And good luck making those payments once you’ve lost your job or license. The Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina has focused belated attention on the “deadbeat-dad” rules crafted variously to please budget hawks, women’s rights advocates, and conservatives, which in practice can pile hopelessly large obligations on low-earning fathers, enforced in some states not only by jailing but also by deprivation of drivers’ and occupational licenses instrumental in earning a living. I’ve got more at Cato at Liberty, following up on New York Times coverage.
“In South Carolina, at least one in eight people in jail are there on contempt-of-court charges related to late or unpaid child-support orders.” [Marshall Project; Christopher Mathias/Huffington Post] For decades elected officials of right and left alike have backed punitive handling of “deadbeat dads,” with results that include repeated jail terms levied over arrears unlikely ever to be paid, as well as the denial of drivers’ licenses and other basics of participation in the aboveground economy. Earlier on child support issues.
Some writings from my Cato Institute colleagues on the Walter Scott case: Tim Lynch, Jonathan Blanks, Matthew Feeney. And a New York Times “Room for Debate” roundtable on police use of deadly force featuring Walter Katz, Prof. Seth Stoughton and others.
Once the Deadbeat Dad machinery of the state is clanking along, actual innocence isn’t enough to excuse you, Carnell Alexander of Detroit says he has discovered to his sorrow. [WXYZ] Also, from last year, another Detroit case: “Father says he’s still paying child support for 3-year-old son who died 25 years ago”
Following up on the mention of the issue earlier this month, “Virginia is on the verge of substantially increasing child-support obligations for the first time since 1988. But the proposed increase, which recently passed a legislative committee as a bill called HB 933, would result in excessive obligations for many parents, more unpaid child support and more jailings for nonpayment at taxpayer expense. Some noncustodial parents already pay more than 50 percent of their income in child support.” [Hans Bader, Richmond Times-Dispatch]
In an email, Bader adds:
Often, laws contain provisions that seem to be for the benefit of lawyers rather than the people.
Such is the case for one provision in the child-support bill HB 933, which will result in divorced parents fighting each other over pennies.
Right now, the custodial parent pays the first $250 annually in unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, rather than each co-payment and out of-pocket expense being divided up based on the parents’ share of combined income. But this $250 ceiling will be reduced to zero under the bill HB 933, which may result in angry parents fighting each other over as little as $10 (in some cases, with the assistance of a lawyer, in many other cases, without any lawyer at all), in order to try to get their ex jailed for contempt for not paying their share of the $10.
Certified mediator Diane Poljacik writes in an email (excerpted):
One of the reasons the $250.00 ceiling on health, dental and vision costs was put in place is said to be due in part to a number of frivolous show cause failure to comply motions being filed by the custodial parent against the noncustodial parent for not immediately reimbursing the other parent a $10.00 (or some other ridiculously low figure) co-pay (so called “nickel and diming” the other parent). This happens more often in cases where parents are constantly at war with each other. Removal of this provision could end up playing right into this by enabling warring parents to use this as just another way of trying to get the other parent jailed for contempt. …
If this provision is removed and show cause motions increase, it could potentially create a further burden for court dockets that are already overburdened. … No data has been presented thus far that states the judges are asking for this to be removed.
- Faking a Sept. 11 injury would seem basically as disgraceful as faking a war injury, no? [NY Post, Legal Ethics Forum; earlier on Ground Zero compensation here, here, here, here, here (2008 fraud), here, etc. ]
- “Illegal Aliens May Get License to Practice Law in California” [Volokh, earlier] A curious companion headline from only three and a half years ago, and also from California: “Government seeks forfeiture, managers’ prison time for hiring illegal aliens”
- A look back at the Keller Satanic-ritual-abuse case from Texas [Slate]
- Piacentile v. Amgen case “offers a little window into the ugly side of the qui tam business” [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law; related from same blog on case of U.S. ex rel. Watson v. King-Vassel, here and here]
- “Father and Daughter Sentenced in $1.5 Million Insurance Fraud Case” [San Diego D.A.]
- Michael McConnell in the Yale Law Journal on religious freedom;
- Child support law madness, Virginia division [Hans Bader]
Yanking drivers’ and professional licenses from dads who fall behind on their payments? David Henderson on a widespread government policy that makes little sense as a way of maximizing the payment rate for court-ordered obligations, somewhat more sense if seen as a vehicle for sentimental vengefulness. [EconLog]
“A Kansas district court heard arguments [last] Friday in the case of a man who is being sued for thousands of dollars in child support by the state after donating his sperm to a same-sex couple he found through a Craigslist ad.” By law artificial insemination in Kansas requires a doctor’s supervision, but mechanic William Marotta instead relied on a private contract with the women who wanted his services, which the state argues cannot excuse him from parental responsibility. [NBC News]
The Miami Herald profiles a child support lawyer who says her clients regularly fall victim to computer mistakes:
A lot of [Chantal] Suttle’s time representing dads is spent cleaning up errors on behalf of the state, which can take away a dad’s driver’s license or passport, or seize his bank account, for supposed non-payment. And it can be done without ever even going to court — the state lets fathers know with just a letter in the mail.
“I have about six clients right now who have paid on time and perfectly for over a decade, and still their driver’s license has been suspended and/or their bank account has been seized,” she said.