Los Angeles, CA--
In my recent blog post Did Anne Heche Get a Break on Her Child Support Because She's a Woman?
, I wrote:
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge just lowered actress Anne Heche's child support obligation by 75% because Heche says she has fallen on financial hard times. Recently she was allowed to "skip" paying child support for July.
The judge may well have acted correctly in this case, but it begs the question, "If Heche can get a huge reduction so easily, why is it so hard for fathers in similar circumstances to get reductions?"
According to a recent California Department of Child Support Services report, one of the leading factors creating "deadbeat dads" in California is that fathers who owe child support are rarely able to get downward modifications on their child support when they suffer drops in income.
The post resonated with several readers. One, Fred, wrote:
I just read your comments on Anne Heche and the downward modification of her child support. I had to tell you what just happened to me in court!
My son's mom had accrued years of arrearages. To try to keep the peace, I never took her to court. Then, she fraudulently told welfare that SHE was the custodial parent, fraudulently told welfare that I was a deadbeat dad, and fraudulently collected for a year (she began working full-time 3 weeks after she began collecting). Of course, they came after ME.
Not only has she suffered no consequences for welfare fraud, but last month, the judge formally forgave her arrearages. Have you ever heard of a judge retroactively forgiving arrearages?!? He didn't even bother to ask how much her arrearages were. He just simply ordered that, whatever they are, they be erased!
Ken, a reader, saw it and sent me the following letter:
The Anne Heche article resonates, Glenn.
I filed for divorce in 2003. My ex-wife was verbally and physically abusive to me and I did not want my three children raised in that environment. I asked for shared but primary custody (Rhode Island does not generally grant "sole' custody).
She had me arrested (falsely). The judge threw it out of court but kept a restraining order "just in case.' I did not get primary custody.
My ex had been intent on moving to the Seattle area. We fought for over a year until I relented and signed a settlement agreement that has the children living with me and my new wife and child all summer, every Christmas and for Spring Break. I visit them about four other times during the year.
The settlement agreement also states that child support payments be made to her until she starts making $30,000 per year. At that time, her income would factor into the equation. Three years went by. She never reported her income. The order was entered in the state of Washington. After she refused to bring the children back to me in Christmas of 2006, I filed to recover the expense of $2500 to pick them up. I won. She appealed, I lost. Fed up, I subpoenaed her records to adjust support.
She had been averaging somewhere in the range of $75k for several years. Prior to that, she had been a Wall Street investment banker making hundreds of thousands of dollars (I was a manufacturing manager. I now own a machine shop). Based on Washington state formulas, I was told by my lawyer that I would pay about $1,000 less per month. I also found out that Washington has a child support cap and that I was paying a few hundred dollars a month over that cap. At the very least, I would be saving $300 per month or so--money that would help me to see them as much as one or more weekends per year.
I lost again. Now she"s threatening not to bring them to us for summer.
Astonished hardly describes my reaction. Reading about Heche just pours more salt into the wound...