The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-26-2011, 06:36 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
How often do deadbeat dads go to jail?

My knowledge on the subject is limited to applicable episodes of Judge Judy .

Do all states send you to jail if you fail to pay child support under certain circumstances.... or do some states never do that?

How bad does it have to get?

Are there other circumstances under which debtors might go to jail? Are there laws that forbade debtors' prisons or did we just evolve away from that?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 01-26-2011, 07:25 AM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
All states are required to have child support enforcement procedures in place in order to get federal money. That being said, the stringency of enforcement varies. If you're a deadbeat dad, you're better off in Florida than Pennsylvania, for example.

As far as the legal standard, in Pennsylvania, contempt proceedings are (usually) automatically generated by the Commonwealth after 60 days of nonpayment. So, there's a hearing scheduled, and if you don't show up, the Sheriff comes and gets you. At the hearing, you are found in contempt if the contempt was "wilful", that is, if you intentionally did not pay and you had the ability to do so.

If you are found in contempt, the hearing officer or judge will set "purge conditions". If you fulfill these conditions you are "purged" of contempt. If not, you face further sanctions at a contempt review hearing.

It depends on the judge or hearing officer, but if you've been found in contempt and haven't purged, or have been found in contempt more than once, you could be looking at jail.

Now, we don't have "debtor's prisons". Child support delinquency, being civil, rather than criminal contempt, must allow for the prisoner to hold the key to the jail cell, so to speak. That is to say, the purge conditions for contempt must be such that the contemnor (guy in contempt) can meet them. So, for example, a purge condition might be "6 months in county jail or payment of $1,000 towards arrears, whichever comes first, then wage-attachable employment, regular monthly payments, etc."

Another remedy, for the guy who is too good for employment, is sentencing him to work-release, where he's confined except that he can leave to look for a job, and is released once he's found one. Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of backlog for these facilities, at least in PA.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-26-2011, 07:47 AM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: San Juan, PR
Posts: 10,559
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beniamino View Post
Now, we don't have "debtor's prisons". Child support delinquency, being civil, rather than criminal contempt
This is important. Across the USA, "debtor's prison" has been eliminated by statute or state constitution for quite some time now. Legally, the incarceration for failure to pay child support is for contempt, that is, for not complying with the court order.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-26-2011, 10:06 AM
NinetyWt NinetyWt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
If you're looking for a real statistic, bear in mind that not all non-paying parents are reported. I don't know if you could account for the ones not in the system.

(Neither my kids' father nor my stepkids' mother paid their CS, but neither were reported or taken to court over it.)
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-26-2011, 11:04 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by JRDelirious View Post
This is important. Across the USA, "debtor's prison" has been eliminated by statute or state constitution for quite some time now. Legally, the incarceration for failure to pay child support is for contempt, that is, for not complying with the court order.
So if the deadbeat complies with everything that is ordered other than paying his debt he won't possibly be incarcerated?
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-26-2011, 11:37 AM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
So if the deadbeat complies with everything that is ordered other than paying his debt he won't possibly be incarcerated?
Paying the monthly child support amount is generally paragraph 1 of your Contempt Order's purge conditions. If you genuinely have no income and no means of paying, you should file a petition to modify your child support order. You can't modify a child support order in a contempt proceeding.

Notwithstanding, the court can't enter an order with which you have no means of complying. So, if you can prove to the court that you cannot pay (including selling everything you own to do so), your order might be "suspended", but once a dime falls into your hands, it (ideally) kicks in again.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-26-2011, 05:54 PM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beniamino View Post
Notwithstanding, the court can't enter an order with which you have no means of complying. So, if you can prove to the court that you cannot pay (including selling everything you own to do so), your order might be "suspended", but once a dime falls into your hands, it (ideally) kicks in again.
Yeah, but you're not really addressing the concept of "willful under/unemployment"

Save a recognized disability, it is going to be difficult to demonstrate that you have no means of complying with the order to pay even a (relatively) paltry sum.

Usually, the court order requires you to pay a statutory minimum (i.e. the amount as if you were working at min. wage) and if you are unable to do so, you will go to court, state as much, and then you usually have to periodically check in and state, either by affidavit or in person, that you have been unsuccessful at obtaining employment.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-26-2011, 09:27 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
I used to lock up deadbeats at pretty much every court date back when I did child support enforcement for the state. I worked a circuit of multiple counties, often before the same judge. All child support cases in a particular county would be set on the same day, usually a motion day. I'd fill the courtroom with defendants. Judge would let me pick any of my cases to go first, and I'd always pick the worst deadbeat of the lot. We'd have a short trial, he'd be found to be in willful, deliberate, and contumacious contempt, and the bailiff would shackle the guy on the spot and lead him away. The judge would then announce that he'd be leaving the bench to deal with other matters, and encourage the remaining defendants to see if maybe they could work something out with Mr. Oakminster, otherwise he'd be back to hear the next case in a few minutes.

