Time in prison is just one of many possible consequences of failing to pay your child support. Recently I came across this on the U.S. Department of State website which states that if you are behind on “child support payments in excess of $2,500, you are ineligible to receive a U.S. passport. If this applies to you, Passport Services strongly recommends that you contact the appropriate State child support enforcement agency to make payment arrangements before applying for a passport.” While I was in a sporting good store recently I witnessed a man being turned down for a hunting license, thanks to a new State mandated computer system that all licensees must adhere to. He was denied the hunting license because he is behind on child support. So you can’t hunt, fish, or even leave the country. It’s also been brought to my attention that the government can withold child support payments from your tax refund! Feel free to leave comments or questions at the end of this article.
In research for this article I interviewed my Aunt, whom was a Child Support Enforcement Officer. Since 1985 she was an Employee of the State of Mississippi but her position is funded by a Federal Program which insures that parents receiving government aid are financially assisted by the state mandated wage garnishment, of the non custodial parent. These were time limited positions for child support enforcement.
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The majority of her time was spent in determining paternity. This is how it works. The mother gives a name, or five names (in some cases), and child support enforcement sets off to locate the potential fathers. Once an address is obtained for these men, a letter is sent instructing them to come to the appropriate location for a paternity test. Sometimes married men (or their wives), received these letters. Once in the office the potential father could accept paternal responsibilities. This was a rare occurrence. Normally the potential father would ‘deny’ that he is the father.
DNA testing used to require the withdrawing of blood, but more recently ‘swabbing‘ has been used. The baby, mother, and potential are all swabbed to obtain a sample of their DNA. The DNA is then sent off to a laboratory and analyzed. The mothers DNA ‘markers’ are noted and then subtracted from the DNA of the baby. The remaining DNA should be a match with the real father.
Once Paternity is established, the father’s wages were assessed. There were guidelines for how much a father will pay. It’s based on a percentage of his income per child. If the father doesn’t have a job then the judge would set the child support based on a minimum wage job, at 40 hours per week.
Mississippi passed a law in the 1990′s (which is often ignored) which states that all divorces involving children must have a child support withholding order. A form would then be filled out by a Child Support Enforcement Officer and mailed to the employer of the non custodial parent. This was a wage garnishment form designed to help the government insure that babies in Mississippi are being taken care of. Also, if the custodial parent is on some form of government assistance like Medicaid or Welfare, there is a state law which mandates the withholding order. This one is strictly enforced.
Besides not being able to obtain a hunting or fishing license. You could also be denied a Drivers License when you stand in line for one of these. My Aunt relayed a story about a certain lawyer that would never pay his child support. The only way they could get him to pay was to threaten to remove his license to practice law. The Child Support Officer could use the same threats with a medical doctor. The ability to disrupt the lives of the non custodial parent seems to have no boundaries.
What if you leave the state?
Leaving the state won’t help you avoid paying child support. You may prolong it, but you can’t avoid it by skipping the state. Thanks to the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement and Support Act, your arrest warrant for failure to pay child support follows you anywhere in the United States. For example, one of the arrest warrants my Aunt had issued resulted in a man being arrested in California. He was driving a tractor trailer loaded with produce. Although this was a routine traffic stop, once the man’s license was entered into the police computer, his warrant for failure to pay child support in Mississippi popped up. He was arrested and his employer’s produce sat in the hot California sun, spoiling before making it to market.
How you are tracked
The government tracks its citizens thanks to a few interconnected circumstances. This tracking is made possible by your Social Security Number, which is really how the government sees its citizens. Using your Social Security Number to obtain employment, results in a W-2 being issued to the I.R.S.. Large companies have to report this information every three months. Smaller companies may only report this information at the end of the year. Thanks to the Homeland Security Act, this process most likely alerts them as well. But the end result is that a Child Support Officer knows where you are, and if they’re aggressive, you’ll be arrested.
Time in jail
Time in jail is only pursued if the Child Support Officer has a father or mother who refuses to cooperate. You won’t go to jail if you are trying to pay your child support (actually paying, not just talking about paying). Once the Officer feels that they have wasted enough time trying to get you to pay, they have a warrant issued to bring you before a judge. Sometimes they may just lure you to the court with a subpoena, without mentioning that you’re going to be arrested when you arrive. My Aunt relayed a heart breaking story of having to place a mother in jail who wouldn’t keep a job and pay her child support. Since the split with her previous husband this woman had given birth to another child. Inside the courtroom, the mother was placed in handcuffs and escorted to jail, leaving her one year old behind crying.
Once in jail, you’re stuck there until you get a job. Now I know this sounds crazy, but my Aunt said that you couldn’t leave jail until you could prove that you had a job. Normally family members took care of this obligation for their incarcerated loved ones. The Child Support Officer actually does the legal writing. They have a lawyer at their assistance that really does nothing more than just sign whatever gets placed in front of their face. So your life of freedom is really in the hands of the Child Support Officer.
The squeaky wheel gets the oil
My Aunt said she averaged carrying around 800 ‘cases’ at any one time. Also, she would only make appearances in court once a month. So she would try and accomplish all she could on that day. She made it very obvious, in our conversation, that the custodial parents who were the most assertive with her, took priority over people who compained little. So if your Ex loves the idea of harassing you, expect to hear from the Child Support Enforcement Officer often.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it’s of no consequence for the female to have you in court as often as she’d like. The judge always makes the man pay the court costs.
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