IL: Most Improved in Child Support Collections

Illinois has improved its child support collections by a whopping 56% over the past 5 years. That’s undoubtedly an enormous help to Illinois’ custodial parents and children of divorce.

Ideally, other states would be able to learn something from Illinois’ successes.

So, how did Illinois achieve this enhanced collections?

  • an upgraded customer service call center equipped with new computers
  • a new website for employers to report new hires, to facilitate deducting support payments directly from wages
  • more aggressive attachment of non-custodial parents’ bank accounts
  • denial of US passports and
  • last, but perhaps not least, a website featuring the names, addresses and photos of deadbeat parents who owe more than $5,000.

It would probably be enlightening to other states for Illinois to report a ranking of each tool or technique by its productivity in terms of dollar generation.

Read more in this Chicago Sun-Times article: State tops in improving child support collections.

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No Fault vs. Fault Grounds Divorce

As a former New Yorker who is licensed to practice law in New York (and New Jersey) as well as Florida, the dramatic difference between “no-fault divorce”, as practiced in Florida (and most of the US), and “fault grounded divorce”, as practiced in New York, really “hits home” with my practice.

An article in today’s New York Times about divorce, New York-style, just may prompt those facing divorce in Florida to breathe a sigh of relief that they are here.

While the cases detailed are extreme, there is no question that both the requirement of fault and the prominence of fault in all aspects of the divorce process does fan the flames and provoke heightened hostilities and nastiness in most cases.

On the other hand, fault is not completely eliminated from divorce in so-called “no fault” states, but it isn’t a required element to get a divorce. It may be a consideration in property division and alimony.

Ultimately though, it is the parties (and their attorneys), more than the applicable law, which determines how great a role fault and negative feelings will play in their divorces.

The linked article should probably be required reading for every party thinking about divorce.

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One Parent’s Parental Alienation is Another Parent’s Protection of Their Child

The Salt Lake Tribune offers a worthwhile article on parental alienation “syndrome” and its application in the family courts.

All too often, a caring parent, simply trying to protect their child from an abusive or neglectful parent, is labelled as an alienator – just for telling the truth about what the other parent does.

This scenario parallels putting the victim on trial in a criminal rape case.

In order to convict in a criminal trial, the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is a purposely high burden of proof, to take away a presumed innocent individual’s liberty.

But when did that become the standard that must be met before there can be intervention to protect a defenseless, innocent child?

It didn’t. In family court, the mandate is to serve the best interests of children.

Just because the high burden of proof for a criminal conviction can’t be met, doesn’t mean that the accused didn’t do what he or she was accused of. It just means that we, as a society, have decided not to convict and impose criminal punishment in such a case.

In many cases, parental alienation “syndrome” works to shift the focus of the case to “parental rights”, at the expense of children’s rights. As a result, the children are punished along with the so-called alienating parent, much like throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water.

Is that the side we as a society want to err on in custody and visitation cases? Particularly where there is a wide spectrum of alternative options available to protect both children’s rights and parents’ rights – unlike in criminal cases.

Read what 17 year old Tiffany Ann Carver has to say, whose mother finally got custody of her after a 13 year court battle, in this Salt Lake Tribune article: Abuse, or a ploy for custody?

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Child Support Enforcement Ohio Style

In Ohio, they say they are always open to new techniques to aid collection of child support monies due.

Over the summer, one Ohio county is going to place fliers in the water and sewer bills mailed to customers. The fliers will feature the names and photos of three longstanding “deadbeat dads”.

Next will come an amnesty “carrot”.

Then will come the “stick” of criminal contempt and jail.

Read more in the Cincinnati Inquirer article: Fliers seek child-support cash and the Akron Beacon Journal article: County uses fliers to track down fathers owing child support.

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Tips for Stepparents

After the divorce, sooner or later, one or more stepparents will probably arrive on the scene. The introduction of a stepparent into either of the post-divorce households can add a great deal of tension into the entire blended family universe.

Both parents know that. Divorce lawyers hear about that from divorced clients all the time.

But what about the person who re-marries a non-custodial parent whose children visit – or move in full-time?