Heh. Talk about shaking the money tree. Had guys falling over themselves to pay up. Especially in the summer time. It's mighty hot in the deep South, and some rural jails are not air conditioned.....

Last edited by Oakminster; 01-26-2011 at 09:28 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-26-2011, 09:32 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
In raw numbers they go all the time, but what percentage of deadbeat dads ever end up in prison? Paradoxically I'd think the more stable deadbeat dads (aka the ones who could pay but just try to get out of it) would be more likely to end up in that situation. The real dregs of society who may have serious substance abuse problems will often live so far off the grid and move around so much that your average civil servant won't have the means or time to chase all of them down.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-27-2011, 06:15 AM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
Save a recognized disability, it is going to be difficult to demonstrate that you have no means of complying with the order to pay even a (relatively) paltry sum.

Usually, the court order requires you to pay a statutory minimum (i.e. the amount as if you were working at min. wage) and if you are unable to do so, you will go to court, state as much, and then you usually have to periodically check in and state, either by affidavit or in person, that you have been unsuccessful at obtaining employment.
This is true. In PA, a court will assign you an "earning capacity" equal to your net monthly income at full-time minimum wage. We also have an "employment specialist" to whom you might be sent to help you look for work and monitor your progress. It's a good idea, but I wouldn't get too attached to it, as funding is likely to become scarce with the new gubernatorial administration.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-27-2011, 06:22 AM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
I used to lock up deadbeats at pretty much every court date back when I did child support enforcement for the state. I worked a circuit of multiple counties, often before the same judge. All child support cases in a particular county would be set on the same day, usually a motion day. I'd fill the courtroom with defendants. Judge would let me pick any of my cases to go first, and I'd always pick the worst deadbeat of the lot. We'd have a short trial, he'd be found to be in willful, deliberate, and contumacious contempt, and the bailiff would shackle the guy on the spot and lead him away. The judge would then announce that he'd be leaving the bench to deal with other matters, and encourage the remaining defendants to see if maybe they could work something out with Mr. Oakminster, otherwise he'd be back to hear the next case in a few minutes.

Heh. Talk about shaking the money tree. Had guys falling over themselves to pay up. Especially in the summer time. It's mighty hot in the deep South, and some rural jails are not air conditioned.....
I love this! I'll pass that along to the county solicitors here; they'd get a chuckle out of it. In the Family Division Courthouse here, we have support contempts pretty much every Friday, and there's never more than a handful of cases at once, so you lose that "deterrent" effect. But what we do have is the holding cell clear at the other end of the building, so the defendants have to be paraded all the way across the floor in their orange jumpsuits and ankle and wrist shackles, past all the other support defendants who happen to be there awaiting their establishment/modification hearings. The message: "This could be you".
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-27-2011, 06:37 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Just to be clear, I'm not sympathetic with deadbeat parents whether they can pay or not...... they lied in their bed; they need to help make it.

Can other kinds of debtors be ordered to do things and be sent to jail if they don't comply?
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-27-2011, 06:43 AM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 8,750
Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Just to be clear, I'm not sympathetic with deadbeat parents whether they can pay or not...... they lied in their bed; they need to help make it.

Can other kinds of debtors be ordered to do things and be sent to jail if they don't comply?
"Debtor" implies that a person can't pay: if I understand what has been said here, you won't go to jail if you don't have the funds, only if you are able to pay and refuse. It's the willful refusal to follow a court order that gets you sent to jail, just like you can get sent to jail for willfully cussing in court when the judge tells you not to.

ETA: You can also go to jail for contempt for refusing to pay fines, so that is another example of how not paying can land you in jail.

Last edited by Manda JO; 01-27-2011 at 06:44 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-27-2011, 08:58 AM
LouisB LouisB is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Seminole, FL
Posts: 8,230
Quote:
Paying the monthly child support amount is generally paragraph 1 of your Contempt Order's purge conditions. If you genuinely have no income and no means of paying, you should file a petition to modify your child support order. You can't modify a child support order in a contempt proceeding.
If a person genuinely has no income, how does that person hire an attorney to file a petition to modify support? Especially if the person with no income no longer resides in the state in which the order was originally ordered? Paying child support is an obligation that should be met but when it cannot be met, the deck is heavily stacked against the debtor.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-27-2011, 09:19 AM
MissTake MissTake is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Here
Posts: 3,793
Civil contempt is pretty much the last action we can take in the attempt to collect ordered support. In my county, we're being selective on who we file civil contempt against. It used to be "Not paying? File!". That ended up being a waste of court time and money. If an obligor has the ability to pay, but chooses not to, we file. Due to caseload levels and other factors it can easily be a year without payments before an obligor is in court. If I know the obligor doesn't have the means to pay, I push him/her to get their order modified. If they choose not to, I review with an attorney. Sometimes they want to move forward with civil contempt just to get the obligor into court to review for a more equitable order. I have more than a few cases that are basically gathering dust, as we will never be able to collect, never should have been ordered to pay, and bringing them into court is a waste of everyone's time.

