January 24, 2020

Man Who Fathered 30 Children Wants Reduction of Child Support

I ran across this article/video on Tennessee TV station W-REG entitled TN Man Fathers 30 Children: Can’t Support Any.

According to this report, 33 year old Knoxville resident Desmond Hatchett has children with 11 different women.  The state child support recovery office takes half his minimum wage paycheck and divides it up.   Some of the mothers receive as little as $1.49 a month. The oldest child is 14 years old.

Hatchett acknowledges that he fathered four kids in the same year – twice.

In 2009, Hatchett appeared in court for failure to pay child support and he promised  to change his behavior.  However, he has produced nine more babies during the past three years.  Mr. Hatchett has not broken any Tennessee laws with his behavior.

Mr. Hatchett has not filed a claim for disability, but if he does in the future and is awarded benefits, Social Security could be on the hook for both his benefits as well as tens of thousands of dollars each year for auxiliary benefits.

What, if anything, should the state of Tennessee do about Mr. Hatchett’s irresponsible behavior?  Should the women Mr. Hatchett sleeps with bear any responsibility for this situation?

Are Parental Accountability Courts a Reasonable Alternative to Jail for Delinquent Child Support Payers?

solutions to child support delinquency problemThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an interesting article about parent accountability courts now being set up in a number of Georgia counties.   The Atlanta paper describes these courts as follows:

Parental accountability courts are run by representatives from the state’s Child Support Services division. These coordinators work with the parents, serving as a mentor and directing them to existing community resources. Each court is tailored to its particular county’s need. The coordinators may be called upon to help the unemployed prepare resumes or prep for a job interview. They might refer people to drug rehabilitation programs or other support services. Once those problems are addressed and the person is established in a job, it is up to the individual to make sure the child support is paid or the court has the option to garnishee wages.

As I understand the concept, state child support enforcement offices and county jails argue that incarceration does not solve the problem of delinquent child support payments, especially when jobs are scarce anyway and an unemployed dad with a prison record is even more unlikely to find a job.

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Social Security’s Move to Paperless Payments Will Likely Impact Child Support Collection

Social Security recipients who owe child support will soon find that their entire benefit check may be seized by state governments looking to collect past due amount.  The Associated Press reports that in March of 2013, SSA will phase out paper checks in favor of electronic payments in the form of direct deposits and prepaid debit cards.

Currently federal law prevents state governments from seizing more than 65% of a Social Security benefit.  When paper checks are eliminated the entire deposit will be susceptible to seizure.

In many cases the past due payments represent interest and fees and are owed to state governments who claim the funds after paying welfare benefits to the children of non-custodial parents who did not pay child support.

Should non-custodial parents be subject to 100% seizure of their Social Security benefit payments in every case.  Should a distinction be drawn between debt that relates to current child support as opposed to old support obligations.  Should SSI payments remain exempt from any garnishment?

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Should Unemployed Dads be Thrown in Jail for Past Due Child Support?

deadbeat dads in jailThis past Monday, I ran across an interesting article on msnbc.com entitled “Unable to Pay Child Support, Poor Parents Land Behind Bars.”   The gist of this article is that non-custodial parents (usually fathers) who have been out of work are brought before judges on contempt charges without any right to court appointed lawyers, and are ending up in jail for non-payment.

In one case, a 39 year Iraqi war vet living in Georgia, with a 10+ year history of regular payments fell behind when he lost his job 2 years ago.  Although now working, the judge would not agree to any payment arrangement and put the delinquent father in jail for 3 months.

Several of these recently incarcerated fathers have filed a class action lawsuit demanding that the state of Georgia provide legal counsel in cases where jail is a possible outcome.

Recently the United States Supreme Court ruled that poor parents are not entitled to court appointed lawyers when facing jail for non-payment of child support so long as state law contains “substantial procedural safeguards” to ensure that those without means to pay are not locked up.

The plaintiffs in the Georgia class action suit are contending that Georgia law does not provide those procedural safeguards.

What do you think?   I regularly hear from custodial parents who write to say that the non-custodial parent refuses to work or works for cash.  At the same time, it seems counterproductive to put a parent like the Iraqi war vet in jail, thereby causing him to lose his new job, putting him even further behind.

Georgia and other states, of course, have no money, and they will no doubt argue to the courts that they should not be burdened with the cost of court appointed lawyers for child support defendants.

What is a good solution to this type of situation?

Child Support Changes with Increase in Job Losses

There is an obvious connection between job loss and child support payments. The rise of unemployment to over 10 percent has made it nearly impossible for many parents to make their child support payments, which is reflected in a surge in petitions for reduced payments.

4 out of 10 people who have lost their job remain unemployed for six months or more. This increase in long-term unemployment makes the situation worse. Also, men have been disproportionately laid off due to the recession’s impact on traditionally male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction. Because nearly 83 percent of custodial parents are women, men are left to pay most child support obligations.

In Highland County, Ohio, requests for support modifications nearly doubled unemployment applicationlast year as the county’s unemployment rate rose to over 16 percent when a major area employer left. According to Christine Blevins, a supervisor for the county child support enforcement agency, the nature of the requested changes also shifted. While in past years most requests came from custodial parents seeking increases, in 2009 almost all the requests came from noncustodial parents who lost their jobs and ask for payment reductions.

As people whose payments are now based on unemployment will soon lose those benefits, Blevins expects to see another wave of downward adjustments. Payments are also no longer calculated assuming that a parent could at least find a full time, minimum-wage job, as that is no longer realistic in this economy. The situation puts everyone involved in a difficult position, as the non-custodial parents struggle to pay child support and the children in need have a harder time getting the support they need.

I recommend that if your financial situation changes and you can’t meet your support payments, call your attorney or the state child support agency to start the review process. It can take months for a reduction to be granted, especially in communities that have cut back on staffing child support offices. If you cut payments without official approval, it may lead to legal problems and possibly even an arrest.

Potential New Indiana Law Targets Gamblers

A proposed bill in Indiana could force parents who are behind on their child support payments to hand over their gambling winnings to their children.

The legislation, which is being considered by the Judiciary Committee of the Jackpotstate Senate, would withhold casino jackpot winnings from parents who are behind on their child support payments. For example, winners of slot-machine winnings of $1,200 or more would be checked for delinquent child support when they try and cash their prize.

Over 165,000 non-custodial parents each owe more than $2,000 in child support, which equals over $2 billion in child support delinquencies, according to the state Department of Child Services, which is pushing the legislation. In a state where only 58 percent of child support payments are collected, the proposed bill is gaining support.

Stuart Showalter, of Indiana Shared Parenting, does not believe that parents who are having difficulty paying child support should be gambling with their money. Indiana Department of Child Services Spokesperson Ann Housworth believes that the custodial parents that are owed money, and their children, could benefit from any money collected with the proposed legislation.

Obviously, there are two sides to the issue. Indiana casinos are not in favor of the bill and worry that the legislation will cause too much of a delay on casino floors while names of big winners are checked for delinquent child support. According to Mike Smith, President of the Casino Association of Indiana, the delay will customers since casinos are fast-paced environments and winners want to be paid quickly. Smith also argues that because 70% of business comes from out of state, he’s not sure how successful the collections would be.

Regarding an argument that the casinos should not have to do the government’s dirty work to collect child support, an unsympathetic Indiana Sen. Scott Schneider (Indianapolis) says the state created the gambling industry, and casinos need to play by its rules.