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November 20, 2014, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Vicki Turetsky is the Commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement and, within the understandable parameters of that job, a very good one. As with any bureaucrat, she’s limited in what she can accomplish, but Turetsky has always demonstrated a balanced understanding of the child support system. She’s no “higher support orders mean more support” type of fanatic. “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” has never been her approach to non-custodial parents who can’t pay.

Indeed, it’s been Turetsky who, over the past few years has gone on record pleading with states to be reasonable in setting child support guidelines. Her reports have been the ones pointing out that over 60% of non-custodial parents who are behind on their orders earn under $10,000 per year.

But that’s been only hortatory. Beyond her personal desire to make the child support system make some sense, those statements meant nothing.

But with the publication in the federal register of proposed new rules on child support, all that changes. The proposed rules state the intention of the OCSE to require states to do a number of things that would bring child support orders a long way toward responsibility and common sense. They’d also mean non-custodial parents would be more likely to pay what they owe, less likely to fall behind and less likely still to be incarcerated for failure to pay.

Click here to go to the publication in the Federal Register. From there, go to pages 68553 – 68557 for the pertinent proposed rules. You’ll find them under the heading “Section 302.56: Guidelines for Setting Child Support Awards.”

The OCSE’s publication in the Federal Register begins by reciting some of the applicable research on child support.

A growing body of research finds that compliance with child support orders in some States, regardless of income level, declines when the support obligation is set above 15–20 percent of the obligor’s income, and that orders for excessive amounts result in lower, not higher, child support payments.14 States like California and Washington have found that the direct result of establishing support obligations that exceed the ability of obligors to meet them is unpaid arrearages. Most arrearages are owed by noncustodial parents with earnings under $10,000 and are uncollectible.15 Research finds that high arrearages substantially reduce the formal earnings of noncustodial parents and child support payments in economically disadvantaged families, while reducing unmanageable arrearages can increase payments.16 Accumulation of high arrearage balances is often associated with incarceration, because parents have little to no ability to earn income while they are incarcerated, and little ability to pay off the arrearages when released due to lack of employment.17

Stated another way, when parents have a manageable child support order, they tend to pay it; when the level is set too high, they know they can’t pay it, become discouraged and pay little or nothing of what they owe. That’s particularly true of low-income parents. The only thing states get out of setting support levels too high is massive arrearages, and, I would add, a massive state bureaucracy whose job it is to collect money all know to be “uncollectible.” The optimum level of support appears to be around 15% of the non-custodial parent’s income. Anything above that tends to result in lower payments, not higher.

So one of the proposed new rules would require states to set orders at levels parents can actually pay. It’s amazing that, at this late date, we should have to be fighting that particular fight. In a saner world, it’d be a given that orders would be set that way, but the child support world has never been called sensible.

Another part of that concept is that modifications should occur in ways that would reflect the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay. Likewise, orders should be based on actual evidence of parent’s earnings. That means judges would be required, in all but the rarest of cases, to hold hearings, gather information on the ability to pay and issue orders based thereon. In other words, default judgments should be a rarity and, most importantly, so should imputation of income.

Setting child support orders that reflect an actual ability to pay is crucial to encouraging compliance, increasing accountability for making regular payments, and discouraging uncollectible arrearages. On January 30, 2013, the National Child Support Enforcement Association issued a policy statement indicating that: ‘‘As a general rule, child support guidelines and orders should reflect actual income of parents and be changed proactively to ensure current support orders reflect current circumstances of the parents and to encourage regular child support payments. Presumed or default orders should occur only in limited circumstances.’’ 21

Then there’s the little matter that many states consider a parent’s incarceration to be “voluntary unemployment.” Really. For purposes of deciding child support, those states assume that a father who’s in jail went there intentionally to avoid paying child support. They therefore refuse to abate his payments with the result that he gets out of prison burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid child support debt, plus interests and fees. That’s a debt that will never be paid, but will make his life on the outside essentially impossible.

That’s the background. The actual proposed new rules begin on page 68555.

First, only the “actual earnings” of a non-custodial parent will be able to be used in calculating child support.