Of the cases I bring into court, jail time is ordered, often not served. The court gives the obligor jail time (between 90 - 180 days), but it's always stayed with certain conditions. Stays can be monetary or can be actions. I have seen more and more orders with stays of attending job searching workshops or obtain education. I have no problems with that. Sometimes money isn't the goal, helping the obligor get on his/her feet again ends up being more productive.

We do have criminal contempt as an option if civil contempt doesn't work. Criminal contempt is very rare, and not handled in family court.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-27-2011, 09:22 AM
Silver Fire Silver Fire is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by LouisB View Post
If a person genuinely has no income, how does that person hire an attorney to file a petition to modify support?
Legal Aid programs. Or filing the paperwork themselves. Court websites make it available and (at least in my state) it's all helpfully arranged into packets, because there are often multiple forms for a single petition, and with dumbed-down instructions so you don't miss anything. One IFP (or similar; it tells the court you're poor and can't afford filing fees) later and you've just asked for reduced child support without spending more than just a little time on it. No money needed.

Child support modification paperwork and the subsequent hearing isn't so difficult that one would absolutely require an attorney for it, IMO.

Last edited by Silver Fire; 01-27-2011 at 09:22 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-27-2011, 09:36 AM
NinetyWt NinetyWt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
It was my understanding that Legal Aid didn't do divorce-related stuff. Am I wrong about that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Fire View Post
Child support modification paperwork and the subsequent hearing isn't so difficult that one would absolutely require an attorney for it, IMO.
I don't think every state has it set up like that. A person in our state would be at a severe disadvantage.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-27-2011, 10:33 AM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt View Post
It was my understanding that Legal Aid didn't do divorce-related stuff. Am I wrong about that?
Some do, some don't. There are agencies, public and private, that solicit lawyers for pro bono domestic work. Since protection of children is public policy in PA, the county solicitor's office represents all child support plaintiffs gratis. The defendants are on their own, but there's always pro se motions court.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt View Post
I don't think every state has it set up like that. A person in our state would be at a severe disadvantage.
In Pittsburgh, you take your driver's license, Social Security Card, and health insurance card to the Allegheny Building, and a domestic relations officer fills out the paperwork for you. All you do is sign the modification petition and show up with your hearing. The notice for the hearing tells you everything you need to bring (pay stubs, tax returns, budget sheet, etc.). Unless it's a "complex" hearing (e.g. one party owns a business, or works "under the table"), the income determination and Guidelines calculation is pretty much garbage-in / garbage-out.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-27-2011, 11:13 AM
EristicKallistic EristicKallistic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Just to be clear, I'm not sympathetic with deadbeat parents whether they can pay or not...... they lied in their bed; they need to help make it.

Can other kinds of debtors be ordered to do things and be sent to jail if they don't comply?
Sure.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-27-2011, 11:19 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,562
They don't go to jail nearly enough, apparently. A headline in the Oregonian a few days ago said that there is over a billion dollars in unpaid support payments here. There's just not enough staff, and no money to update the system to track the deadbeats.

Last edited by Chefguy; 01-27-2011 at 11:19 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-27-2011, 01:17 PM
Silver Fire Silver Fire is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt View Post
It was my understanding that Legal Aid didn't do divorce-related stuff. Am I wrong about that?
Where I'm at, Legal Aid does assist with at least the child support/custody aspect of things (I was never married, so not sure about divorce). I know because I didn't qualify for their services in the beginning (and, towards the end when I would have qualified, the attorney I consulted with actually said I didn't need their services) which is also why I know how the court website in this state is set up. And, here anyway, I did contact some of those agencies mentioned by Ben above and not one of them would TOUCH a custody case, basically because they have such great potential of being very drawn out and arduous.

Quote:
I don't think every state has it set up like that. A person in our state would be at a severe disadvantage.
That might be true even in a state like mine but if it's a choice between just plain not paying and at least attempting to get the mod, I think people should at least try. Maybe not the best idea, but better to try that than get your license pulled, wind up in jail, and whatever other ways various places deal with noncompliance.

I had a lawyer for the first part of our custody thing and then stopped being able to afford him. I did child support mods, parenting time assistance (had the father put on supervised visits), etc. without him. It's scary to be a Not Lawyer up against an actual lawyer when you're in front of a judge but, for me, it was infinitely better than doing nothing at all. That's all I'm saying. It may not be optimal, but it's better than doing nothing at all.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 01-27-2011, 02:13 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt View Post
It was my understanding that Legal Aid didn't do divorce-related stuff. Am I wrong about that?


