A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘corporate’

McDonald’s Hamburglar Commercial Asks If You Can Pay Child Support in Burgers

reviewed by Moody Jim Rathbone

hamburglar-robs-to-pay-child-supportCorporate profiteers continue to mock hard-working parents slaving to pay for state-mandated child support at any cost. Perhaps they could rob it in burgers implies the latest McDonald’s commercial. Corporate profiteers think that it’s time to crack jokes about what is hardship for many. Yes, I’m against harassment by a narcissistic wife without boundaries too. This Hamburglar needs some help, lame comedy at best. (See the commercial here)

McDonald’s recently changed the Hamburglar from an orange-faced cartoon character to a scruffy thirty-something dude. This particular incarnation of the sticky-fingered beef thief is married, although, based on a recent commercial featured on The Verge, he keeps his Hamburglar costume stashed in a box in the garage labeled “Yearbooks” so his wife won’t find it.

Because women be naggin’ and men be lyin’ to their significant others, the ad—which, in a reflection of McDonald’s recent revenue woes, looks like it was filmed for about $20. It features Mrs. Hamburglar interrupting her husband’s pitch for McDonald’s by calling him and asking him if he picked up supplies for what sounds like a child’s birthday party.

McD’s is after me (apparently, so is my wife)!

Tweet #RobbleRobble to keep them off my trail.

https://t.co/JBVThrmHir

— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 12, 2015

Hamburglar-child-supportCan you pay child support in delicious McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burgers?

The real tragedy is the fun that it pokes at already harassed men that are constantly harassed by wifes, ex-wifes and the like. It portrays men as liars and thieves (some exes will get off on the commercial, ala Hillary Clinton style). What’s worse, it implies that robbing to pay child support is a good idea. So, everybody head on down to McDonald’s to steal their monthly child support whenever you are running short. That is what Madison Avenue wants. Can advertising be wrong? Yep.

It’s a human rights and tyranny issue – and they’re in on it.

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Walter Scott and the Need for Child Support Reform

by Joy Moses

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott’s death was striking because a police officer fired eight shots at him while his back was turned. When something so tragic occurs, observers tend to wonder why. The officer’s actions and utter disrespect for human life can never be justified. But recently, the New York Times published new information about Scott’s split second decision to run — his child support case. According to his brother, “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support.”

Elements of Scott’s story reflect existing concerns about the child support system. A debate over potential large-scale reform is more than a decade overdue. The seeming impossibility of change has always loomed ominously large, overshadowing calls for reform and pushing them into the dark corners of the policy world. However, at this current political moment, there are national conversations about policing, bipartisan criminal justice reforms and an existing White House initiative focused on men and boys of color — concepts that would have seemed laughable just a few short years ago.

indigent in America

child support can make a man indigent

There are some fathers who absolutely refuse to care for their children and they should be held accountable. However, the current system reaches well beyond that group, creating negative consequences for men who are rarely credited with being caring parents and are simply too poor to pay. The political explosiveness of the “deadbeat dad,” a figure that some researchers say sprang out of the same sources as his female counterpart (the “welfare queen”), helped distort the foundations of child support policy. The system seems to partially rest on underlying beliefs that low-income men, and especially those who are black, avoid work and financially providing for their children at all costs while also being permanently childlike and in need of both discipline and lessons on how to behave.

Over the years, the program has effectively served many families (transferring funds from one parent to another) for which it should be applauded. However, policies built on a foundation of stereotypes about numerous men who don’t want jobs stand in stark contrast to the reality of numerous jobs that don’t want the men. Researchers like William Julius Wilson (More Than Just Race), have documented decades long trends of disappearing job opportunities for low-skilled workers as well as increased criminal justice involvement which further leads to employment discrimination.

billboard-crimeWhen entities spend significant time on activities that fail to help and that actually hurt parents and families, it’s often useful to redirect their energies elsewhere. Reforms should shift the program mission and values away from damaging racial stereotypes that hurt families of all races and towards efforts to accurately diagnose the needs of families and take ‘pro-social’ action to address them.

One useful primary goal would be to comprehensively address the family law needs of low and middle-income families, helping with a very real challenge — the increasing and extraordinarily large number of families who can’t afford an attorney or who don’t feel comfortable representing themselves in legal matters. In doing so, agencies should assume that parents of all racial and class groupings share in a desire to care for their children, suggesting that they be treated with respect and provided with quality customer service. This would build upon efforts to accurately identify bad dads whose non-payment is rooted in an adamant refusal rather than their economic circumstances.

chronic-stressWith such a vision, services would start to look much different. No longer treated as enemies of the state, low-income fathers would be less likely to literally and figuratively run away from child support. The sole focus wouldn’t be on a father’s monetary value but on improving father-family relationships. Court decisions and unaddressed legal needs would be replaced by model practices like mediation that support mothers and fathers in making their own decisions for their families. Punishments like imprisonment would be replaced by employment assistance. And other proposed reforms designed to guarantee child support for women and children would avoid potential incentives to hound men for unaffordable reimbursements of funds states pay out to women and children.

