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The Black Cornerempty posted on: 5.01
Mike Ramey Mike Ramey
Child Support and Consequences
by Mike Ramey
The Manhoodline
some text

childrenBrothers, do you really want to know when the 'great debate' over child support payments REALLY began to take place? I'll provide you a few hints: *It wasn't when man after man had been thrown into prisons by courts who put money ahead of visitation rights and charged them--on top of everything else--with felonies, making some men unable to find well-paying work; *It wasn't when man after man had their wages, income tax refunds, and retirement packages gutted by an allegedly 'gender blind' justice system; *It wasn't when Uncle Sam made those who fell behind in paying child support because of layoffs, illness, or job injuries ineligible for everything from U.S. Passports to lottery winnings; The real 'ground breaker' that forced the discussion of the 'fairness' of child support into the national consciousness came--when a few WOMEN were arrested and jailed for non-payment!

The sad truth about the whole child support issue is that federal, state, and local authorities STILL don't get it; a government agency can't take away up to fifty percent of a person's economic health for eighteen to twenty years, without that person getting a tad bit steamed. Worse yet, while child support is supposed to go for the care, clothing, and feeding of children we produce, VISITATIONENFORCEMENT is woefully inadequate. H'mmm--I wonder how many jailed women it would take to have the system reformed?

But, I digress!

America's child support system is the only economic model where not only don't you get what you pay for; you can't even SEE for whom you have paid! When was the last time you saw a female of the species put behind bars for a few years because she denied the paying and lawful father a chance to see his children? Yet, in many jurisdictions, the custodial parent (usually female) can force a noncustodial parent (usually male) back into court for as little as a five dollar a week increase in their base child support amount. Stand by and put away your best crystal. We're gonna quake on this issue because there is a lot the general public doesn't know about child support--but those who are paying--do.

A BIT OF INSPIRATION:
Now, don't get me wrong. If a man helps to create a child, he is duty-bound to support that child: financially, morally, spiritually, and emotionally. There is no two ways about it! If you 'birth' a baby, my brother, you are on the hook! So, paying child support is right, ethical, and biblical. As a matter of fact, the biblical admonition is clear, for the Apostle Paul writes in the New Testament, in summary: 'A man who will not support his family is worse than an infidel'. Thus, a man should pay his child support on time, every time, as best as his economic circumstances allow him to comply with the orders of the court. However, the courts may not always be right when it comes to the collection of child support, or the issuance of orders regarding the same. There are many cases where men--and some women--have been literally forced into a position where they have to decide: 'Do I eat this week, or, pay my child support?' Back in February, a column was written by Kathleen Parker on happenings in the state of Alabama about a move to publish another 'deadbeat parents' photo gallery in the effort to increase collections. The underlying objective: 'rallying public shame' against those parents who have had a long-term lack of cooperation in taking care of their children. It wasn't the usual 'bash 'em all' type of column many female (and male) columnists pen to curry public favor (like politicians and custodial parents), but it provided a balanced view. The irony is that many who are involved with the child support system will 'see' what they want to see in the column, without thinking about those who have to pay support, without seeing their children for months--or years--on end.

TIME FOR SOME AGGRESSIVE VISITATION ENFORCEMENT:
That last statement may shock a few of you, but take it from me. Just because a man pays his support, and may even be paid up-to-date, there is no guarantee that they will be able to see their children for whom the support is being paid. In other words, when one buys a car, pays for a bag of groceries, or buys a house, you can see what you are getting, and where the money is going. While there are laws on the books mandating visitation rights in many states, those rights are seldom enforced by the courts--without a lot of expenses having to be paid by those already 'on the hook' for child support. Add to this the fact that, according to federal guidelines, up to fifty percent of one's income can be ordered 'garnished' by the court to satisfy a child support obligation. Thus, if a noncustodial parent gets a five dollar a week raise on the job, and the custodial parent gets wind of it, they could order the noncustodial back into court for a new child support order--and still not grant visitation rights to that parent.