Every such program sets their own priorities. Some do handle domestic cases, others focus on housing, or various other aspects of poverty law.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 01-29-2011, 05:53 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by EristicKallistic View Post
Interesting article.... moral of the story: don't ignore the court system.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 01-29-2011, 10:58 AM
NinetyWt NinetyWt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
Thanks for the education, y'all. I think our state is too poor to offer any of these services, but it's nice to know that some states do.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 01-30-2011, 12:18 PM
DHMO DHMO is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
I find it odd that the discussion has focused exclusively on the "deadbeat," usually the father, who does not pay court-ordered child support. There is another party to the case, who also has a court order with which they are compelled to comply: the Mother must make the child or children available for court-ordered visitation. How many times has the mother been held in contempt for intentionally, and maliciously, violating the visitation order and been thrown in jail? I have not done the research, but I would be surprised if it happens at all, or, at most a tiny fraction of the times fathers have been jailed for contempt for not paying support. Don't get me wrong: if you have caused a child to be born, you have an obligation to ensure that child's support. I am only referring to the injustice of the court system in not applying the same standard of enforcement to both cases of willful disregard of lawful court orders.

It is also unfair to fathers that, if you had a good-paying job at the time the support order was entered, and, through no fault of your own (layoffs, RIF, etc.) are no longer earning the same as you were then, the amount of the support payment does not go down. You are still obligated to pay according to your earning potential, whether or not the economy has employment at that salary available. And you will be held in contept if you do not.

On the other hand, if you are the mother, and just don't like your ex, you may cause the child(ren) to simply not "be there" when the court-ordered visitation is supposed to happen, and all the father can do is file a motion in court, at his own expense, and, when he wins, he has a court order compelling the mother to comply with the original order compelling her to make the child(ren) available at a specified time and place. And if she continues to disregard the lawful court order, why, he has the right, again at his own expense, to take her back before the judge to repeat the scenario ad nauseum.

At no time are sanctions even contemplated whereby the mother would lose her freedom for being in contempt of a lawful court order.

How many times have the fathers in these cases simply given up on "the System" and left to start a new life? Only now, they are considered "Deadbeats," and the target of scorn and shame for "abandoning" their children.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 01-30-2011, 01:07 PM
Dana Scully Dana Scully is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Not often enoough.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 01-30-2011, 02:18 PM
Loach Loach is online now
The Central Scrutinizer
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Central NJ
Posts: 17,756
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dana Scully View Post
Not often enoough.
Too often. Putting someone in jail, taking away their licenses and other punitive measures may help with ones feelings for revenge but does nothing but hinder the ability to earn and pay.

The cases I usually deal with a warant is issued and when the person is arrested they go off to county jail with no bail. At some point in the near future the subject is seen by a superior court judge. At that time he is usually given a chance to set up payments and is released. Hard to make payments from jail.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 01-30-2011, 03:40 PM
Declan Declan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
I'm curious if anyone has ever thought to have the state pay out the actual money to the support reciever.

The way I think it through is that a divorce happens and the court awards the child support by what ever means it currently does, nothing changes there.

So who ever is paying child support, automatically gets their paycheck garnished by the state, and then the state would payout the support via one of its current programs.

Was this ever tried , or simply never even looked at.

Declan
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 01-30-2011, 06:56 PM
NinetyWt NinetyWt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
I think that's a method most states use, Declan.

Quote:
Child Support Collections
These days, income withholding is the preferred method of child support collection in most states. This method allows the non-custodial parent’s employer to automatically deduct child support payments from his or her paycheck just as income taxes are deducted. These funds are then sent directly to the state’s child support collections agency for disbursement to the custodial parent.
From here.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 01-30-2011, 07:20 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,770
Quote:
Originally Posted by Declan View Post
I'm curious if anyone has ever thought to have the state pay out the actual money to the support reciever.
Sort of, with Alberta's Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 01-30-2011, 08:36 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMO View Post
I find it odd that the discussion has focused exclusively on the "deadbeat," usually the father, who does not pay court-ordered child support. There is another party to the case, who also has a court order with which they are compelled to comply: the Mother must make the child or children available for court-ordered visitation. How many times has the mother been held in contempt for intentionally, and maliciously, violating the visitation order and been thrown in jail? I have not done the research, but I would be surprised if it happens at all, or, at most a tiny fraction of the times fathers have been jailed for contempt for not paying support. Don't get me wrong: if you have caused a child to be born, you have an obligation to ensure that child's support. I am only referring to the injustice of the court system in not applying the same standard of enforcement to both cases of willful disregard of lawful court orders.

It is also unfair to fathers that, if you had a good-paying job at the time the support order was entered, and, through no fault of your own (layoffs, RIF, etc.) are no longer earning the same as you were then, the amount of the support payment does not go down. You are still obligated to pay according to your earning potential, whether or not the economy has employment at that salary available. And you will be held in contept if you do not.