Some states have already experimented with such reforms, finding positive results that have included increased child support payments by fathers and greater parental satisfaction with agency services. The Obama Administration has encouraged states to adopt these best practices while proposing helpful new rules. However, there are limits to the changes that can occur without Congress overhauling currently existing state requirements and incentives.

We need a fruitful, progressive conversation that abandons a focus on the status quo and reform efforts that toy around existing edges — instead choosing a new vision for the future that endeavors to do the hard work of changing the culture and functioning of a system that means so much to so many.

—-

Of course, there is no mention in this article about U.N. Treaty or the Bradley Amendment, which prohibits child support arrears from being changed or removed – but the article does pretend to care (and is much kinder than I am). Meanwhile, the welfare queens still have control over America at great cost to all Americans. – MJR

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The Practice of Indentured Servitude & Why It Matters

indentured servitude contractThe practice of indentured servitude is based on common law, the original basis of this empire.

Reba McIntire found out that one of her ancestors in 1600’s was as 10-year old shipped to America as indentured servant. His mother died and his father had a hard time taking care of him by himself, so he “sold him off” This contract would pay the kid’s ticket from England to America, and would only last at most until the kid became an adult at 21 years. This well demonstrates that under common law, children were considered PROPERTY of their parents until they became adults, and the State had NO AUTHORITY to interfere with the rights of a father.

This wasn’t slavery in a formal sense, since the boy wasn’t sold, just the right to his work was. This shows that under common law, people are considered sovereign and the State has no authority to tell them what to do, unless there is an actual INJURED party, which includes a violation of one’s unalienable rights. Only in a “corporate democracy” that the United States has operated under since 1933, the government doesn’t recognize your natural rights, and can dictate what we can and can’t do, as if we were THEIR property. This is in clear evidence, throughout all property rights.

Here’s Wikipedia about indentured servitude.

“Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed the paperwork. They included men and women; most were under the age of 21, and most became helpers on farms or house servants. They were not paid cash. It was a system that provided jobs and—most important—transportation for poor young people from the overcrowded labor markets of Europe who wanted to come to labor-short America but had no money to pay for it. The great majority became farmers and farm wives.

In colonial North America, farmers, planters, and shopkeepers found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because cash was short and it was so easy for those workers to set up their own farm. Consequently, the more common solution was to pay the passage of a young worker from England or Germany, who would work for several years to pay off the travel costs debt. During that indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but they were provided food, room, clothing, and training. Most white immigrants arrived in Colonial America as indentured servants, usually as young men and women from Britain or Germany, under the age of 21.

Typically, the father of a teenager would sign the legal papers, and work out an arrangement with a ship captain, who would not charge the father any money. The captain would transport the indentured servants to the American colonies, and sell their legal papers to someone who needed workers. At the end of the indenture, the young person was given a new suit of clothes and was free to leave. Many immediately set out to begin their own farms, while others used their newly acquired skills to pursue a trade.

The Issue of Legal Consent

roaring matriarchMen aren’t perfect. That’s for sure. Recent times have proved that women are no better. Goddesses of windfall have received a free ride on the legal gravy train in the USA for far too long. Now, this system of abusive law threatens all parents, male and female. Never mind that the sociopathic matriarch of the past has been coddled and fussed over for many decades because of “deadbeat dads.” This perceived situation has worked well to the mutual empowerment of corporate government, as the resources of non-custodial parents are repeatedly ransacked, whether they are capable of paying or not. Corporate government has been only to happy to reimburse itself with all the free money through endless financial authority. State governments are also notorious for withholding money from the very children they proclaim to help. In many cases, this is because the state has already helped to support the children and the mothers that bore them through government vehicles like welfare and medicaid programs. In the view of the state, they are simply recouping the corporate investment that has been mandated by the federal government.

The sins of the system are many. When income changes for any reason, in the good old USA the child support doesn’t. Impoverished and unemployed non-custodial parents must hire an attorney. Child support is never retroactive, except to the detriment of the oppressed. Most judges see to that. In the meantime, many matriarchal sociopaths are relentless in their pursuit for cold hard cash through legal oppression. Family attorneys are only to happy to oblige, as legal costs are “passed on” to the father, whether they can pay or even if payment is never received. Their former husbands and boyfriends will pay, never mind if the money ever exists or could be earned. These women have been taught that they bear no responsibility. They are free to act any way they please, including chasing the emasculated males out of their lives. The state will care for their children no matter what. When you live in the ‘United States,’ Uncle Sam is the sugar daddy, even if a terrible one. The children will be supported, whether right or wrong, now with men as the usual target for renumeration. This isn’t entirely the case because there are plenty of women that won’t be bothered with their children because they would rather have another kind of life. Now, the nation is full of ‘deadbeat moms.’ Never mind the ‘deadbeat moms’ that continually abuse and misdirect their children to make themselves look good and dad look bad. Meanwhile, during all the family drama, the federal government has deeded itself total control over all financial transactions. It has the power to undo every American citizen to fulfill the interests of politics. This power endangers every parent, even every person that works for a living in the nation.

