I thought I would just post my letter so all could read it..if you wanna cut and paste go ahead...I have to give credit to another stepmom on a board for noncustodial parents who wrote some of it and I pasted it into mine...enjoy and beware it's LONGGGGG!
January 28, 2008
Senator Byron Dorgan
322 Hart Senate Office
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Child Support Reform and Non-Custodial Parents Rights
Dear Senator Dorgan,
I am writing to you regarding an issue that affects many families throughout this country and I am hoping that this letter will be the first step towards reforming a system that has consistently victimized countless innocent people, and will continue to do so if steps aren’t taken to make a change.
The system I’m talking about is the Child Support System. We always seem to hear about the women…single mothers who’s ex husbands are given the term “deadbeat dad” because they leave their ex wives and children out on their own to fend for themselves with no source of support. I’m not referring to these “deadbeat dads”. The people I’m talking about are men (and some women), who have no problem contributing to the support of their children, but through no fault of their own are being taken advantage of by a system that caters ONLY to the rights of the custodial parent. For the last year, I have witnessed firsthand, the injustices of this system towards non-custodial parents. To illustrate these injustices, I would like to share with you my fiancée’s story.
When my fiancée decided to divorce his wife it was for infidelity. She left him at home with their son and was doing business with her “business partner” turned “lover”. When he filed for divorce it was agreed that custody would be 50/50, one week with mom and one week with dad. Well, she started a business and decided she didn’t want to be a 50/50 mother and left my fiancée with their son fulltime. In North Dakota even in a 50/50 arrangement the parent that makes more income has to pay the other parent child support. So for 8 months (January 2007 to August 2007) his ex-wife collected the child support checks and claimed the child for food stamp benefits while the child was in my fiancée’s care, and going in the hole because of it. He went to Morton County Social Services and reported her to the head director, Mike, and he said nothing could be done because it’s a 50/50 arrangement. I don’t understand this, I guess, because my fiancée had proof he was caring for his son fulltime. We have calendars showing her visitation, which was sparse and sporadic, we have affidavits from daycares, we had receipts for daycare and none of it mattered, even when my fiancée decided his ex-wife had better things to do so he filed for physical custody. Right away the judge denied him a hearing, assuming he did not read the actual complaint and the evidence along with it his explanation for denying the hearing was that the child support should be “recalculated”, because it’s a child support matter. This was never about child support. This was about a 4 year old boy who was being ditched by his own mother. It’s almost like she didn’t care about him.
So my fiancée’s lawyer refiled the motion and asked for another hearing. Finally in August his ex-wife was served with papers to answer to the complaint. It was only than that she started taking their son 50% of the time. Here is where my fiancée pretty much got a slap in the face. He took his car back from her in April of 2007 because she wasn’t making her half of the payments to use the car. HE was ordered to show cause for this. But the ex-wife never had to show cause for receiving child support and food stamp benefits while not having her son in her care. We have all the proof and no one seems to care. It all came down to my fiancée was trying to get out of a child support obligation. Well, when you’re supporting two households and the child is with you fulltime I would too! It just wasn’t fair. He never got a hearing and had to sign over physical custody to the mother because he couldn’t afford to care for his son 50% of the time and pay the child support, and we couldn’t afford to take it to the state supreme court. When his son would come to our house he would come without winter gear, no hats and gloves, so every other week we were paying for extra things his mother should’ve been buying him with the child support. He’s being physically neglected and the signs are there, and no one seems to care. Last week he came here with no hat and gloves and he’s been sick for 3 weeks with bronchitis, his mother never took him to the doctor, and it was below zero last week; there’s no excuse for this. He’s been coming in underwear that is too small for him…they pinch his legs and turn them red. And it all comes down to the child support. She’s obviously not buying him the things he needs and that are what the payments are supposed to be for! Now she, for some odd reason, thinks she’s entitled to claiming their son on her 2007 tax return for the EIC. She didn’t have him for 50% of the time and also didn’t contribute to their son’s care for 8 months. We have proof of this also. We need to overhaul this system.
I’m a custodial parent myself and it should seem like I should be on the other end of this ordeal. I deal with a deadbeat dad that doesn’t want to work and make payments but I also don’t expect them to take so much of his check he can’t afford to live. My fiancée can’t pay his rent, he’s falling behind on his bills, but his ex-wife can afford to go out every weekend and leave their son with babysitters all the time. This system is so anti-dad it’s sickening. I can completely understand the strictness for the deadbeat parents out there but the noncustodial parents that make an effort and get the shaft is uncalled for, especially when the mother is obviously unfit and is using the money for things other than caring for the child.