On the other hand, if you are the mother, and just don't like your ex, you may cause the child(ren) to simply not "be there" when the court-ordered visitation is supposed to happen, and all the father can do is file a motion in court, at his own expense, and, when he wins, he has a court order compelling the mother to comply with the original order compelling her to make the child(ren) available at a specified time and place. And if she continues to disregard the lawful court order, why, he has the right, again at his own expense, to take her back before the judge to repeat the scenario ad nauseum.

At no time are sanctions even contemplated whereby the mother would lose her freedom for being in contempt of a lawful court order.

How many times have the fathers in these cases simply given up on "the System" and left to start a new life? Only now, they are considered "Deadbeats," and the target of scorn and shame for "abandoning" their children.
+1

No, +1000
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 01-30-2011, 08:44 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by NinetyWt View Post
Thanks for the education, y'all. I think our state is too poor to offer any of these services, but it's nice to know that some states do.
Your state most definitely offers these services...

MS Legal Services


The funds come mainly from

Legal Services Corporation

Also, every state has a child support enforcement program. Often run through the human services department, sometimes through the Attorney General's office or otherwise.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 01-30-2011, 08:52 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by raindog View Post
+1

No, +1000
I have personally tried women for contempt on failure to pay child support, and they went to jail same as the men.

I have also seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation. In my experience, which includes 15 years of practicing family law in a very Red state, the days of men getting routinely screwed in favor of women in custody/support cases are over. It's a level playing field now. Men are fighting for, and winning, custody more often than ever before. The amount of support can be, and is, when properly requested, reduced when an unavoidable reduction in income on the part of the payor has occurred.

Last edited by Oakminster; 01-30-2011 at 08:52 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 01-30-2011, 09:46 PM
simster simster is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 7,238
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
I have personally tried women for contempt on failure to pay child support, and they went to jail same as the men.

I have also seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation. In my experience, which includes 15 years of practicing family law in a very Red state, the days of men getting routinely screwed in favor of women in custody/support cases are over. It's a level playing field now. Men are fighting for, and winning, custody more often than ever before. The amount of support can be, and is, when properly requested, reduced when an unavoidable reduction in income on the part of the payor has occurred.
I'm glad to hear that - and while I don't doubt you in the least - its going to take along time for the other perception to go away.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 01-30-2011, 10:16 PM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Declan View Post
I'm curious if anyone has ever thought to have the state pay out the actual money to the support reciever.
As mentioned, states already do that, but it doesn't always help enforce payment. In my case, my daughter's mother pays through the state by having it automatically deducted and put directly into my bank account. It's much simpler than mailing me a check every week. However, I've only gotten a couple of payments over three years. They're only there to make payments easy, enforcement has to be done through the court.

Before anyone asks...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Too often. Putting someone in jail, taking away their licenses and other punitive measures may help with ones feelings for revenge but does nothing but hinder the ability to earn and pay.
... that's my opinion. I could take her to court, and I may someday, but right now it wouldn't accomplish anything except making her life miserable.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 01-30-2011, 10:42 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
I have personally tried women for contempt on failure to pay child support, and they went to jail same as the men.

I have also seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation. In my experience, which includes 15 years of practicing family law in a very Red state, the days of men getting routinely screwed in favor of women in custody/support cases are over. It's a level playing field now. Men are fighting for, and winning, custody more often than ever before. The amount of support can be, and is, when properly requested, reduced when an unavoidable reduction in income on the part of the payor has occurred.
I'm glad the field is leveling, but my from my perspective (which includes my anecdotal experience, feedback from men who have been through the 'system', and from lawyers who do DR work) the field no is where near level yet. Not even close.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 01-30-2011, 11:01 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
ETA
I cannot and do not have an impartial POV. That said, my experience----and that of more than a few friends-----is that an angry/embittered ex-wife is quite capable of conveniently not having the kids available for visitation. I know that severe cases warrant legal action, but theres plenty of ex-wives who use visitation as punishment and as a weapon. Plenty. From my experience, the courts have little interest in getting in the middle of every squabble, and act of garden variety idiocy. That gives ex-wives all kinds of latitude to continue all kinds of violations. DHMO's 3rd paragraph is exactly the way it plays out IME. Exactly.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 01-30-2011, 11:17 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
ETAł
IME, the field appears to be level on dead beat dads and dead beat moms. I routinely hear of tax returns being intercepted and contempt hearings for back child support.

What doesn't seem level to me is the granting of custody in the first place. In every situation I'm aware of, the man had to go out of his way to prove/establish his record of involvement. My lawyer (who is a woman, btw) said that a man is "guilty until proven innocent" as far custody is concerned, and that if things were even close, the woman will win custody nearly 100% of the time.