Technically, parents have been emasculated in this age, through the power of the corporate state. In this new empire, the fascist state owns the children while pretending that you do. For when you refer to enacted law, emotions and idealism don’t apply. A heartless corporation executes these laws as morals, ethics, and values go out the window.

the corporate unca sam has youCourts do not offer judgment, only legal opinion. The justices of the Supreme Court offer nothing but opinion, which then becomes public policy. The BAR association copyrights these opinions which is misleadingly labeled as the ‘law.’ In the United States, the people have increasingly been victims of legal precedence for nearly 8 decades. Common law is increasingly the rarity rather than the norm. Old grandad used to gloat that possession is nine-tenths of the law. That idea has passed on, along with old granddad! In civil law, you are guilty before being proved innocent, even though the creators of Perry Mason would have you believe otherwise.

The side effect of being a consenting citizen of the United States corporation is that all statutes are applied to you with what the U.S. code calls Prima Facie law. This law derives its authority from assumed consent and more often than not, your ignorance. All branches of government operate under law, meaning that the consent of the governed is automatically assumed in all legal matters and decisions based on court opinion. This view impacts all contracts. After all, what in today’s age isn’t a contract of some nature?

Marriage is a civil contract to which there are three parties- the husband, the wife and the state. That is the perception of the law which you have agreed to through your marriage license. From that time, the state is continually involved in your relationship, a silent ‘partner’ in all of your affairs. This is very basis of the criminal racket known as the dreaded ‘Child Protective Services,’ which claims overarching authority from ‘Health And Human Services’ as it legally kidnaps your children in their ‘best interest’ as it sees fit.

Authority is delegated through ‘parens patriae,’ literally ‘parent of the country’ which refer to the role of the state as sovereign and guardian of persons under legal disability.

Pursuant to the parens patriae doctrine, ‘the primary control and custody of infants is with the government, to be delegated, as of course, to their natural guardians and protectors, so long as such guardians are suitable persons to exercise it.’ – Columbia University

“In other words, the state is the father and mother of the child and the natural parents are not entitled to custody, except upon the state’s beneficent recognition that natural parents presumably will be the best of its citizens to delegate its custodial powers… ‘The law devolves the custody of infant children upon their parents, not so much upon the ground of natural right in the latter, as because the interests of the children, and the good of the public, will, as a general rule, be thereby promoted.'” (Chandler v. Whatley, 238 Ala. 206, 208, 189 So. 751, 753 (1939) quoting Striplin v. Ware, 36 Ala. at 89; Ex parte Wright, 225 Ala. 220, 222, 142 So. 672, 674 (1932). See also Fletcher v. Preston, 226 Ala. 665, 148 So. 137 (1933); and Striplin v. Ware, 36 Ala. 87 (1860).

What about your Constitutional rights? They’ve already taken care of that:

“But, indeed, no private person has a right to complain, by suit in court, on the ground of a breach of the Constitution. The Constitution it is true, is a compact, but he is not a party to it.“ (Padelford, Fay & Co., vs. Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Savannah 14 Ga. 438, 520)

I am a man

The Supreme Court has transliterated the word “supreme” to mean that these seven appointed justices that pass legal opinion on masses of ‘consenting’ citizens are more supreme than God in an indestructible government.  These justices are not voted into these positions of power in any way by the people, but are appointed by the President of the United States as the head of a government corporation. These self-imposed deities clearly state here that they are the law of the land, and that “the natural consequence of citizenship” is for the people to be under their supreme opinion.

Your only option is to disagree, which means you must NOT consent. This is not an easy road to take as you are boxed in on all sides. Learning how to NOT CONSENT is what the United States was originally built on, but this is no longer the case, since the Constitution is a dead document, rendered inoperative through the invention of legal precedence in the 1930’s. This ‘legal bullying’ may well be the case throughout the rest of the Roman Empire. As the national news is so fond of saying: “desperate times call for desperate measures.” The beginning? Just say no!

Governmental Megalomania

violation of due process and civil rights

Welcome to the government that puts itself first. That’s the sad news for Americans because the land of freedom becomes more fascist every day. If the shoe fits, wear it. This fascist label includes the corporate judges and officials that think nothing of civil rights. Instead the Feds have invented a new special right for children, referenced as the right to be supported. This sounds good on the surface, but the draconian and offensive laws that this attitude perpetrates touches every American, especially in their privacy. Foreigners complain about this American attitude constantly, but we ignore them as foolish idiots. They may be more right than wrong. Check out this website for details on how your rights are declared “non compus mentis” in the name of innocent children, where a corporate government and corporate hacks create an office full of  underemployed data compilers for each court, where shareholders rake in the profits 2 to 1 for every dollar collected. A child has more rights than you do in the name of the USA, but for the benefit corporate business. The national megalomania is not new. The new video shows it. Even Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor winces a little at the boldness of this fantasy.

