Federal Child Support and You
By federal law, the non-custodial parent can not have their child support arrears modified or eliminated for the time it was impossible for them to have made the payments. The Bradley Amendment [42, U.S.C. 666(a)(9) (c )] says that once a child-support obligation has been established, it cannot be retroactively reduced or forgiven by a judge.
However if the non-custodial parent becomes disabled, imprisoned, unemployed, or even slips into a coma, unless they have the wherewithal or presence of mind to file for a suspension or reduction, their debt will continue to accumulate, and cannot be modified for any reason.
I think it is important to understand that some non-custodial parents do not take responsibility to pay their child support obligation. On the same token, many parents cannot meet the mandated child support obligation and the system does not make modification based on real life occurrences easy or even possible. Instead the courts and child support agencies choose to brandish a sword of abuse and oppression. This is a fact to many that have been oppressed needlessly or reduced to destruction by the system in place. Some non-custodial parents come back years later in an effort to get the courts to reduce or forgive the arrears. Because of the Bradley Amendment, the hands of justice are forever tied and a judge is unable to make effective change in any case of “child support”.
In United States law, the Bradley Amendment is the common name given
to any of a number of amendments offered by Senator Bill Bradley, the most notable of which is the amendment to US Code Title IV-D (42, U.S.C. 666(a)(9)(c)) which requires state courts to prohibit retroactive reduction of child support obligations.
The Bradley Amendment was passed in 1988 to automatically trigger a non expiring lien whenever child support becomes past-due. The law overrides any state’s statute of limitations. The law disallows any judicial discretion, even from bankruptcy judges. The law requires that the payment amounts be maintained without regard for the physical capability of the person owing child support (the obligor) to make the notification or regard for their awareness of the need to make the notification.
But, like any other past-due debt, the obligee, typically a mother, may forgive what is owed to her.
When past-due child support is owed to a state as a result of welfare paid out, the state is free to forgive some or all of it under what’s known as an offer in compromise.
The amendment was intended to correct a perceived imbalance between
the power of the obligee (usually the mother) and the obligor (usually the father) during subsequent child support disputes. It had been alleged that a significant number of men were running up large child support debts and then finding a sympathetic judge, often in another state, to erase them.
The Bradley Amendment is credited with increases in the collections success of wealthy debtors including a New York plastic surgeon who owed $172,000, a professional athlete who owed $76,000 and a yacht company owner who owed $50,000. The Bradley Amendment standardizes the treatment of interstate child support disputes (estimated at 40% of all cases according to Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support).
According to Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D, Commissioner of U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement, the child support system collects “about 58% of current support due.” The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 68% of child support cases had arrearages owed in 2003 (a figure up from 53% in 1999). Some believe that the process can never collect the full amount because a high proportion of obligors are unable to make the required payments. According to Ford Foundation Project Officer Ronald B. Mincy, between 16 percent and 33 percent of obligors are low income, referred to by Mincy derogatorily as “turnip dads” (obligors earning less than $130 a week). According to one study 38% of non-custodial parents not paying child-support said they lacked the money to pay.