In my experience, I was required to establish things that were simply taken for granted as far my ex-wife was concerned. The other thing I find as inequitable is the standard order for visitation. Every other weekend, and Wednesday for dinner-----something like parts of 6 days in each 30 day period----is much less than fair to the man, and unfair to the kids.
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 01-30-2011, 11:33 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by raindog
That said, my experience----and that of more than a few friends-----is that an angry/embittered ex-wife is quite capable of conveniently not having the kids available for visitation. I know that severe cases warrant legal action, but theres plenty of ex-wives who use visitation as punishment and as a weapon. Plenty. From my experience, the courts have little interest in getting in the middle of every squabble, and act of garden variety idiocy. That gives ex-wives all kinds of latitude to continue all kinds of violations.
While I don't doubt that such things often happen, note that there are also lots of ex-husbands who don't comply with their court obligations either (cf. Chefguy's comment about the huge backlog of unpaid child support in Oregon, for instance).

So I think Oakminster's comment about having "a level playing field now" should probably be interpreted to mean not that women never get away with disregarding their family-court-imposed obligations, but merely that nowadays they're not significantly more likely to get away with it in court decisions than men are.

I quite agree that we shouldn't think of "deadbeating" or other forms of shafting kids and non-custodial parents as behavior that only fathers are guilty of. However, there are still an awful lot of fathers out there guilty of such behavior. Naturally, variations in individual experience plus confirmation bias are going to produce very different opinions in different individuals about where the bulk of the problem lies.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 01-30-2011, 11:43 PM
NinetyWt NinetyWt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
Your state most definitely offers these services...
I'm out of date, then.

Quote:
Also, every state has a child support enforcement program.
That part I *did* know.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 01-30-2011, 11:53 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
While I don't doubt that such things often happen, note that there are also lots of ex-husbands who don't comply with their court obligations either (cf. Chefguy's comment about the huge backlog of unpaid child support in Oregon, for instance).

So I think Oakminster's comment about having "a level playing field now" should probably be interpreted to mean not that women never get away with disregarding their family-court-imposed obligations, but merely that nowadays they're not significantly more likely to get away with it in court decisions than men are.

I quite agree that we shouldn't think of "deadbeating" or other forms of shafting kids and non-custodial parents as behavior that only fathers are guilty of. However, there are still an awful lot of fathers out there guilty of such behavior. Naturally, variations in individual experience plus confirmation bias are going to produce very different opinions in different individuals about where the bulk of the problem lies.
I agree.

Strangely enough, that same lawyer said that------in her experience------women were generally better parents. In her experience, they were more patient, better nurturers, better listeners, and better educators. Particularly in the immediate aftermath of a divorce they were better able to get down to the business of parenting.

A disappointing amount of men move away, or become detached to their kids because they get involved with other things after the family splits up. In a lot of respects the courts are simply responding to what we already know intuitively: woman are most often better parents.

What upsets many men is that there is a significant amount of men who are great parents and who have every intention of being active in their kid's lives but who are nonetheless painted with the same brush the detached man is painted with.

Those men can succeed (for the benefit of themselves and their kids) with great effort; the effort required to overcome the anger/bitterness of many ex-wives, and a court system that treats them as second class citizens.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 01-31-2011, 01:10 AM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by raindog View Post
What upsets many men is that there is a significant amount of men who are great parents and who have every intention of being active in their kid's lives but who are nonetheless painted with the same brush the detached man is painted with.
That happened to me. One example, mom filed with CSE in a different county the day after out first temporary court order so I called to tell them that CS was supposed to be decided at our next hearing in 6 weeks and should I even bother filling out the paperwork they demanded when CSE could take months? "Well the estranged parent has to pay child support, you can't get out of it." Me: "facepalm."

That's just one example. While the two judges we had were cool, I got nothing but the deatbeat dad attitude from everyone and no help unless I paid for it, while I was the one who started the case and was fighting to try and be dad. And boy, someday I'll have to tell my story, it's a crazy one.

I understand the attitude though. The people you have to deal with spend 99% of their time dealing with deadbeat dads. Anytime I got the attitude and tried to bring up the fact that I wasn't, it felt like I was trying to brag about what a great guy I was, so it was easier to just accept the attitude. (I'm certainly not great, just normal in a sea of deadbeat jerks)

To be honest, there's still a big difference between being a single dad and mom because it's not the norm. I've always thought, half seriously, that the one thing that will help equalize the attitude is not that more guys do the right thing, but that more moms become deadbeats themselves.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 01-31-2011, 06:12 AM
DHMO DHMO is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
I have personally tried women for contempt on failure to pay child support, and they went to jail same as the men.

