US Supreme Court to Hear Child Support Case February 3, 2011 Top Stories US Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Constitutionality of Jailing Parents for Inability to Pay Child Support
Fathers and Families has for many years publicized the terrible child support problems often faced by low income obligors, and we've had some legislative success on the issue. Nevertheless, the problem remains acute, particularly due to the recession.
The injustice is typified by the case of Jeremy Lavine, one of three Fathers and Families supporters quoted in a national Associated Press article on the issue.
Lavine worked in the real estate industry and had a $1,100 a month child support obligation based on a $4,500 a month income. Like so many in the real estate industry, his income dropped precipitously, yet the Florida Department of Children and Families told him his industry was going to bounce back and refused to give him a downward modification. The kicker? Lavine's kids live with him 50% of the time.
In the end, Lavine's ex-wife was very reasonable. Today she and Jeremy share the kids 50-50 and split day care and health care expenses, and neither pays child support. As Jeremy says, "we worked everything out--despite the child support system."
Now the US Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments in Turner v. Price, a South Carolina case concerning one of the worst aspects of this abusive system--the way some states jail indigent child support debtors without providing them legal counsel.
The suit was filed by a coalition of legal groups, including the South Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In their brief they wrote:
“The South Carolina Family Court nevertheless has imprisoned hundreds, and likely thousands, of indigent defendants for nonpayment of support without appointed counsel...
"These defendants languish in modern-day debtors’ prisons after patently unfair proceedings, many of which lack any factual findings. Often the courts do not even inquire into the defendant’s ability to pay their support obligation.”
Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. has been covering Turner and related cases and developments. In Prison for Indigent Parents Owing Child Support to Be Heard by the Supreme Court, Robert discusses a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article on the issue:
"It’s worth noting that no one in the Georgia child support bureaucracy, no judge, no attorney challenges the assertion that Georgia jails non-custodial parents who are unable to pay their child support...
"War veteran Randy Miller supported his child very nicely for several years, but then lost his job. He continued to put his child first and made his payments until he literally ran out of money. He now has no assets of any kind including a bank account with 39 cents in it.
"The state’s response to his nightmare? Incarcerating him..."
For more information, see Robert's Three Cases Challenge Constitutionality of Jailing for Inability to Pay Child Support and Supreme Court to Hear Child Support Case by Indigent Dad.
Huffington Post Covers DSM/Parental Alienation Controversy, F & F’s Campaign
Divorce consultant Cathy Meyer recently covered the controversy over DSM-5 and Parental Alienation, along with Fathers and Families’ role in it, in her Huffington Post column Parental Alienation: It’s About More Than ‘A Uterus, Divorce Papers and Bruises’ (1/25/11).
Over the last few months Father’s Rights activists have been attempting to have Parental Alienation Disorder added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of diagnoses.A couple points:
1) Meyer is referring to our Campaign to Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition
, which we launched in December of 2009. The response from our supporters has been enthusiastic--Dr. Darrel Regier, vice chair of the DSM-5 Task Force, told the Associated Press in October, “We’ve gotten an enormous amount of mail--more than [on] any other issue.”
A coalition of mental health experts led by psychiatrist William Bernet has been at the forefront of the DSM efforts. Fathers and Families’ work has been to support this coalition. Gaining inclusion isn’t easy–David J. Kupfer, M.D., the chair of the DSM-5 Task Force, told the media that with any disorder proposed for inclusion, “The door to get in [the manual] is pretty hard.”
2) We are a family court reform organization (as opposed to “Father’s Rights activists”). Our emphasis generally turns towards fathers because they are the ones whose relationships with their children is most imperiled after a divorce or separation, but we support fair treatment for all
family court litigants.
When learning of this effort the National Organization for Women (NOW) became concerned and sent out an Action Alert to counter the campaign. According to NOW’s Tracy Simmons:To learn more about NOW’s counter-campaign, see our blog post NOW Criticizes F & F over Our Campaign, Writes DSM Task Force. Simmons’ characterization of Parental Alienation is very erroneous, as Meyer correctly details.
“Parental Alienation Syndrome has now morphed into Parental Alienation Disorder thanks to the fathers’ rights organizations who are wildly pushing this through, and why wouldn’t they? It benefits the abuser and discriminates against the victims of abuse, which are overwhelmingly women.
It's about fucking time.