May 27, 2014 by Don Hubin, PhD, Chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Ohio
A story out of Ohio provides yet another illustration of the way in which our current child support system fails to respect the decisions of fit and loving parents.
Terri and Nick Viltrakis were divorced about a year ago. Their divorce was less acrimonious than many. They agreed on an amount of child support and Nick began paying Terri directly. According to Terri, Nick was never behind on the child support payments; “Never, not once,” she said.
The Hamilton County Child Support Enforcement Agency thought otherwise. It sent Nick a notice that he was $2,000 in arrears on his child support. You see, child support payments must be made through the child support system and any payments made outside the system are considered by the state to be “gifts” and not to constitute a child support payment.
The language requiring their child support payments to be made through the CSEA was in their divorce decree. Perhaps they had an attorney who didn’t explain this to them; perhaps they represented themselves and used some “off the shelf” divorce decree language that they didn’t pay close enough attention to. And, perhaps they can be faulted for this oversight. Certainly if an attorney was involved, that attorney can be faulted.
Now that the case has received media attention, it looks as if the Hamilton County CSEA is open to resolving this quickly if both Terri and Nick will appear at a hearing and agree to the alleged arrearage being wiped out. It wasn’t easy to get this accommodating response from the CSEA, Terri reports that it took about three weeks of calling and talking with the CSEA just to get a response. Still, with the current willingness of the CSEA to resolve the issue, Nick and Terri won’t be harmed by this too much, assuming that Nick’s credit rating wasn’t adversely affected. Nick will just be out the additional fees that the CSEA charges for the “service” they are providing the family.
But there is a larger issue at stake here. There is the issue of the right of fit parents to raise and provide for their children as they deem appropriate. Terri said in an interview, “we wanted to make the process of getting done with the divorce financially as simple as possible, so we figured that if we were to go through with child support on our own … that we would actually come out ahead.”
So here’s the issue: when two fit parents agree to handle the financial arrangements for raising their child(ren), what right does the government have to force them to handle the transfer of funds through a government agency? Parents who agree to opt out of the child support system should have the legal right to do this. It is not a proper function of the government to require parents to partake of the government “services” provided by child support enforcement agencies. Even though divorced, Terri and Nick have a right to raise their child without this level of government intrusion, provided they both wish to handle child support transfer payments on their own.
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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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