began as a pilot program and after the program implementation was mastered, was unleashed on the country as a whole in 1994 by the Clinton Administration. The illegal enforcement of the Amendment proceeded with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. The program involves the extraction of financial institution data as a requirement for banking in all states as the determining method to execute the garnishment of money for enforcement on a national level. A data match identifies account holders with child support debts by social security number and allows the child support agency to issue a levy to the financial institution, with notice to the account holder. The financial institution freezes the funds in the account up to the amount of the child support debt and forwards the funds to the child support agency for distribution to the “family”.
The Government Invasion
This provision has been extended to the paycheck of every American in the system as well and through the Internal Revenue Service. Under the Bradley Amendment enacted by Congress in 1986, a child support obligation becomes a judgment by operation of law as of the date that that it is due and unpaid. In addition, under Section 368 of PRWORA (42 U.S.C. 666(a)(4)), an administrative lien also arises by operation of law against any unpaid child support on an ongoing basis. Because of this, it not necessary to return to court after each payment is missed to get past-due support reduced to a judgment in order to obtain a lien or enforce a judgment. The funds and assets of all non-custodial parents are spotted and can be quickly seized without passing through a hearing process of any kind. The information is assumed to be correct and is updated once yearly according to government sources based on information that is available through the system. What is broken is never fixed or changed.
The Resulting Civil Rights Carnage
Naturally, this puts the burden of proof upon the non-custodial parent as a guilty criminal for all time. There is no concept of innocence, nor can there be. The presumption is that an order exists and that the order will be collected by any means necessary on a federal level. The law does not allow for adjustment in court or by any means. The debt can never be cancelled. Even after the demise of the parties involved, the debt exists in perpetuity. Information that is incorrect cannot be corrected without the expense of hiring an attorney and making the correction. A correction can never be made after the fact and no credit can ever be issued. If an attorney cannot be hired, no change can be made. The Bradley Amendment sets the information in place to be correct for all time without the possibility or option of revision on any level.
Government Recklessness and Abuse
Congress, the DHHS, the OCSE, nor any government body has ever commissioned or performed any study on the target: the non-custodial parent. The government has simply imagined reasons for the measures that have been exacted. Six billion federal dollars a year, plus billions more by the states, are spent on a legal target with no research at all. The Federal Government is spending billions of dollars each year on something they know little about and based many assumptions by polling custodial parents. This reinforces the approach that the inability to pay is no excuse. Needless to say, there are endless stories of men who are now crushed by a debt that they will never be able to pay for all kinds of valid reasons. The program moves endlessly forward with heartless efficiency, crushing all in its hold. This oppression is a violation of due process and is both cruel and unusual because the program removes the use of human discretion and compassion from dealing with individual cases in the present or in the future.
A common “solution” for non-payment of child support is jail. In 1798, John Adams signed into law the elimination of debtor’s prison. Sending “bad men” to jail for child support without paying money and creating state and federal expense is why some proponents want failure to pay child support added to criminal law, even though it is clearly a civil matter. This is national hysteria, an abuse and waste of millions in tax dollars with no benefit to anyone. It is vindictive blood-lust and wanton misuse of power.
State child support agencies act in behalf of private citizens as financial intermediaries. However, these agencies are not subjected to the same accounting as banks. Financial accuracy remains unchecked and the errors are legion. Recent studies have proven that more than $500 million in funds have been held in public coffers without distribution. That is 4% of funds collected by the year 2000. If a financial institution had made a 4% error, the government would have closed them down. Furthermore, the whole program was designed from the outset to reduce the cost of welfare. This has not happened as the cost of welfare spirals upward without reform, cost-containment or reduction in sight.
Non-custodial parents are monitored and regulated as though they are criminals. The Bradley Amendment mandates that a child-support debt cannot be retroactively reduced or forgiven even if the debtor is unemployed, hospitalized, in prison, sent to war, dead, proved to not be the father, never allowed to see the children, loses a job or suffers a pay cut. The Amendment has resulted in unintended consequences that have never been corrected, gross injustices that are never dealt with and massive costs, especially to non-custodial parents that are already under the financial gun. Poverty has not been eliminated or the poor truly assisted in a substantial way. The evidence shows that the Bradley Amendment has had the opposite effect. The spiraling costs within government supply no gain and only enhance bureaucracy. The Bradley Amendment must be repealed because it violates the rights of millions of American citizens at huge expense to the government, under the pretense of abolishing poverty and collecting child support for the nation.