I have also seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation. In my experience, which includes 15 years of practicing family law in a very Red state, the days of men getting routinely screwed in favor of women in custody/support cases are over. It's a level playing field now. Men are fighting for, and winning, custody more often than ever before. The amount of support can be, and is, when properly requested, reduced when an unavoidable reduction in income on the part of the payor has occurred.
Admittedly, my experience with Family Court dates to the mid-to-late 1970s in Florida, when they were just barely coming out of the dark ages with regard to fairness and justice (I do not believe Florida has come much further than that, though.) I was a spokesman/advocate for the local chapter of a Men's Rights organization, and the stories I could tell of the courts' rampant and pervasive injustice toward fathers in any divorce/custody/support case would curl your hair.

Going into court, the presumption is that the mother will get custody, and the father is scum. At any time I would raise a motion to make a point, the court's attitude is, "Who the hell do you think you are, boy? You got the wrong set of gonads to have any standing here." On the other hand, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous my ex's claims were, they were treated as gospel by the judge, and she was given just about everything she asked for, even though I had written, documented proof that she was lying through her teeth!

I find it instructive that Oakminster's experience is in jailing women for failure to pay child support (due to not having primary custody), NOT for thwarting the father's right to court-ordered visitation. They may lose custody, and be compelled to pay, rather than receive, child support, but are not facing a jail sentence for "willful and deliberate denial of visitation." The days of men getting "routinely" screwed may be over, to some extent, but it most certainly is not a "level playing field."
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 01-31-2011, 09:10 AM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMO View Post
Admittedly, my experience with Family Court dates to the mid-to-late 1970s in Florida, when they were just barely coming out of the dark ages with regard to fairness and justice (I do not believe Florida has come much further than that, though.) I was a spokesman/advocate for the local chapter of a Men's Rights organization, and the stories I could tell of the courts' rampant and pervasive injustice toward fathers in any divorce/custody/support case would curl your hair.

Going into court, the presumption is that the mother will get custody, and the father is scum. At any time I would raise a motion to make a point, the court's attitude is, "Who the hell do you think you are, boy? You got the wrong set of gonads to have any standing here." On the other hand, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous my ex's claims were, they were treated as gospel by the judge, and she was given just about everything she asked for, even though I had written, documented proof that she was lying through her teeth!

I find it instructive that Oakminster's experience is in jailing women for failure to pay child support (due to not having primary custody), NOT for thwarting the father's right to court-ordered visitation. They may lose custody, and be compelled to pay, rather than receive, child support, but are not facing a jail sentence for "willful and deliberate denial of visitation." The days of men getting "routinely" screwed may be over, to some extent, but it most certainly is not a "level playing field."
My experience is coming to an end soon. I have 3 kids and have been paying child support for approximately 13 years. My youngest emancipates in 4 months.

I never had an issue with CS. IMV, life is too short to wrapped around the axle over money. My accountant said "A lot of men get bitter and remain under-employed etc and hurt themselves and their kids. Treat it like a tax, and just go out and do your best." Good advice, I think.

My experience was 1998-2000 in Ohio, a state my lawyer called a "mother friendly state." In my experience it was a "presumption is that the mother will get custody, and the father is scum."

I was amazed, and angry at the general attitudes. I took Lamaze classes for all 3 kids, was in the delivery room, taught them to read, never missed a P/T conference etc etc etc etc etc etc; in short I could prove I was involved from the very beginning. It meant little.

Early on, "thwarting visitation" was common. When she wasn't thwarting visitation, she would simply leave the kids and disappear. It was common to bring the kids home after a week in the summer (we alternated weeks all summer) and sit outside for an hour and she wasn't there. Later I would find out she was out of town. That kind of idiocy/discourtesy/unkindness was common.

I learned early on that a woman can abuse the system of visitation with impunity.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 01-31-2011, 12:20 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMO
I find it instructive that Oakminster's experience is in jailing women for failure to pay child support (due to not having primary custody), NOT for thwarting the father's right to court-ordered visitation. They may lose custody, and be compelled to pay, rather than receive, child support, but are not facing a jail sentence for "willful and deliberate denial of visitation." The days of men getting "routinely" screwed may be over, to some extent, but it most certainly is not a "level playing field."
That may be a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, though. Wouldn't we naturally expect that a custodial parent would be less likely to face a jail sentence for denial of visitation than a non-custodial parent would for non-payment of support, regardless of gender?

After all, throwing the custodial parent in jail seems as though it would be much more disruptive for the kids. I would think that that in itself might go a long way to explain such a difference in the likelihood of serving jail time.

So unless we can show that fathers who have custody are more likely to be jailed for denial of visitation than mothers are, I'm not convinced that this example in itself illustrates the lack of a "level playing field" in family court.