Megalomania is a psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, or omnipotence. Megalomania is characterized by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers and beliefs. The government steals from themselves without a second thought, but it is all supported by your work, sweat and tears. They steal from you with the same disregard. If they are so concerned about money, they should actually work to be fair. Imagine my saying that. Anyhow, I’d say the government is pretty close to megalomania, if not a classic case. (Consider the word: ‘psychopath’) Well, we are no longer at the top of the political power chain, so what does that tell you? They would happily put derogatory labels on you, but I know that in general, this is hardly the case. With this in mind, the Third Reich thought itself infallible, but anyone that knows history know that nations rise and fall. It’s been happening since the beginning of governance. So too, this glorious nation sees itself in the same light. I just thought you should know why the nation is where it is. Judges call it federalism. The sane call it federal megalomania. Money says, “In God We Trust.” Really now. How you choose to react is up to you.

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Governmental Megalomania by E.J. Manning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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Can You Defend Yourself Against Civil Contempt & Non-Compliance?

kangaroo courtJudges abuse their power daily and the use of civil contempt is one of their greatest weapons. This is not simply because this action is powerful in its own right, but because people do not know how to defend themselves against its limits. If you do not speak up and demand your rights, you lose them. Most people don’t know their rights and most lawyers will not “fight” what the judge wants. This is our legal system today, especially in the kangaroo family courts.

Civil contempt in law today is authorized to compel someone to obey a court order in present tense whether in direct view of the court or indirect view of the court. The difference in regard to child support is the remedy of incarceration. This is intended to compel compliance to the court order, however only if you have the ability to comply and are not doing so. You may be held until you no longer have the ability to pay . When that happens, it is grounds for immediate release. In a civil contempt per the view of U.S. law, the punishment is viewed as a remedy, and for the benefit of the complainant, which can be and often is the court. In the event of criminal contempt, the sentence is punitive, to vindicate the authority of the court. A contempt proceeding is considered to be criminal in nature, with possible penalties that include a jail sentence. Fear is the tool.

Civil contempt is for something that is current that you may purge yourself of, while criminal contempt is seen as a past wrong you have committed. Under the civil contempt you must be provided with the option to purge yourself of the contumacious act. With regard to child support enforcement, most states have built into the statutes that civil contempt  and incarceration is a specific remedy for violation of the court’s order. This is not for the civil debt, but for specifically for the act of “willfully disobeying an order of the court while having the capacity to comply.” Even when the order is unjust, you must comply unless a stay of enforcement is granted, while you are challenging the “unjust” order. (Child Support: A Case Against Arrest)

Proof of Contempt

While the court’s power to punish through contempt is broad, contempt is meant to be exercised rarely and is presumed not to exist in many states, such as Texas. Three elements must be satisfied to prove contempt:

1) a reasonably specific order,

2) a violation of the order, and

3) the willful intent to violate the order.

To be specific enough to support a constructive contempt finding, an order must spell out the details of compliance in clear, unambiguous terms so that a person knows exactly what she must do to comply with it. Some courts have held that an oral order is never sufficiently specific; thus, only a written court order may support a constructive contempt finding. An oral order may support a direct contempt finding, but it must still be clear what the court has ordered the person to do. Finally, the person must be able to comply with the order.

Noncompliance with an unambiguous order of which a person has notice raises the inference that the violation was willful. But a person is in contempt only if he has the ability to comply with the court’s order but chooses not to. A person may not, for example, be jailed for failing to turn over property not in his possession. But for this exception to apply, the inability to comply must be involuntary. If a person puts himself in a position where he is unable to comply with the order, then he may still be held in contempt. Disability and mental capacity can impact the ability to comply.

During the past twenty years, both state and federal courts have examined the issue of whether parents who are seriously delinquent on their child support payments may be jailed for their failure to support their children. Nearly half of the state supreme courts and at least ten of the 11 federal circuit courts of appeals have heard cases concerning criminal penalties for failure to pay child support. As legislators and other policymakers debate the value and appropriateness of criminal sanctions for nonsupport, a review of the court holdings from state supreme courts and high level federal courts offers a legal perspective to the policy discussions in this area. Below, we examine some of the most commonly asked questions and how the courts have answered them.

Q. Why are states and the federal government using criminal penalties for delinquent child support obligors?

A. State and federal laws aimed at criminally penalizing parents for not paying child support are gaining backing for several policy reasons. First, child support experts and state policymakers are detecting fundamental differences among parents who are delinquent in child support – dividing them into “can’t pay” and “won’t pay” parents. While millions of dollars nationwide are being invested into programs to help the very low-income “can’t pay” parents, states are developing more aggressive enforcement tools to pursue the “won’t pay” parents who simply refuse to acknowledge their child support obligation, despite having the financial resources to do so. The increasingly common use of criminal statutes and court contempt orders in child support cases reflects society’s growing frustration with “won’t pay” parents. A recent opinion by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals aptly captured the prevailing judicial sentiment toward parents who evade child support obligations:

“It is just as much a violation of the CSRA [Child Support Recovery Act] for a non-custodial parent to fail to pay child support where his refusal to work is motivated by sloth, a change of lifestyles or pursuit of new career objectives. For most people, bringing children into the world does limit life choices by imposing certain long-term financial obligations.” [U.S. v. Ballek, 1999 WL 125955 (9th Cir. (Alaska), Mar. 11, 1999) (NO. 97-30326)].

