The current model responsible for governing family law courts is extremely outdated and archaic. It abides by a 1950s chauvinistic view of marriage and parenthood. Men are expected to be robotic and emotional, while women are expected to take care of the home and children. The women now work. The economy is in shambles, while even those without the burden of child support or alimony are forced to work two jobs to stay afloat. Below, I have proposed 10 ways to dramatically improve fairness in family law courts that better reflect our modern culture and the realities of our economy.
1. Eliminate the assumptions: When a man and a woman walk into a courtroom, the assumption is that the women are already the custodial parents who deserve child support. The courts must assume that both parents share their rights equally. There should be a presumption of 50/50 joint custody with no mandate for child support payments.
2. Repeal Title IV-D of the Social Security Act: This law establishes that the Federal Government will deliver $2 to the State government for every $1 it collects in Child Support payments. This creates an automatic incentive for the courts to set high child support measures. The additional money given to states does not benefit children either, but goes into “kickback” funds. There is no basis for the state to receive profit in these cases. Creates a conflict of interest.
3. Limit the power of the Child Support Enforcement Agency: CSEA administrators should NOT act as judges. They should NOT issue or calculate child support orders. They have no authority to listen to special circumstances, forgive debts, or deviate from normal guidelines. It’s costing taxpayers more than $3 billion a year to staff and maintain these agencies that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place or at least be drastically reduced.
4. Provide equal representation: Under the constitution, in criminal law, defendants have a right to representation even if they cannot afford an attorney. In child support cases, the state is a for-profit party with vested interests. Petitioners are supported by the Child Support Enforcement Agency with incentives that are paid to the state through Title IV, Section D award payments. While child support cases are technically considered “civil cases,” the repercussions and the complexity of family law are very serious; not to mention that a child is involved. If the courts truly believe in the best interests of the child, they will seek to adequately represent and protect both parents. Parents who feel protected and considerate are much more likely to accept their duties if they don’t feel so scared and alienated from the process. That’s why I think both parents should have court-appointed attorneys to give everyone the best deal. Happy parents = happy children.
5. Develop Non-Custodial Parenting – Based on my research, parents who earn less than the national average ($42K) per year, are considered to be at “high risk” for delinquent payments. Parents or (NCP) earning less than $42,000 per year should have the option to complete work programs in lieu of sanctions. If the courts can offer programs that will help the paying parent reach that $42K per year benchmark, they will become “low risk” of defaulting.
6. Eliminate Crippling Penalties: Courts can garnish your wages, garnish your bank accounts, liquidate your property, do whatever they want to recover owed child support payments. However, do not suspend a person’s driver’s license or put them in jail. By doing either, you severely limit that person’s ability to earn an income. They get trapped in a cycle of jail, debt accumulation 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 to and from work can become extremely onerous, limiting job opportunities. Debtors’ prisons were banned for a reason. Turning someone’s child into a source of someone’s imprisonment is a crime in itself. The government leaves alone a married man who does not support his child; however, a single man is subject to discrimination. Find out why the parent cannot comply with the order and, in the “best interest of the child,” make it easier for the parent to comply with the order!
7. Let Both Parents Opt Out: Women can legally murder their children through abortion, and thanks to “Safe Haven Laws,” they can also leave their children at fire stations or police departments without asking questions. A woman who makes the decision that she is not emotionally or financially ready to be a mother has the option of choosing parenthood. Men are told to suck it up or face jail. The parameters found in states that allow abortion should also apply to men. To a certain extent, determined by law, a man should be able to dissolve his desire to be a father just like a woman. Many will argue that it will create more welfare dependent mothers, however there are many things we need to consider. The federal government can spend $1 trillion on unconstitutional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but complain about 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 billions to bail out corporations, why not bail out people?
8. Maximum Amounts and Expenses – It is outrageous that a custodial parent can claim $10,000 per month just for getting pregnant FROM a rich person, maybe even getting YOUR house too! With the magic of “no-fault divorces,” someone can literally get pregnant by a rich man, divorce him for no reason, and keep half of his estate for the next 18 years. The limits should be developed based on the cost of living in the state, so that divorces are not incentives for those looking for a quick lottery ticket. In addition, the paying parent needs to have tools available to hold the custodial parent accountable for how their money is spent. Custodial parents should be given prepaid cards that are traceable. Housing, food, child care, school supplies, medical expenses, clothing,… these things would be acceptable charges. However, if the custodial parent used the card to purchase alcohol, vacations, televisions and other non-essential items, those charges would be disputed. This card system could create an argument that the custodial parent needs more and/or less money. Another option might be to use the money left over at the end of each month and have it automatically go into a trust fund for the child and/or be applied to arrears.
9. Create a child visitation enforcement agency: Parental alienation is a HUGE epidemic. Parents have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to get basic access to their children without help from the state. If there is going to be a child support enforcement agency, there should be an agency or hotline for non-custodial parents to call if they are actively denied access. In many cases, parents go years without being able to see their children due to expensive legal fees, bogus restraining orders, and cooperative mothers.
10. Mediation First – Court Second: Before a mother and father see a judge, both parties must first attend mediation. Have a worker use the child support model as a starting point, then allow each parent to discuss and negotiate with each other and come up with an acceptable plan. If the parents cannot communicate properly or if the order is deemed insufficient, then the judge can step in and make their own calculated orders. My point is, give parents one last chance to figure things out without government intrusion!
These are just a few ideas I have. This idea that we should punish and send people to jail only works on those rare people who CAN pay child support but choose to hide their assets or use deception. However, most of these laws, while well-intentioned, end up turning the middle class and the poor into criminalized debt slaves.