Over 2% of the US population is in jail, and many are low income parents who got behind on excessive child support orders, according to a New York Times article. For example, in Georgia, one in eight inmates is there because of unrealistic child support ordered from low income parents with fluctuating income and little ability to pay.
Unfortunately, the Connecticut judicial branch keeps such data locked away from the light of day.
The situation has gotten so bad that Vicky Turetsky, commissioner of the federal office of Child Support Enforcement is calling for reform. She says: “it’s nuts … she gets the [welfare] assistance, he gets charged the bill.”
“Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor,” said Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed a class action lawsuit in Georgia on behalf of parents incarcerated without legal representation for failure to pay. “We see many cases in which the person is released, they’re given three months to pay a large amount of money, and then if they can’t do that they’re tossed right back in the county jail.”
Walter L Scott, the black man recently shot and killed by police got behind on child support, and as a result he lost “the best job I ever had.” Then his life spiraled out of control, causing him to tussle with police before being shot in the back.
Read more at http://nyti.ms/1yJelpe
Kimberly Seals Allers writes in the New York Times about “redefining what child support really is, for our family .” She recently petitioned the Family Court in Queens to forgive over $38,000 that her ex-husband owed in child support.
Ms. Allers writes: “My ex-husband has always given our children his time, whether he had money or not. He currently makes payments to me directly when he is able. But his arrears have accumulated during years when he was unemployed or underemployed and either paid less than the monthly payment ($600) granted when we divorced, or nothing at all. So when our children were young, after our separation and early in our divorce, I negotiated new currencies such as additional time when I needed child care, meal preparation, haircuts and even helping with home repairs, instead of acting as if a cash payment was all he had to offer our children. The look on their faces when he came to pick them up was more than worth it.”
The full article is at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/parenting/2015/04/19/forgiving-38750-in-child-support-for-my-kids-sake/?_r=0&referrer
By Linda J. Gottlieb Kase, LMFT, LCSW-r
March 18, 2015
Despite the abuse and neglect suffered by the 3000 foster care children who had been under my care, it was extremely uncommon for those children to refuse contact with a parent—even with an overtly abusive parent. Rather, abused children tend to protect and cling to the abusive parent. Moreover, in the rare cases in which that did appear to happen, there was always some evidence of indoctrination or programming (typically by foster parents who had the surreptitious goal of adopting the child). Thus, it is counter-instinctual for a child to reject a parent—even an abusive parent. When a professional observes a child strongly reject a parent in the absence of verified abuse, neglect or markedly deficient parenting skills—which should never be assumed based on the child’s self-reporting—one of the first thoughts should be that the other parent is an alienator. Moreover, one should never assume that, because a child has rejected a parent, the parent must have done something to warrant it.
Having observed thousands of genuinely-abused children during a period of 24 years, I have concluded that a child’s innate desire to have a relationship with his or her parents is one of the most powerful of human instincts, surpassed only by the instinct for survival and the instinct to protect ones young; among normal children, in the absence of an alienating influence, that instinct is seldom suppressed because a parent exhibits relatively minor flaws, deficiencies, or idiosyncrasies.
The SPC advocates amendments to Connecticut’s HB 5505 to reduce conflict by giving each parent an incentive to support the other parents. This implements CT’s 2005 law – other states (MA, MD and others) are implementing shared parenting. Here are the proposed amendments:
Purpose: establishing the presumption of behavior encouraging parental involvement
Sec. 4. Section 46b-56 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (j) as follows (Effective October 1, 2015):
(new) (j) In cases involving an existing Parental Responsibility Plan (PRP), or any existing custodial order, statutory factors (6) and (7) of Conn. Gen. Sats 46b-56(c ) shall determine the resolution of any dispute. A pattern of noncompliance with existing custodial orders, or with an existing PRP provides evidence of unwillingness to foster a good parent-child relationship (violation of factor 6) and/or manipulative or coercive behavior (factor 7). Such pattern of noncompliance will result in a finding in favor of the other parent.
Note: the relevant factors:
(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;
(7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute.
Rationale: to reduce litigation by establishing the primary role of behavior fostering a good relationship with the other parent.
On January 27, 2015 the Legislative Regulation Review Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly meets to consider the child support recommendations submitted by the Commission on Child Support Guidelines. We call on the Committee to reject the Commission’s recommendations. Show your support! Attend the session on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 10:00 AM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT.
Connecticut needs family-friendly child support guidelines. Connecticut’s Commission ignored Connecticut’s 2005 law defining the Best Interests of the Child, which says that Best Interests include strong and continuing connections with both parents.
In a 2014 letter to Connecticut’s Commission on Child Support Guidelines, Department of Social Services Commissioner Rodrick L. Bremby writes: “emotional, social and educational support as well as financial support is imperative to the growth of a well-rounded child.” He further states that the Guideline percentages of income for low income obligors are unrealistic and “counterproductive to fostering the parent-child relationship as it may lead to uncollectable child support orders and drive noncustodial parents to underground economies and alienation from their children.”
Call to action
We call on the Committee to reject the Commission’s recommendations because the recommendations:
- Price poor obligors out of the family equation. The Commission rejected proposals to lower percentages for low income obligors, cherry-picking data prepared by their own expert to arrive at this conclusion.
- Increase Guideline percentages for middle and high-income obligors. This is contrary to evidence indicating that the actual, marginal costs of raising children is significantly below, not above, Guideline amounts.
- Put those paying alimony at a significant financial disadvantage. The Guidelines would in future ignore income from alimony when calculating child support.
- Ignore the fact that the totality of court-ordered payments necessary to hire court-ordered professionals (e.g., GALs, AMCs, therapists), plus court-ordered child support, is putting individuals, many of whom are women, into a situation where it is impossible for them to meet the court-ordered obligations.
- Fail to adequately consider substantial data collected in Massachusetts on this subject, data that resulted in the adoption of Guidelines with the rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in that state in the summer of 2013.
Connecticut’s Commission is proposing family-unfriendly Guidelines, perpetuating a winner-takes-all system that is in no child’s interest. Massachusetts recognizes the interconnection between child support, parenting time, and financial responsibility and, as such, actively encourages shared parental responsibility, both emotional and financial. Other states have adopted a similar model, or are close to. Connecticut’s Commission has not considered the substance of the reasoning leading to the changes in Massachusetts but certainly must do the same.