The San Luis Obispo Tribune offers some good advice to stepparents in the article Stop feeling like a wicked step-parent.

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Victims of Domestic Violence Still Reluctant to Report It, But Not To the Same Degree As in the Past

The Fort Smith [AR] Times Record publishes a reminder that Many Abused Women [Are] Reluctant To Seek Help.

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence suggest that only slightly more than half of domestic violence incidents from 1994-2000 were reported.

In addition to fear of retaliation, cultural taboos may deter victims from reporting abuse. Also, risks remembered from their country of origin may continue to haunt them, such as fear of hefty fees to police for making complaints, fear of deportation, fear of eviction. And certain religions reportedly teach that victims should quietly endure abuse.

But law enforcement in Ft. Smith sees a trend toward increased reporting of abuse, which they attribute to better training and education of police.

Another important factor, undoubtedly, are recent laws allowing the police to make arrests, even without the cooperation of the victim.

This parallels Florida’s policy of prosecuting domestic violence, even when the victim opposes it.

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South Africa Orders Boy’s Return to US Under Hague Convention

Following a custody jurisdiction battle waged by the child’s father, the Pretoria High Court in South Africa has reportedly ordered the return of a three year old boy to the US.

The boy was born in the US and lived in California until he was a year old, when his mother allegedly removed him under the pretext of a vacation with her family – and then repeatedly stalled bringing the boy home, before finally refusing.

The boy’s father said he had to sell his home and give up his job to pursue his legal case for his son.

Fortunately for the father, South Africa is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Otherwise, the case might have turned out very differently.

It is unclear whether the mother plans to return to the US and pursue custody here.

Read more in this IOL article: ‘My little boy is going back home’.

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Canadian Father’s Support Obligation Increased Based on Lottery Winnings

From Canada:

Canadian father earning $40,000 a year was paying child support of $200 per month. (That sounds like a very low support obligation based on that income, but that’s another post…)

Father won the lottery – to the tune of $3.2 million.

Father offered to increase child support paid to his ex, but they couldn’t agree on a number. So the issue went to court.

The court increased the father’s support obligation to $1,000 per month.

Two points worth noting.

First, the court calculated support based, in large part, on the interest projected to be generated by the father’s investment of his jackpot, not the principal.

Second, after his windfall, the father chose to quit his job. As a result, the court chose to impute the father’s recent salary to him, calculating the new support amount, in part, as though the father were still earning that salary.

Read more in this CBC news article: Lottery win means more child support for Saskatchewan family.

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Louisiana Increases Wait for Divorce – for Some

Come January, if you want a divorce, Louisiana may not be the best place to get it.

The state currently has a wait period of six months before any divorce there can be finalized.

Starting next year, the waiting period will increase to a full year – but only for couples who have minor children together.

There are, however, exceptions for cases where adultery, or sexual or other physical abuse is alleged.

This is a somewhat perplexing move for the recovering state. Perhaps the intention behind it is to promote reconciliation of parents of young children.

But, the good-intentions-road may take some unpleasant and undesirable detours to:

  • nastier, more expensive divorces, fueled by false allegations designed to fall within the exceptions to the increased waiting period and
  • the more disgruntled of the two spouses picking up and leaving the rest of the family, to establish residency in another state, where they can get their divorce sooner – such as Florida

Read more in this KLFY TV 10 news article: Some couples will have to wait longer for divorce.

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Adoption Turned Custody Battle Rages for Years With No End in Sight

In 2000, a woman arranged to put her unborn baby up for adoption.

The birth mother moved in with the adoptive family after the birth. And didn’t like what she saw in the adoptive home.

The family’s other children were reportedly home-schooled and lagging socially. Two special needs children allegedly appeared neglected.

The birth mother tried to back out of her termination of parental rights and the adoption.

Since then, the case has been litigated up and down the Utah courts.

And 5 years later, there is still no decision as to who will ultimately be the boy’s parent(s).

In the meantime though, the boy is placed with the would-be adoptive parents, and has not seen his birth mother for several years.

Read more in this Salt Lake Tribune article: Adoption custody battle for 5-year-old continues.

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