Second, states will be required to include in their child support guidelines, a basic subsistence level of income the non-custodial parent will be able to maintain. Income considered for child support calculations will only be that that exceeds that subsistence level. Some states already incorporate such a subsistence income into their guidelines, but many do not. The new rules would require all states to do so.

Third, while discouraging the imputation of income, the new rules allow it in cases in which “the noncustodial parent’s lifestyle is inconsistent with earnings or income and where there is evidence of income or assets beyond those identified.”

Fourth, the proposed rules would prohibit states from considering incarceration to be “voluntary unemployment.”

Fifth (p. 68557), if a parent is hauled into court in contempt proceedings for failure to pay, the new rules would require states to allow the parent a subsistence living before he can be held in contempt.

In addition, we encourage States to develop procedures to take into account the noncustodial parent’s subsistence level in other child support enforcement procedures such as credit bureau reporting, license revocation, State tax refund offset, and liens.

Sixth, the OCSE rules would require judges to make written findings of fact based on actual evidence produced in court that a parent held in contempt is actually able to pay but refuses. That’s an attempt to make states comply with the requirements of Turner vs. Rogers decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011.

Seventh, the rules would require states, as part of their child support enforcement systems, to provide low-income parents job services to help them train for, obtain and keep employment.

Those are far from the only proposals made by the OCSE to change its rules on state child support systems, but they’re the ones that most directly impact non-custodial parents. For the most part, they’d make significant improvements in those systems.

What’s important at this point is that they’re proposed rules, not rules. That means the OCSE is now soliciting public comment on them, which further means that advocates for family court reform MUST make their voices known. Here’s the link for commenting. (In the search engine, type in the name of the document, “Flexibility, Efficiency and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs.” That’ll take you to the comment page. Comments are due by January 15, 2015.)

By all means, let the OCSE know what you think and do so in an intelligent, civil way. Those who wish to keep child support levels as high as possible will be commenting and we must as well.

Contribute

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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.

#childsupport, #OfficeofChildSupportEnforcement, #VickiTuretsky, #proposedrules, #non-custodialparents

Comments   

+1 #25 child support is not rightMroyer 2015-01-13 22:23
No one ever looks at the situation why are the parents splitting up in the first place. Sorry I have had four kids and don't receive child support on any of them and I don't want it either. One the dad didn't want to be involved that's fine why would I go through all the fuss and hassle to force him to pay and visit sorry I believe that's just more drama that my child doesn't need the other father he is very helpful if I am truly in need to where I would ask he is there if he can be, because it's my choice to keep the kids I know he would keep them so why would I force him to pay me anything when it's my choice to be the full time parent. Also I have seen women who have just got tired of the relationship wanted something different why should a man pay because she wanted to run off and that life wasn't good enough for her anymore and there are a lot of women making a dang career on CS I believe school and summers should be switched and no one pays a dime
+2 #24 child support is not rightMroyer 2015-01-13 22:11
Child support shouldn't even exist honestly. It is unfair for the father to have to pay the mother every month when they are just as much a suitable parent and kids are naturally granted to the mother. There needs to be more considerations than just lower payments. Like fathers should never have to pay the mother during their summer time now what sense does that make. Honestly believe child support should not be cash it should be supplies and clothes only.
0 #23 i have taken time to review the bio for Vicki TuretskyDr Darryl Jewett 2014-12-10 11:37
I have edited my comment in response to the down-vote. The office of Vicki Turetsky has had considerable time for both preempting and responding to the problems caused by our (extremely) abusive child support enforcement system. That I and other men like myself have not found relief yet is evidence of that. I am well aware of the obstacles to progress presented by a bureaucracy. That being written, development of the proposed new rules which make matters worse instead of better are not encumbered by any of them.
+5 #22 feminists ARE psychopaths or didn't you get the memoDr Darryl Jewett 2014-12-10 02:53
Psychopaths (a) lack empathy, remorse, shame, guilt, and agency (b) demonstrate no analytical skills or logic, (c) are glib, insincere, disingenuous and present with shallow affect, (d) are solipsistic, parasitic, opportunistic, manipulative, deceitful and duplicitous, (e) are irresponsible and blame others for the consequences of their own misbehavior, (f) lie compulsively and pathologically, (g) are short-sighted and unable to plan ahead, (h) have an inflated sense of entitlement, (i) are hypocrites and believe the rules apply to everyone except them, (j) contribute nothing to solving problems except telling others what to do and make themselves look good by making others look bad, (k) are uncivilized animals devoid of conscience and depend upon constant affirmation by others of their existence, (l) are authoritarian and demonstrate no independent thought, and (m) use childish defense mechanisms like projection, compartmentaliz ation and rationalization
+3 #21 @ Pres./FounderDr Darryl Jewett 2014-12-01 17:01
"If shared custody is NOT awarded, judge will provide facts to defend a decision. If custody is NOT supported by a parent, the parent amenable to sharing will be awarded full custody and the non-cooperative parent will have no less than 2 nites/wk..."

