A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘debtor’

Unconscionable Debt Collection Practices of Child Support Enforcement

by Giovanni LoPresti

As an American Citizen, you want to believe that any person can rely upon judicial fairness in a child support proceeding. The outrageous child support law on the books today is designed to treat all child support debtors like a piece of garbage. The wisdom of common sense, respect, judicial fairness, doesn’t exist under the present law. The mastermind of this unconscionable child support enforcement law was created by former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

His Senate Bill modified U.S. 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 law abolished the statute of limitations, created a civil judgment by operation of law on all child support debtors, allows adverse credit reporting, allows a cost of living adjustment every two years, allows for review of child support orders every 3 years, without a showing of substantial change in circumstance, allows for a suspension of drivers licenses, passports, professional licenses, income withholding, tax intercepts, unemployment & workman compensation intercepts, requires citizen to provide their social security numbers, requires employers to utilize new hire directory to see if a child support debt is owed, provides locator services, requires health care coverage to be provided by either or both parents, and requires a debtor citizen to show proof of substantial change in circumstances necessary in request for review outside 3-year cycle.

I would like to focus on the requirement of proof of substantial change in circumstances necessary in requesting a review of child support outside 3-year cycle. The law offers no guidance whatsoever on what constitutes a substantial chance in circumstances. Similarly, the Office of Child Support Enforcement offers no guidance either. With no guidance whatsoever, the law requires payments to be maintained without regard of a citizen’s ability to pay.

In my view, common sense and judicial fairness would dictate that an injury, illness, loss of employment at no fault of a citizen, whether temporary or not, would constitute a substantial change in financial circumstances? Nonetheless, family court judges throughout the United States have consistently rejected a child support debtor’s request for child support reduction under these circumstances. I asked myself over and over again, why are family court judges are so mean and lack understanding and compassion? The answer to this question is going to shock you.

Under the present law, there is a presumption that child support award is correct and a citizen debtor has the ability to pay or find similar work at the same rate of pay, even if you’re not making the same amount of money. Put simply, Congress has provided family court judges physic abilities to determine a citizen earning capabilities. I find this horrifying, but family court judges find no shame in it. I have heard endless horror stories of citizens whose financial circumstances changed, and denied judicial fairness in family court. Unfortunately, this is what will likely happen if your financial circumstances change:

1. Unemployment or workmen compensation garnished at the full amount.
2. Your ability to support yourself doesn’t matter.
3. Fall behind at no fault of your own, driver’s license, professional license, passport
revoked.
4. Your credit will be destroyed.
5. You can expect armed law enforcement showing up and putting you in county jail
for failure to pay child support.
6. Tax refund intercepted.

WHY A CHILD SUPPORT DEBTORS ARE DENIED JUDICIAL FAIRNESS
WHEN FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE

My researched has revealed that most Americans are unaware that our federal government reimburses States 66% of collection cost expended for child support enforcement, see Title IV under the Social Security Act. This doesn’t bother me, but the additional incentive dollars the States receive to treat citizens like garbage does. Under Title IV:

States receive additional incentive dollars for:

a. paternity establishment
b. order establishment
c. collection on current support cases
d. cases paying towards arrears
e. cost effectiveness
f. performance

baby moneySo regardless of a child support debtors changed financial circumstances, a family court judge will routinely deny any request for a reduction or, even a temporary reduction. The unfortunate truth, family court judges armed with physic abilities to determine a citizen’s earning abilities, don’t care. They are the front line in defending the State’s performance incentives. A family court judge will bully a citizen by denying any type of relief sought, suspend your driver’s license, professional license, passport, may incarcerate you for failure to pay child support without a finding of ability to pay, intercept your tax return, garnish your unemployment or workman’s compensation, destroy your credit, and your home State will receive additional incentive dollars from our federal government for doing this to you. This is not only insane, cruel, unconscionable, but definitely creates an appearance of impropriety.

States routinely incarcerate child support debtors, without any determination that they have the ability to pay. Our States actually get paid additional incentive dollars from our federal government for incarnating a child support debtor. The States routinely tell citizens that they are court ordered to pay child support and find them in civil contempt. However, the court order is also a civil judgment by operation of law. Did you ever hear of any situation whereby any judge would allow any person to have a slice a cake and eat it too? For example, if you obtained a civil judgment against me, you can’t suspend my passport, driver’s license, professional license, intercept my tax return, garnish my unemployment or disability check, hold me in contempt, and jail me for failure to pay a debt. Special thanks to our federal government, state government are permitted to have a slice of cake and eat it too.

burning the constitutionThe last time I checked, the 14th Amendment prohibits States from denying any person within its territory the equal protection of the laws. The federal government must do the same, but this is also required by the 5th Amendment Due Process Clause. All citizens should be entitled to judicial fairness in any court proceeding. I urge all citizens to write their elected officials and asked them to repeal this unconscionable law. Alternatively, send your elected official a strong message and vote them out of office. A debtor citizen cannot rely upon judicial fairness in a family court proceeding, if a State has a financial interest in maintaining additional incentives dollars.