America's child support system has been called by many: 'The modern-day resurrection of the debtors prison system.' Dozens have been jailed or imprisoned--for anywhere from six months to three years or more--over this type of debt, and have had FELONY convictions tacked upon their records. With an already tight economy, just try to apply for a job with a felony conviction on your record. More than a few attorneys have remarked: 'A murderer has more rights than one who is behind in his, or her child support.' More than a few new spouses have watched their spouses have to run back to court and wrestle with financial obligations from a previous failed marriage. More than a few politicians--a few whom I personally know who help 'craft' tough child support enforcement legislation, learned a painful lesson through divorces of their own. Yet, they did not go back to correct these laws, nor did they go public to support those caught up in the web they helped to create. They merely had their cases quietly transferred to non-political jurisdictions where friendly judges who owed 'the party' a political favor or two, kept their cases quiet, and their support obligations low.

THE SOLUTIONS IN A SEA OF POLITICAL APATHY:
If President Bush, and the Capitol Hill gang want to see collections increase, those who pay support should storm the Hill with letters, cards, and personal testimony before House and Senate Committees about the unfairness of the system. Here are a few that I can think of, right off the bat:

*Make child support payments taxable income to the recipient, and a deduction to the person who pays it. Right now, child support is regarded as 'free money'. It does not have to be reported as income at the federal, state, or local level.

*Have local or state prosecutors or district attorneys publicize those parents who have denied visitation rights. Put a few of them on posters, milk cartons, and billboards. Take away their driver's licenses, professional licenses, and passports.

 *End the 'bounty system' of collections--that is, those states where child support collections are highest, bounties are paid by the federal government to state and local coffers, based upon the level of collections. Your county could be raking in millions while payers are paying, but not getting to see their kids.

*Make public those custodial parents who have 'fled' jurisdictions and 'disappeared' with the children, all the while noncustodial parents don't have the legal resources to fight to win either custody, or visitation rights enforcement.

*Next, it is up to those who are paying to alert the mainstream press to the inequities of the system. There are more than a few journalists, judges, and prosecutors who have been through a divorce, and now stand on the edge of a financial and emotional abyss because their income has been cut to shreds, with no visitation rights in sight!

*Lastly, teach the young real responsibility. Young men don't need to learn how to 'carry' a computerized baby, diaper bag or stroller to learn how to be a parent; give them a child support payment book and a tour of the child support courts. Once a young man learns that up to fifty percent of his earning power is going to be gone for a period of eighteen to twenty years--with every child produced out of wedlock--teen pregnancy rates will drop to zero overnight!

Lip service is paid to the phrase: 'Every child deserves two parents'. If the courts can break up a family based upon a divorce decree; if the courts can be used to enforce payment of child support; then the same courts ought to be used to bring the two sides back together and enforce visitation. It's time to quit putting noncustodial parents in the roles of 'Uncle Daddy' or 'Aunt Mommy'. If you want to see a drop in juvenile crime, and teen pregnancies, let's get the courts, the politicians, and the press to wake up and smell the ink of the payment book. Yes, there are consequences to nonpayment of child support. But, there are greater consequences to allowing children not to see BOTH parents. It took two to make a child. It takes two to train a child in the way he, or she, needs to go. Take off the judicial handcuffs from noncustodial parents and repair the damaged image of fathers--and mothers--who have been taking responsibility; but not being allowed to share in the visitation of their children.

As I close, let me share this from personal experience; one of the worse pains a noncustodial parent faces is to get a call from a juvenile corrections facility concerning the actions of a child they have been paying for; but not allowed to see because of the actions of hard-headed, money-hungry, and bitter custodial parents. The system says: 'Be responsible and pay for your kids!' Those who are paying are now starting to tell the system: 'We've done our part, now let us start SEEING our kids!'

If it's not about the money, then why can't more than several million paying, working, and praying noncustodial parents be allowed to have their visitation rights granted. Are we not citizens? Are we not parents? Are we not--human? Even Jesus Christ gets more respect and reverence from the courts, the press, and the politicians than a noncustodial parent. At least it is admitted by those institutions that He exists. Noncustodial parents, it seems, do not.


Mike Ramey is the author of "The Manhood Line" a column written monthly for men from a biblical, business, and common-sense perspective. To correspond, drop an email to manhoodline@yahoo.com
Copyright Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications. The opinions expressed are those of the author and are used by permission.



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