State and federal prosecutors are selectively using their state criminal nonsupport laws to target parents who purposely hide assets, avoid employment or otherwise contrive to shirk their child support responsibilities. Some states, such as Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia, have conducted high profile trials and “sting” operations to locate and prosecute parents with large child support debts – in some cases several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal prosecutions are also becoming more common as federal officials crack down on wealthy child support obligors in interstate cases. The Inspector General’s Office and the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, created Project Save Our Children (PSOC), “to create a nationwide comprehensive and coordinated health and human services and criminal justice response to unresolved child support enforcement cases.” PSOC investigates and prosecutes high-profile criminal nonsupport cases with interstate circumstances, typically under the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992. By focusing on high-profile cases, PSOC hopes to deliver a strong public message to delinquent obligors who consistently avoid paying child support. Most of the parents arrested and prosecuted by PSOC are wealthy individuals with substantial assets.

Q. Isn’t child support a matter of civil, not criminal, law?

A. Laws concerning child support guidelines and most child support enforcement mechanisms are civil in nature, but failure to pay child support may subject a parent to criminal sanctions in three situations: 1.) prosecution under a state criminal “failure to provide support” statute, 2.) prosecution under the federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 (CSRA), or 3.) a finding of contempt of court for failure to obey the court’s child support order.

All states have criminal laws setting felony or misdemeanor penalties for failure to support a child or family. Most of these laws were not specifically written with child support in mind, but were originally intended for parents who abandoned or neglected their children. Classifications of these statutes range from “desertion and nonsupport” (Michigan) to “nonsupport of a child or spouse” (Kansas) to “failure to meet an obligation to provide support to a minor”(West Virginia). Likewise, maximum penalties under these laws vary greatly, from 14 years in prison for a felony conviction in Idaho to six months in prison for a misdemeanor in Rhode Island.

Parents who willfully avoid child support payments for a child in another state and owe the greater of a year’s worth of child support or $5,000 may be prosecuted under the federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992. When the statute originally was written, the crime was classified as a misdemeanor, and delinquent parents risked a maximum jail term of six months. With the passage of the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998, this federal crime was upgraded to a felony and now carries a maximum prison sentence of two years for parents who owe at least $10,000, or are at least two years behind in their child support obligation and possess two contempt citations for failure to obey their child support order. The original offense also was expanded to include delinquent parents who cross state lines to evade child support responsibilities, in addition to those living in different states from the children.

Because child support orders are official court orders – with the same weight as orders such as subpoenas to appear in court – a parent disobeying the terms of the child support order risks a finding of contempt of court. Based on this, a contempt of court order is probably the most common avenue for a delinquent child support obligor to find himself or herself behind bars.

Q. Is contempt of court a civil or criminal violation?

A. Contempt of court orders can be either criminal or civil in nature, and criminal and civil contempt proceedings differ in several regards. Although most states have many laws concerning contempt of court powers, courts do not need explicit statutory authorization for issuing a civil contempt of court order and subsequent penalty for violation of a child support order; this contempt power is typically inherent in the court’s basic authorization to enforce its orders. Civil contempt of court may be punishable by jail time, restitution, or fines. Under a civil contempt order, the person guilty of contempt of court “holds the jailhouse keys” in that he can cure the contempt and gain release from jail by abiding by the order, e.g. by paying the overdue child support. In a civil contempt of court proceeding, the violation of the order must be proven by clear and convincing evidence and the burden of proof may be shifted to the defendant in some circumstances.

Despite carrying a criminal penalty of incarceration, civil contempt of court orders are not classified as criminal actions; criminal contempt is a different matter in several respects. Unlike in a civil contempt situation, under a criminal contempt order, the contemnor does not “hold the keys to the jailhouse door” — he or she cannot shorten the imprisonment period simply by paying the fine or complying with the order. Criminal contempt, rather, is a form of punishment; a penalty imposed and required to be served to its completion. Because of the punitive nature of these orders, they generally are accompanied by many of the same due process requirements as a criminal trial (e.g. right to notice, right to counsel, right to a jury trial, etc.), and criminal contempt powers must be statutorily authorized by the legislature. Finally, in criminal contempt hearings, the government bears the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.