The system of family law is populated by psychopaths. Psychopaths have no analytical skills or logic. False allegations of DV, rape or child abuse are all the facts a judge needs to award a mother custody. Since false allegations require no proof, judges do not hold mothers responsible or accountable for them (VAWA) and judges are rewarded for indulging them, then a mother can make as many as she wants. Until laws like VAWA which allow mothers to make false allegations with impunity and for profit are eliminated and mothers are punished, then presumption of shared parenting is not possible. Attorneys, judges and the rest of the DV industry continue to profit as fathers spend all their money defending them selves.
+2 #20 Coordinatorkurtbrenneman 2014-11-29 17:52
hey doc(s) check out New Zealand reforms 2015 and related platform https://www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Law-Platform/624892837619742
+3 #19 Coordinatorkurtbrenneman 2014-11-28 13:58
The overwhelming consensus at the Divorce Corp. Family Law Conference, 11/14/2014, was that money and the loss of family resources in divorce conflict is the overarching primary threat to parents, children, and society. How do we most effectively take money off the table and out of the equation?

Is taking money off the table our primary objective? If not, what is it? If so, are priorities and resources aligned with this objective?

For example: Is it easier to explain, propose, and gain majority support for joint custody and equal parenting time, or demonstrate and propose a uniform child support system that eliminates the financial incentive to seek primary custody and possession of the children in the first place?
+4 #18 Pres./FounderPCLEMSC 2014-11-27 14:38
.Darryl, family law is NOT populated by psychopaths. That kind of generalization is not helpful. It IS populated by anti-male feminists of all types, as well as greedy, self-serving people of all types. Read Dr. Stephen Baskerville's book, "TAKEN INTO CUSTODY" for an in-depth commentary on family law profiteering.
+4 #17 the problem is not governments and lawsDr Darryl Jewett 2014-11-21 16:49
There have always been and always will be bad governments and laws. National Parents Organization changed its name from Fathers and Families. The latter described the problem much more accurately. Men and fathers are victims of women and feminists. The name "NPO" misrepresents the problem as governments and laws. People in the MRM have to stop reframing the problem by blaming the irresponsible choices and behavior of women as a fault of governments and laws. Or stress, hormones, circumstances, income and/or especially men. The problem is the irresponsible choices and behavior of women and feminists. Period. Almost all victims of family law are men. NOT women. And even when a rare woman is the victim of family law, consequences for her aren't nearly as bad as they are for a man. By inviting women in to solve the problem by portraying themselves as victims when they are not only perpetuates the problem and all the solutions will be for women at the further expense of men.
+2 #16 @ jDr Darryl Jewett 2014-11-21 16:35
"When will NPO get serious about all this?"

In deed. I've been reading NPO for years and have learned a lot from Robert Franklin and Ned Holstein about family law. Unfortunately, law is not a solution to our dilemma. Plato 2,500 years ago wrote: "Responsible people don't need laws to be responsible and irresponsible people will always find ways to violate laws." The problem with family law is that it exists. There is no way to administer it responsibly. Especially as long as women represent a growing majority of the population and electorate and keep voting themselves rights without responsibilitie s at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of men. More laws are not a solution. Only elimination of all existing laws. As long as women are allowed to vote, they will manipulate the public with the spectacle of their chronic victimhood and governments will acquiesce by persecuting men and children. Vicki has offered no meaningful solutions but more problems.

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