USA Law & the Illegal Debtors Prison

by E.J. Manning

indigent in AmericaIt’s not advertised as a crime to be poor, but it can land you behind bars when you also are behind on your child-support payments. Thousands of so-called “deadbeat” parents are jailed each year in the United States after failing to pay court-ordered child support. It sounds like a bad plot twist from a Charles Dickens novel. This unconstitutional and illegal activity is justified by the system though. It is claimed that the vast majority of non-custodial parents are jailed for deliberately withholding or hiding money out of spite or a feeling that they’ve been unfairly gouged by the courts. The truth is that parents are wrongly being locked away without any regard for their ability to pay, even without legal representation.

A 39-year-old Iraqi war veteran found himself in that situation in November, when a judge in Floyd County, Georgia, sent him to jail for violating a court order to pay child support. He was stunned when the judge rebuffed his argument that he had made regular payments for more than a decade before losing his job in July 2009 and had recently resumed working. “I felt that with my payment history and that I had just started working, maybe I would be able to convince the judge to give me another month and a half to start making the payments again… but that didn’t sit too well with him because he went ahead and decided to lock me up.” Miller spent three months in jail before being released, one of six plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in March that seeks to force the state of Georgia to provide lawyers for poor non-custodial parents facing the loss of their freedom for failing to pay child support.

Languishing in jail for weeks, months, and sometimes over a year, these parents share one trait besides their poverty. They went to jail without ever talking to an attorney, according to the lawsuit filed by the Southern Center of Human Rights in Atlanta. While jailing non-paying parents does lead to payment in many cases, critics say that it unfairly penalizes poor and unemployed parents who have no ability to pay, even though federal law stipulates that they must have “willfully” violated a court order before being incarcerated. They rightly compare the plight of such parents to the poor people consigned to infamous “debtors’ prisons” before such institutions were outlawed in the early 1800s.

The threat of jailing delinquent parents is intended to coerce them to pay, but in rare cases it can have tragic results. In June, a New Hampshire father and military veteran, Thomas Ball, died after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself ablaze in front of the Cheshire County Court House. In a long, rambling letter to the local Sentinel newspaper, the 58-year-old Ball stated that he did so to focus attention on what he considered unfair domestic violence laws and because he expected to be jailed at an upcoming hearing on his failure to pay up to $3,000 in delinquent child support, even though he had been out of work for two years.

What the legal loophole? The ability of judges to jail parents without a trial is possible because failure to pay child support is usually handled as a civil matter, meaning that the non-custodial parent is found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to appear at a hearing. As a result, he or she is not entitled to some constitutional protections that criminal defendants receive, including the presumption of innocence. States have a great deal of leeway in family law, which includes child support cases.

The child support program currently serves approximately 17 million U.S. children, or nearly a quarter of the nation’s minors. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that poor parents are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer when facing jail for non-payment of child support. The justices said that states should use “substantial procedural safeguards” to ensure that those who have no means to pay are not locked up. Accordingly, poor parents are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer when facing jail for non-payment of child support. The fact remains that the Supreme Court ruling provides very weak protections for poor parents and will not solve the problem of wrongful incarceration of poor parents. The fact remains that even in states where the non-custodial parents do have the right to a lawyer, those without the financial resources to meet their child-support obligations frequently land in jail anyway.

A 2009 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., found that only half of the child support debtors in California prisons had reported income in the two preceding years. The median net income of the rest of the non-custodial parents was a mere $2,881, well below the U.S. poverty level. Courts often order poor parents to pay too much for child support in the first place, increasing the likelihood that they will fall behind on payments. The percentage of child support that can be removed from a paycheck depends on the laws of the state regarding garnishment.

No one can say how many parents are jailed each year for failing to pay child support, because states typically do not track such cases. The U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics suggest that approximately 10,000 parents were jailed in 2002 for non-payment of child support which represents 1.7 percent of the overall U.S. jail population. That number is undoubtedly up since the U.S. economic meltdown. After the meltdown in October 2008, the child support enforcement program registered a decrease in child support collection for the first time ever. Payments collected from unemployment insurance benefits nearly tripled and the number of cases in which children were receiving public assistance also rose.

Military veterans are especially at risk as they struggle to find work when they leave the armed services. One veteran noted that he fell behind on child support for his 4-year-old daughter after he left the service and couldn’t find work. “I was arrested and I went to jail and they asked me all sorts of questions. I was never told I was under arrest and I was never read my rights. So I did not know what rights I had. Of course, I’ve seen all these movies, but half that isn’t true.” Not having a lawyer in a civil contempt hearing increases the likelihood that the parent will be jailed, even if he or she is not guilty of “willfully” defying the court’s order, say critics of the policy.

In the absence of counsel the opportunity to raise the defense is often missed, and large numbers of indigent parents are wrongfully imprisoned for failure to meet child support obligations every year. The deck is further stacked against the delinquent parent because the state often acts as the plaintiff, seeking to recover the cost of providing public assistance to the child. The state has every benefit to do because they receive money from the Federal Government for collecting child support.

Every state has laws that mandate the illegality of debtors prisons. The state is morally required to give impoverished people a way out. The law says that you can only put non-custodial parents in jail if they have money and won’t pay. That simply isn’t the case and reality proves it.

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