Courts differ in their characterization of contempt orders for failure to pay child support. The lines between civil and criminal contempt are often blurred in failure to pay child support cases, particularly if the court does not explicitly clarify the charge facing the delinquent parent. Michigan’s supreme court decided that even though child support contempt proceedings were statutorily intended to be civil in nature, the proceedings become criminal if the defendant does not have the present ability to pay, and the defendant is then entitled to representation by an attorney [Mead v. Batchlor, 435 Mich. 480, 460 N.W.2d 493 (Mich. 1990)]. New Mexico’s state supreme court ruled that a jail sentence, which is typically considered a criminal punishment, could be imposed in a civil contempt proceeding for failure to pay child support [Niemyjski v. Niemyjski, 98 N.M. 176, 646 P.2d 1240 (N.M. 1982)]. The Supreme Court of Tennessee, however, held that child support contempt was a criminal offense with a criminal penalty; therefore, the obligor could not be incarcerated without a jury trial and a conviction [Brown v. Latham, Walker v. Walker, 914 S.W.2d 887 (Tenn. 1996)].

The issue is further muddled by court decisions that not all child support contempt proceedings classified as criminal are entitled to a jury trial [see International Union, United Mine Workers of America v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821 (1994) [jury trial not constitutionally required for criminal contempt proceedings]]. For example, in a criminal prosecution under the CSRA, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a jury trial was not necessary because the restitution penalty was not so severe as to convert the petty offense – a misdemeanor – into a serious one deserving of a jury trial [U.S. v. Ballek, 1999 WL 125955 (9th Cir. (Alaska), Mar. 11, 1999)(NO. 97-30326)].

State supreme court cases suggest that additional limits on the use of the contempt power in the child support context exist. At least one state supreme court has decided that if the delinquent parent proves he is financially unable to “cure” the contempt, the court may not continue the incarceration [Hughes v. Dept. of Human Resources, 269 GA. 587, 502 S.E.2d 233 (Ga. 1998)]. The California supreme court adopted a more narrow reading of this concept, holding that a delinquent parent’s incarceration may continue “when the parent’s financial inability to comply with the order is the result of the parent’s willful failure to seek and accept available employment that is commensurate with his or her skills and abilities” [Moss v. Superior Court, 17 Cal.4th 396, 950 P.2d 59 (Cal. 1998)]. Finally, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that the contempt order must consist of a written judgment of contempt or written order of commitment before a parent may be incarcerated [Ex parte Strickland, 723 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1987)].

The only U.S. Supreme Court case to examine the issue of contempt for failure to pay child support pivoted on this very question of whether the contempt was criminal or civil in nature [Hicks v. Fieock, 485 U.S. 624 (1988)]. The Court held that the California statute in question, which had a legal presumption that the obligated parent was able to pay the required child support, was an unconstitutional violation of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution if the proceeding was a criminal contempt proceeding. The statute’s legal presumption reduced the burden of proof on the government and transferred that burden to the delinquent parent, which is not permissible in a criminal trial. On the other hand, the Court reasoned, if the statute were being applied in a civil proceeding, the transfer of the burden of proof would be constitutionally valid. Therefore, the Court remanded the case back to the lower court to determine whether the contempt proceedings were civil or criminal in nature. The Supreme Court also offered guidance to the lower court by more clearly delineating some of the characteristics distinguishing civil and criminal contempt orders and outlining examples of both.

Q. Does the child support obligor always have the right to an attorney during contempt proceedings?

A. State courts have reached conflicting conclusions regarding the question of the delinquent obligor’s right to counsel in child support contempt proceedings. Several state supreme courts, including Delaware, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont, have ruled that noncustodial parents facing incarceration for contempt of a child support order have the right to be represented by a lawyer during the contempt proceeding [Black v. Division of Child Support Enforcement, 686 A.2d 164 (Del. 1996)[civil contempt]; Mead v. Batchlor, 435 Mich. 480, 460 N.S.2d 493 (Mich. 1990) [civil contempt]; State v. Gruchalla, 467 N.W.2d 451 (N.D. 1991) [civil contempt]; Ex parte Gunther, 758 S.W.2d 226 (Tex. 1988) [unclear whether civil or criminal]; Choiniere v. Brooks, 163 Vt. 625, 660 A.2d 289 (Vt. 1995) [civil contempt]. The Delaware supreme court specifically found that “the presumption that an indigent defendant has the right to appointed counsel applies when, if he loses, he may be deprived of his personal liberty,” but did not apply if the state sought punishment of something less than incarceration.

Other state supreme courts, including Florida, Missouri, New Mexico and North Carolina, have decided that parents subject to child support civil contempt sanctions are not entitled to legal representation [Andrews v. Walton, 428 So.2d 663 (Fla. 1983); State ex rel. Sterling, 719 S.W.2d 455 (Mo. 1986); State ex rel. Dept. of Human Services v. Rael, 97 N.M. 640, 642 P.2d 1099 (N.M. 1982); Jolly v. Wright, 300 N.C. 83, 265 S.E.2d 135 (N.C. 1980)]. The Florida Supreme Court found that in a situation where the father had the ability to pay the child support but willfully refused to do so, and thus was not indigent, the father’s due process rights were not violated when the trial court ordered incarceration without appointing counsel for him in the civil contempt proceeding.

