The current model responsible for governing family law courts is extremely outdated and archaic. It is governed by a 1950’s chauvinistic view towards marriage and parentage. Men are expected to be emotionless, robotic-breadwinners whereas women are expected to be keepers of the home and children. Women now work. The economy is in shambles whereas even those who are not burdened with child support or alimony are forced to work two jobs to stay afloat. Below, I have proposed 10 ways to drastically improve fairness in the family law courts which are more reflective of our modern culture and realities present in our economy.
1. Remove presumptions: When a man and woman enter into a courtroom, the presumption is that women are already the custodial parents who deserve child support. The courts should presume that both parents are equally shared in their rights. There should be a presumption of 50/50 shared custody with no mandate of child support payments.
2. Repeal Title IV-D of The Social Security Act: This law states that the Federal Government will give $2 to the State government, for every $1 they collect in Child Support payments. This creates an automatic incentive for courts to set high child-support measurements. The extra money awarded to the states also does not benefit the children, it goes into “slush” funds. There is no basis for the state to receive profits in these cases. It creates a conflict of interest.
3. Limit the Child Support Enforcement Agency’s Power: CSEA administrators should NOT be acting as judges. They should NOT be issuing and calculating child support orders. They have no authority to hear special circumstances, to forgive debt, or to deviate from normal guidelines. It is costing tax payers over 3 billion dollars a year to staff and maintain these agencies which probably shouldn’t exist to begin with or should at least be severely downsized.
4. Give equal representation: Under the constitution, in criminal law, defendants are entitled to representation even if they cannot afford an attorney themselves. In child support cases, the state is a profiting party that has vested interests. The petitioning party is backed by the Child Support Enforcement Agency with incentives being paid to the state via Title IV sec D award payments. While child support cases are technically considered “civil cases”, the repercussions and complexity of family law are very severe; not to mention a child being involved. If the courts truly believe in the best interest of the child, they will seek to properly represent and protect both parents. Fathers who feel protected and considered are much more likely to accept their duties if they don’t feel so scared and alienated from the process. This is why I believe both parents should have court appointed advocates to give everyone the best deal. Happy parents= Happy children.
5. Build up Non-custodial Parents: According to my research, parents who make under then national medium income ($42K) per year, are considered at “high risk” for going into arrears. Fathers or (NCP’s) who make under $42K per year should be given the option to complete job programs in lieu of sanctions. If the courts can offer programs that will help the paying parent reach that benchmark of $42K per year, they will become “low risk” at falling into default.
6. Remove Crippling Sanctions: The courts can garnish their wages, seize their bank accounts, liquidate their properties, do whatever you want to recover owed child support payments. However, do not suspend a person’s driver’s license and do not incarcerate them. By doing either, you severely limit that person’s ability to earn an income. They get caught into a cycle of jail, accumulation of debt, and a destroyed resume. No one wants to hire someone who has a record. And if you live in a city that has poor public transportation, getting back and forth to jobs can become extremely burdensome, thus limiting job opportunities. Debtors prisons were outlawed for a reason. To transform someone’s child into a source of someone’s imprisonment is a crime unto itself. A married man who doesn’t provide for his child is left alone by government, however an unmarried man is subject to discrimination. Find out why the parent is unable to keep up with the order and in the “best interest of the child” make it easier for the parent to be able to keep up with the order!
7. Let both parents opt-out: Women can legally murder their children via abortion and thanks to “Safe Haven Laws”, they can also drop off their children at Fire-stations or Police Departments with no questions asked. A woman who makes the decision that she is not emotionally or financially ready to be a mother is given the option to choose parentage. Men are told to suck it up or face prison. The parameters found in states that allow abortion, should also apply to men. Up until a certain point, determined by law, a man should be able to dissolve his desire to be a parent just as a woman can. Many will argue that it will create more welfare dependent mothers, however, we must consider many things. The federal government can spend 1 trillion dollars on unconstitutional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet they complain about a welfare spending that takes up less than 5% of the Federal Budget? Also, who says the government has to distribute food stamps in the first place? If the federal government can afford to give states $2 for every $1 they collect in child support, then they can afford to feed and house poor people. The Federal Reserve printed up billions to bail out corporations, why not bail out the people?
8. Cap amounts and Spending: It is outrageous that a custodial parent can claim $10,000 a month just by getting pregnant BY a wealthy person, perhaps even get HIS house too! With the magic of “no-fault divorces”, someone can literally get pregnant by a wealthy man, divorce him for no reason, and take half of his assets for the next 18 years. Caps need to be developed based on cost of living in the state, so that divorces are not incentivized for those looking for a quick lottery ticket! Additionally, the paying parent needs to have tools available to hold the custodial parent accountable for how his money is being spent. Custodial parents should be given prepaid cards that are trackable. Housing, Food, day care, school-supplies, medical expenses, clothes,… these things would be acceptable charges. However, if the custodial parent used the card to buy alcohol, vacations, TV’s, and other non-essential items, those charges would be disputed. This card system could create an argument that the custodial parent needs more money and/or less. Another option could be to use the left over money at the end of every month and have it automatically go into a trust fund for the child and/or to be applied to arrears.
9. Create a Child Visitation Enforcement Agency: Parental Alienation is a HUGE epidemic. Fathers have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to get basic access to their children with no help from the state. If there is to be a child support enforcement agency, there needs to be an agency or hotline for non-custodial parents to call if they are actively being denied access. In many cases, fathers go years without being able to see their kids because of expensive legal fees, phony restraining orders, and cooperative mothers.
10. Mediation first- Court Second: Before a mother and father ever see a judge, both parties should be required to attend mediation first. Have a worker use the child support model as a starting point, then allow each parent to discuss and negotiate with one another and come to agreeable plan. If the parents cannot communicate properly or the order is later deemed insufficient, then the judge can step in and give his own calculated orders. My point is, give the parents one last chance to solve things without government intrusion!
These are just a few ideas I have. This idea that we must punish and throw people in jail only works on those rare individuals who CAN afford child support yet choose to hide their assets or use trickery. However, most of these laws, albeit well intended, end up turning the middle-class and poor into criminalized debt-slaves.