Here are some facts regarding the laws on Child Support that I was shocked to learn and illustrate exactly why a reform of this broken system is so desperately needed.
1. Child Support is supposed to be for the child/children’s basic needs such as food, clothing, & shelter, but the percentage of income that is taken from the non-custodial parent for Child Support, many times far exceeds an amount that anyone would consider fair for a child’s basic needs. Now, I myself am a parent, and I know exactly what it costs to feed and clothe a child.
2. Child Support is supposed to be a shared responsibility between the custodial and non-custodial parent, but did you know that although these payments are carefully monitored and great pains are taken to make sure that the non-custodial parent makes their payments, the same rules don’t apply to the custodial parent. The custodial parent’s income has absolutely no bearing on the amount of child support the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay. I was actually told by one attorney, that even if the custodial parent wins the lottery, the non-custodial parent STILL has to pay the same amount even if it means he won’t be able to support himself. No one monitors the custodial parent in any way. It is assumed that as long as the children aren’t starving and they have clothes on their backs, that the support money is being spent on them. But you know if the non custodial parent won the lottery the payments would go through the roof. Is that fair??
3. Most people are not aware that there are NO steps taken to make absolutely certain that the money that is paid to the custodial parent is actually used for the children it is intended to support. The support checks are issued in the name of the custodial parent and at that point they can basically do whatever they want with the money. Just imagine paying someone over a thousand dollars a month and not ever knowing exactly what you’re spending it on. How does my fiancee know that the money he pays her isn’t being used to pay for any number of other expenses having no relation whatsoever to his child? The answer is simple. He doesn’t know and obviously, our government doesn’t think he has any right to know. There needs to be some sort of accountability on the part of the custodial parent, yet there is none. The only person who is held accountable for anything is the non-custodial parent.
4. Many people consider Child Support to be in essence, “hidden alimony”. How else would you describe writing a large check, every week, to someone whose trustworthiness is seriously flawed at best, and then be expected to trust them to use it for what it was intended? I don’t think we can have much confidence in a system like that. At this point, the child support check turns into more of a “paycheck” for the custodial parent. A person who earns a paycheck for taking care of children is called a Nanny. But if all it takes is to simply give birth, then I must be missing something because I don’t recall ever receiving a weekly paycheck for giving birth to my daughter. This is setting a horrible example for young girls everywhere. It’s teaching them that all you have to do is get pregnant, and the father of your child will have to pay you every week until your child turns 18 or if they go on to college, until they’re 21 years old. In addition, the non-custodial parent must pay even if the child goes away to college and isn’t even living with the custodial parent because technically, they still have “custody”. The money the custodial parent receives is also not taxed because it’s not considered income. It sounds an awful lot like income to me, and although the money they receive isn’t taxed, that same money that the non-custodial parent pays isn’t considered tax deductible. Yet another example of the one-way street that is the child support system.
5. The suicide rates among non-custodial parents are another thing that no one seems to want to acknowledge. In my research I visited countless websites (“ancpr.org” is one of the best, and I urge you to take a look), devoted to the rights of non-custodial parents and they all say the same thing. After having your children taken away from you, then being forced to pay a support amount that leaves you with not nearly enough to live on, some non-custodial parents begin to believe that there’s really nothing left for them to live for. And who can really blame them? This is a system that’s practically designed to take away everything they have. Is it really beneficial for a child to witness their father being brought to the point where they cannot even survive? I can’t see how that can possibly be.
As stated above, child support is supposed to cover a child’s basic needs…food, clothing and shelter. Anyone can see that costs for food and clothing come nowhere near the amount that the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay, but what about the “shelter” portion? The courts need to understand that all cases are not cut and dry. I completely understand a non-custodial parent contributing a reasonable amount of money towards a place to live if the custodial parent is on their own with no other means of support. However, there are countless cases such as , where the ex re-marries and they and their new spouse purchase a house together and she is now able to take advantage of her new husband’s income as well as her ex-husband’s income. Now because husband’s ex is the custodial parent, and his children live with her, the husband is actually expected to contribute to THEIR mortgage! It sounds unbelievable, but it’s very true.