Even indigent obligors are not necessarily entitled to a lawyer. The North Carolina court ruled that “since the nature of nonsupport civil contempt cases usually is not complex, due process does not require that counsel be automatically appointed for indigents in such cases” and that counsel would only need to be appointed in cases where it was “necessary for an adequate presentation of the merits [of the case], or to otherwise ensure fundamental fairness” [Jolly v. Wright, 300 N.C. 83, 265 S.E.2d 135 (N.C. 1980)].

Proving indigency in order to obtain court-appointed counsel can place the delinquent parent in a potentially self-incriminating position if the he or she is not found to be indigent. If the court rules that the parent is not indigent, that ruling could lend credibility to a charge that the parent had the resources to pay the child support and chose not to. Recognizing this, the Supreme Court of North Dakota required that a father found in contempt for failure to pay child support should have had the opportunity to prove his indigence for purposes of appointment of counsel in private meetings with the judge and lawyers, rather than in open court, since the disclosure of facts relative to proof of his indigence could have been used against him in the contempt proceedings [State v. Gruchalla, 467 N.W.2d 451 (N.D. 1991)].

Even if the defendant is entitled to counsel, he may not be entitled to have the state pay for it. Missouri’s Supreme Court held that the trial court in a civil child support contempt proceeding “could not compel the state to expend public funds by appointment of a public defender to represent the alleged indigent father” [State ex rel. Sterling v. Long, 719 S.W.2d 455 (Mo. 1986)]. Similarly, the Delaware supreme court ruled that the Office of the Public Defender could not be appointed to represent an indigent defendant in criminal contempt proceedings arising out of child support orders [Black v. Division of Child Support Enforcement, 686 A.2d 164 (Del. 1996)].

Q. What if the child support obligor claims that he or she doesn’t have the resources to pay the required child support?

A. Many parents delinquent in their child support payments and subject to contempt citations claim that they are unable to financially meet their support obligations. At least three state supreme courts – California, Oregon, and Texas – have ruled that it is the obligor’s responsibility to raise an inability to pay as a defense, and to prove that inability by a preponderance of the evidence [Moss v. Superior Court, 17 Cal.4th 396, 950 P.2d 59 (Cal. 1998); State ex rel. Mikkelsen v. Hill, 315 Or. 452, 847 P.2d 402 (Or. 1993); Ex parte Roosth, 881 S.W.2d 300 (Tex. 1994)]. It is not, according to the courts, the responsibility of the custodial parent or the state to prove that the noncustodial parent has the financial resources to meet his or her child support obligation. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Fieock, also found that allocating the burden of proof in this manner was constitutional and reasonable in child support contempt proceedings.

Whether or not a parent has the financial ability to comply with the child support order is particularly important in prosecutions under the CSRA, which requires that the parent’s failure to pay support must be “willful” in order to warrant a conviction. In other words, in order to obtain a conviction under this federal law, the government must prove that the parent has the resources to comply and simply chose not to do so. See U.S. v. Mathes, 151 F.3d 251 (5th Cir. 1998); U.S. v. Brand, 163 F.3d 1268 (11th Cir. 1998). The Ballek court examined the CRSA and Congressional legislative history in order to clarify the willfullness requirement and determined that “a noncustodial parent who does not have the funds to satisfy the child support award, and who does not obtain a reduction or remission of the award because of inability to pay, will almost certainly be engaged in willful defiance of the state court’s child support order” [U.S. v. Ballek, 1999 WL 125955, 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 2325 (9th Cir. (Alaska), Mar. 11, 1999)(NO. 97-30326)].

Noncustodial parents who truly lack the ability to meet their child support obligations have the right in every state to request a downward modification of their child support order based on a change in circumstances. Also, many states offer parents who cannot meet their obligations and have amassed arrearages the opportunity to negotiate a payment plan and avoid severe sanctions, such as prosecution, revocation of certain licenses, or liens on their property. With these alternatives available, many courts and state agencies are adopting a tougher stance against parents who ignore their child support obligations.

Q. Isn’t it unconstitutional for the court to order a person to work just to pay off a child support debt?

A. Some delinquent parents have argued that requiring an obligor to meet a court-ordered child support obligation, without consideration of his or her current employment status, is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on slavery and involuntary servitude or because it creates a criminal penalty for a civil debt. In a recent case, the California state supreme court examined this argument in detail and ruled that enforcement of a child support order did not run afoul of the Thirteenth Amendment’s slavery and involuntary servitude prohibition [Moss v. Superior Court, 17 Cal. 4th 396, 950 P.2d 59 (Cal. 1998)]. Specifically, the court found that “there is no constitutional impediment to imposition of contempt sanctions on a parent for violation of a judicial child support order when the parent’s financial inability to comply with the order is the result of the parent’s willful failure to seek and accept available employment that is commensurate with his or her skills and ability.” In reaching this conclusion, the court distinguished child support from other types of family support and narrowed 100 years of the state’s common law in this area. California’s highest court also reviewed U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cases, Congressional legislative history, the state constitution, and analogous areas of common law in order to reach its holding. Based on this review, the court determined that the crucial element in slavery or involuntary servitude is the requirement that the oppressed person be bound to one employer or one form of employment. Since child support orders do not require the obligor to work for a specific person or in a particular line of work, the court held that enforcement of such orders does not rise to the level or slavery or involuntary servitude. The court also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has outlined exceptions for the performance of other civil duties, such as jury service, military service, road work, and enforced labor as punishment for a crime, such as work camps.

