I had an epiphany sometime between 2014 and 2015.
In 2014 I had to drive 12+ hours to Texas to be in court on a Wednesday morning at 0900. For child support enforcement. I live in Florida.
This meant that in order to not have to miss an week of work I worked till about 2pm on Tuesday and took off headed west. I drove till I could no longer drive then pulled over at a rest stop and fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke up around 0430ish I drove the rest of the way to my best friend’s house in Lewisville, just north of Dallas. I took a shower and she drove me up to the Denton County Court House.
My dear friend has never been to any type of family court or IV-D court proceeding before and we sat down to wait and watch the show. There were people there in pajama’s. One young man obviously wanted to impress the judge and showed up in a tux.
BF and I were in line with a nice woman from Denton. She said her ex-husband moved every three months, as soon as she could get his address to bring the kids for visitation she would alert the AG’s office. However her ex would never answer his door and she finally got the sheriff’s department to agree to serve him his court summons when the kids were over so he was known to be home. Her ex would have the kids answer the door and if it was a process server, he would run out the back door and hide. The kids reported to her that Dad had actually jumped the fence and ran around the block so the process server couldn’t catch him with the paperwork one very funny Saturday.
BF was shaking her head in disbelief and asked, “How long has he been doing this?”
The lady smiled and said, “Five years now. But I come to each court date like today so they can’t close the case.”
I thought BF was going to have a stroke right there in the courtroom.
Then when I was informed that the AG’s office had made a “MISTAKE” in dragging me to Texas because my ex had actually NOT been served, I thought I was going to have a stroke.
How do you make a mistake like that? I had confirmed with numerous case workers and the legal department, twice that he HAD been served AND my presence in the courtroom that day was REQUIRED before planning out how best to get there with minimal expense. Not an easy task considering as a single mother, working full time and not receiving any support I live paycheck to paycheck. This trip for a “mistake” cost me 3 days of work, my saved PTO, six tanks of gas and child care/food for three days.
All the way back to Lewisville my BF kept saying, “I had no idea. I just had no idea…. I thought your case was just a crazy fluke, it’s not!”
BF then found an article in the paper around that time that reported the 2012 arrears for child support in Texas were an appalling 11.8 BILLION DOLLARS.
She knows the truth now, and in the 2016 Report to Congress arrears in Texas arrears in Texas are an even more appalling 15+ Billion dollars…
My epiphany came some time after this. I was back in Florida and still not receiving support for the kids. We had some major medical expenses coming up and something had to be done. I went to my church to ask the Pastor if there was an attorney in the congregation who would help me enforce the case. The sweet Pastor looked at me like I had three heads! He shook his head and said, “What do you mean you need an attorney? If you don’t pay your child support you go to jail!”
He was emphatic and did not seem to believe my incredible tale of avoidance of service, state hopping, working under the table for a family member, refusing to file taxes and the many other things my ex and others have all done to get out of paying child support.
He simply did not know.
He had bought into the old stereotypes of the “poor guy who looses his shirt in family court, misses one payment and rots in jail” along the with stereotype of a “couch queen, living off of child support”.
The national arrears in child support are now over $116 BILLION DOLLARS and as I have posted before this is not “fake news” this is REALITY.
We are not going to improve anything for the more than 11 million kids affected by this until we loose those stereotypes, change the narrative and start enforcing laws that are already on the books to protect our children!
Arrears of over 10,000 is supposed to be a felony. There is federal criteria and different states have their own criteria. In Florida the law states that that someone who has owed that child or spouse for more than 1 year in a amount equal to or greater than $5,000 commits a felony of the third degree. 2017 Florida Statutes Chapter 827.06 (3) http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=827.06&URL=0800-0899/0827/Sections/0827.06.html
In addition to that, each state has “trigger criteria” set by the National Conference of State Legislators http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/license-restrictions-for-failure-to-pay-child-support.aspx#1 For people who are not paying to loose driving privileges. In Florida the trigger criteria is to be 15 days delinquent with “a” payment or in non compliance with a subpoena or summons.
However in St. Augustine, Erica N. thought she was finally going to see regular payments when her ex husband was notified of impending drivers license suspention for arrears over $17,000.
Her ex husband went to the child support office and made payment of 0.05. A NICKLE.
The DOR accepted this “payment”, posted it to the account and gave Erica 0.05 cents.
Erica’s ex husband has not made another payment since the 0.05 cents that saved his drivers license.
Erica called the DOR to ask about this. She was told, “If that is all he can afford then he is making an effort!” So the state of Florida accepted 0.05 cents on an arrears total of $17,000 and he continues to enjoy privileges to drive about the sunshine state legally while in blatant violation of the LAW.
This is an abuse of the legal system. And SHAME on the Florida DOR for allowing this mockery of it’s own laws! This man could have made more of an “effort” picking up change outside his local Walmart Store! If he had Erica would have had at least enough cash to buy their son an extra pack of BBQ sauce to go with his nuggets at McDonalds!
I would like to thank Erica for having the guts to come forward with this AND allow her online statement to be posted, she agreed that if you do not see it for yourself you would not believe it….
So here it is, THIS is the REALITY of child support enforcement in America today.
What can YOU do with FIVE CENTS?