(Not that there couldn't be other factors keeping the playing field uneven, of course; having no personal experience or professional knowledge myself in these matters, I'm not risking any categorical pronouncements about the way it is or isn't. Just pointing out what seems to be a logical flaw in one particular argument.)
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 01-31-2011, 02:37 PM
DHMO DHMO is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
That may be a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, though. Wouldn't we naturally expect that a custodial parent would be less likely to face a jail sentence for denial of visitation than a non-custodial parent would for non-payment of support, regardless of gender?

After all, throwing the custodial parent in jail seems as though it would be much more disruptive for the kids. I would think that that in itself might go a long way to explain such a difference in the likelihood of serving jail time.

So unless we can show that fathers who have custody are more likely to be jailed for denial of visitation than mothers are, I'm not convinced that this example in itself illustrates the lack of a "level playing field" in family court.

(Not that there couldn't be other factors keeping the playing field uneven, of course; having no personal experience or professional knowledge myself in these matters, I'm not risking any categorical pronouncements about the way it is or isn't. Just pointing out what seems to be a logical flaw in one particular argument.)
More to the point, however, is that the custodial parent (in the overwhelming majority of cases, the mother) can thumb their nose at the court-mandated visitation order with impunity, and at no time are there serious sanctions contemplated againt them. If the "deadbeat" father is thrown in jail, would that not be "disruptive" to the children in that they would not be getting regular visitation? If the custodial parent was faced with jail time, and the non-custodial parent could be awarded temporary custody for the duration of the jail sentence, it seems that would go a long way to levelling the playing field.

The supposed "apples-to-oranges" comparison is heavily slanted in favor of the mother, due to the natural reluctance of the courts to throw "mommy" in jail, but by biasing the custody hearing in favor of the mother, we have accomplished a grave injustice to all the good, decent men out there who simply desire to be a fuctional part of their children's lives, and play an active role in their upbringing.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 01-31-2011, 02:47 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMO
If the "deadbeat" father is thrown in jail, would that not be "disruptive" to the children in that they would not be getting regular visitation?
Sure, but it seems pretty evident that jailing a custodial parent would generally be more disruptive than jailing a non-custodial one. So I can see why courts would be more aggressive about locking up non-custodial parents for non-payment of support than locking up custodial parents for denial of visitation.

Mind you, I'm not denying your point that it's unfair that mothers get to be the custodial parent so much more often than fathers do. I'm just arguing that it seems to make sense that courts would be more likely to try to avoid jailing a custodial parent than a non-custodial one, whether it's a mother or a father.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DHMO
[..] the custodial parent (in the overwhelming majority of cases, the mother) can thumb their nose at the court-mandated visitation order with impunity, and at no time are there serious sanctions contemplated againt them.
Well, Oakminster did mention having personally witnessed cases where he has "seen women lose primary custody and child support, plus be ordered to pay child support, as a result of willful and deliberate denial of visitation."

That sounds to me like a fairly serious sanction.

Last edited by Kimstu; 01-31-2011 at 02:49 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 01-31-2011, 03:36 PM
Beniamino Beniamino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
It's been my experience that the threat of losing custody time, or even a temporary or permanent transfer of primary custody, is a better bulwark against "alienating" custodial parents than jail time.

Also, you want to make sure your non-custodial client's children develop an ardent and everlasting hatred for your client? -- Get the opposing custodial parent thrown in the slammer -- no amount of "reunification counseling" is going to sort that out.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:28 PM
LouisB LouisB is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Seminole, FL
Posts: 8,230
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Fire View Post
Legal Aid programs. Or filing the paperwork themselves. Court websites make it available and (at least in my state) it's all helpfully arranged into packets, because there are often multiple forms for a single petition, and with dumbed-down instructions so you don't miss anything. One IFP (or similar; it tells the court you're poor and can't afford filing fees) later and you've just asked for reduced child support without spending more than just a little time on it. No money needed.

Child support modification paperwork and the subsequent hearing isn't so difficult that one would absolutely require an attorney for it, IMO.
Legal aid didn't do squat for me other than to advise me that I would have to petition in the state that imposed the order I wished to modify. If I had had the money to return to that state, I wouldn't have needed to modify the order. The deck is stacked in the woman's favor and I doubt many men would dispute that.
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:35 PM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by LouisB View Post
Legal aid didn't do squat for me other than to advise me that I would have to petition in the state that imposed the order I wished to modify. If I had had the money to return to that state, I wouldn't have needed to modify the order. The deck is stacked in the woman's favor and I doubt many men would dispute that.
Legal Aid gave you correct advice. A child support order issued in one state generally can't be modified by a court of another state. Perhaps they could have offered you a referral to the appropriate office in the other state, but there was likely nothing they could do in the state you were in. You should have thought of that before leaving the state where the order was entered.

Also, you and several other displeased fathers in this thread are making broad generalizations about the entire system based on the alleged facts of a particular case. That's just silly.

Last edited by Oakminster; 01-31-2011 at 04:35 PM..
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:43 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.