In March 1999, the Supreme Court for the State of Colorado likewise ruled against a father’s claim that a criminal contempt sanction for failure to pay child support violated the state constitution’s prohibition against imprisonment for debt [In re Marriage of Nussbeck, 1999 WL 112188 (Colo., Mar 01, 1999) (NO. 97SC540)]. In this case, the father argued that because his child support arrearage was converted automatically to a judgment against him under Colorado child support law, he was being imprisoned for a standing debt. The court rejected this argument, holding that the father may be imprisoned for failure to pay child support because the contempt order was predicated on his failure to comply with the order, not on the existence of a judgment against him. The fact that the arrearage converted to a judgment against him, the court stated, was immaterial to the contempt order for noncompliance.

At least one federal circuit court of appeals has also ruled that enforcement of a child support order is not akin to slavery [U.S. v. Ballek, 1999 WL 125955, 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 2325 (9th Cir. (Alaska), Mar. 11, 1999)(NO. 97-30326)]. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cited three reasons for distinguishing child support enforcement from involuntary servitude and slavery: 1.) “the relationship between parent and child is much more than the ordinary relationship between debtor and creditor”; 2.) “the state’s strong concern for the welfare of minor children is…manifested by the fact that parental obligations at the dissolution of marriage are not left to private agreement”; and 3.) “the state has an interest in protecting the public [funds] by ensuring that the children not become wards of the state.” Furthermore, the court declined to “interpret the Thirteenth Amendment in a way that would so drastically interfere with one of the most important and sensitive exercises of the police power – ensuring that persons too young to take care of themselves can count on both their parents for material support.” This holding illustrates courts’ reluctance to create a constitutional loophole in child support enforcement.

Q. Did Congress have the constitutional authority to enact the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992?

A. Many parents with delinquent child support obligations have challenged Congressional authority to enact the CSRA in the first place, but none have been successful. At least ten of the 11 federal circuit courts of appeal have heard cases of this kind. The most common claim is that Congress exceeded its Constitutional authority when it enacted the CSRA, violating the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in the process. All ten U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal rejected this argument and further found that passage of the CSRA was a proper exercise of Congress’ broad authority under the Commerce Clause [U.S. v. Bongiorno, 106 F.3d 1027 (1st Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Sage, 92 F.3d 101 (2nd Cir. 1996); U.S. v. Parker, 108 F.3d 28 (3rd Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Johnson, 114 F.3d 476 (4th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Bailey, 115 F.3d 1222 (5th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Black, 125 F.3d 454 (7th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Crawford, 115 F.3d 1397 (8th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Mussari, 95 F.3d 787 (9th Cir. 1996); U.S. v. Hampshire, 95 F.3d 999 (10th Cir. 1996); U.S. v. Williams, 121 F.3d 615 (11th Cir. 1997)].

Q. Can parents be prosecuted under the Child Support Recovery Act for any arrearage that accrued before the federal law was enacted in 1992?

A. A few obligor parents have argued that prosecutions under the CSRA for child support arrearages that accrued prior to enactment of the federal law violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection that a person not be found criminally liable for an action that was not criminal when it was committed. These challenges to an ex post facto application of the CSRA have generated limited success in the courts. In at least five of the cases at the federal court of appeals level, the courts ruled that the prosecutions did not violate the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution [U.S. v. Rose, 153 F.3d 208 (5th Cir. 1998); U.S. v. Black, 125 F.3d 454 (7th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Crawford, 115 F.3d 1397 (8th Cir. 1997); U.S. v. Hampshire, 95 F.3d 999 (10th Cir. 1996); U.S. v. Muench, 153 F.3d 1298 (11th Cir. 1998)] Only the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant that the retroactive application of the CSRA, which subjected the defendant to federal criminal penalties for failure to pay support without differentiating between delinquencies alleged to have occurred before and after the CSRA’s date of enactment, was an unconstitutional ex post facto enforcement of the CSRA [U.S. v. Mussari, 152 F.3d 1156 (9th Cir. 1998). Ex post facto challenges are examined in the context of the circumstances giving rise to the case; therefore, any of these courts, given different circumstances, could rule differently.

Notice: This article is not legal counsel. You will need an attorney and your own wits to supply you with the details of your case.

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