My fiancee takes home on average, about $350 per week. At the height of his support payments he was paying the basic $75 per week, plus additional things he had to buy his son that his mother won’t buy him that he absolutely needs to survive the winters here. He was left with approximately $225 per week to live on. Now bear in mind, with that $225 that was left over, he needed to provide his son with a home(rent is $525) to stay in when he came to visit, but with $225 a week, the odds of anyone being able to do that are pretty slim In Bismarck, where we live it’s a joke. The non-custodial parent has also got to buy food, pay for his own telephone, electric, car, gas expenses, etc. That amount is also supposed to cover any entertainment expenses, such as eating out, movies, etc. Is the custodial parent made to contribute to his expenses with regard to providing for his children when they’re in his care? The answer is no. He is, in essence, being forced to support not one, but two households. This is a very sad, but true fact for countless thousands of men just like my fiancée.
The laws state that the non-custodial parent’s new spouse’s income doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of support that’s supposed to be paid or received, but that is yet another complete and total lie. Without my salary, there is absolutely no way that my fiancée would have, after paying his support for the week, nearly enough money to be able to support himself. As a result, I have to make up the difference, so it is obvious that I am most definitely contributing to the support of his children. The government obviously doesn’t mind my contribution, yet the ex’s income is totally protected and counts for nothing.
I could give you many more instances of this one-sided system, but I’m sure you see my point. Isn’t the United States supposed to be a country that protects the rights of EVERY citizen? Isn’t that what our Constitution says? Unfortunately, that law doesn’t apply in the family court system. The rights of the non-custodial parent are practically non-existent. Both sides should be entitled to an equal standard of living, but in many cases the custodial parent’s standard of living is many times higher than the non-custodial parents. It is a VERY sad state of affairs when people who are in this country ILLEGALLY, have more rights and more protection under the government than decent, hard-working, tax-paying American citizens.
The solution is so simple. First, judge every case on the facts of THAT particular case. Obviously everyone does not have the same situation. Secondly, make the amount awarded reasonable and allow the non custodial parent to have a life after their divorce instead of punishing them for something that, in many cases, was not their fault. Thirdly, make the custodial parent ACCOUNTABLE!! Make them prove that the money they’re receiving every week is actually spent on the child. If they’re honestly spending all of the money (about $346 in my fiancée’s case) on food and clothing, then it shouldn’t be at all difficult to provide this proof. I think it would relatively safe to say, that if these changes were implemented and enforced, there would be much fewer so-called deadbeat dads, as these men would then know for certain that their money was being spent on their children, and not on their ex-spouses.
Mr. Dorgan, I am hoping that you can direct me to a place where we can begin to make these changes actually happen. Unfortunately, the entire child support system is a very big and powerful money making machine, that most people don’t want to go up against for fear that they’ll be accused of being some sort of monster who doesn’t want to take care of their children, and this could not be further from the truth. The government is counting on the fact most non-custodial parents have so little money, that they won’t be able to wage any sort of fight against them.
Our government and family court system is allowing (dare I say encouraging?) the custodial parent to use their children as pawns to better their own lives and the lives of their new family members. They then compound their deceitfulness by saying it’s
“for the children”. It has been my experience, that when a person, or group of people are so vehemently opposed to changing a law or a policy on something, they most certainly must be making money off of it somehow, and usually it’s at someone else’s expense.
This is a new day and a new age. Women are no longer the innocent victims of divorce they once were. They are demanding equality everywhere, yet conveniently, they don’t want to be considered equals when it comes to supporting their children. This system has been abusing and taking advantage of the non-custodial parent for way too long, and something needs to be done about it now! Our elected officials are supposed to be the ones that protect us from injustices, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly and impartially. This is the perfect example of an entire group of people whose rights are looked out for by NO ONE. What will it take for a change to be made? How many more people will be made to suffer at the hands of our own government? Sometimes, I think to myself…what can one person do? But I try to remember that all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling. If no one tries, then change will never happen. I believe it’s high time for someone to stand up, fight for that change and make a real difference in the lives of non-custodial parents and their children everywhere. Now let’s see if any of our political leaders actually have the guts to finally do something about it.
If you would like to contact me to discuss this further, I can be reached at the address and phone number below. Until then, I am awaiting your response.