August is "Child Support Awareness Month" huh...

Trigger warning:
If you're reading this and we're close, you know I've got an ex who doesn't like to pay child support. If we're not close, or I haven't known you very long, this might be news. What follows is a ranty, sometimes profane look at child support. I decided to write it after reading this article from Alternet, talking about debtor's prisons in this day and age. If you disagree with me, please, tell me why. I'm curious, and would love to see how you think this situation should be absolved.

OK, so, August is Child Support Awareness Month.

I learned that this is a throw back to the welfare thing that Clinton did in the 90's. While I think it was probably a good idea I do think that now it's more lip-service and self-glorification than anything really worthwhile. Think about it-- "see, see, we're doing something about this rash of dead beat parents who won't pay support! See, see?"  [This isn't a new problem, either, given that most of the single parent households that I was acquainted with growing up were headed by single moms who didn't get support at all, or got minimal support;, if we really want to do something about this, we need to make a point of not forgiving people who don't pay support-- and actually punish the people who refuse to pay. But, I'll get into that later.]

We're going to talk about child support, enforcement, and what it does, and doesn't do, but first, let's play a little game. It's called "spot the felony". In the graphic below, a screen shot that you can see was taken on August 1, about 3 in the afternoon Arizona time. I censored the first and middle names (I don't use my middle name at all and as much as I would love to, I refuse to name him) and the actual case number. Everything else is exactly the way it was when I mashed the "print screen" button.

Can you see it? It's the ten-plus thousand in arrears. There was a payment last month, as you can see-- I didn't mess with that, at all. I will say that the support he's supposed to pay, by lawful court order is just over 850$ a month. Not 670$.

Oh, but he's paying, you might say.

So, let me show you the payment history I have. According to the Department of Economic Security in Arizona, in the last twelve months not one full payment has been made. If you tot up the numbers, you'll see he's even missed a month completely (not that the 25 or 69 dollar payments really count for anything, but well, you know I'm trying to be as brutally honest as possible.)

According to the laws in Arizona, he's a felon. If he shows up, they can arrest him for non-payment-- because he's 5k or more behind.

Let me say that again, He can be arrested in Arizona because he is more than five thousand dollars behind.

As of the first or second week of the month (it changes, based on some arbitrary dart board jabs, I think), another 850 is added to the top, less anything that gets sent in, but in the next couple months he's going to be behind more than 15k.

The other things that Arizona can do is apply to garnish his tax refunds, and petition New York (where I think he lives now) or where ever he lives to refuse to renew his drivers license when it expires; nor can you get a passport, or get it renewed. The DES has does both of these things, that's what that larger payment a couple months ago was, his tax refund, I think. I also know he doesn't have a drivers license, because two years ago he called me shouting and screaming that it was all my fault he couldn't renew it. The conversation was surreal, and went a little something like this:
Me upon seeing an unfamiliar telephone number pop up on my mobile: Hello?
JD, in a screaming fit: You fucking cunt! How could you do this to me?!
Me: Wait, what, who is this?
JD: It's me J----
Me: and you're screaming at me why? I haven't even spoken to you in <so many> months.

Then he launched into a tirade that culminated in his being hung up on. But yes, it's all my fault that he couldn't renew his license, and was refused a passport, so he couldn't go to Costa Rica or  Bogotá, or some shit. No, really, I have no idea why he was screaming at me about it, but it was really weird and he knew that this was a consequence, because he'd told me before that, that he knew they'd "yank [his] license."

Now, the article. The TL:DR read version is that it is unfair for sheriffs to arrest non-custodial parents for non-payment of support and throw them in jail, because a lot of them are indigent, or don't make much money, and that actually incarcerating them costs more than the county would bring in in payments.

Sure, that sounds all right, if you look at it like that. Don't put them in a "debtor's prison", make them pay off the debt, right? Saves the county the money and manpower; the non-custodial parent doesn't lose their job because they were in jail, sounds like win-win.

It sound fantastic, until you know how enforcement tends to work.

There's a man or woman who sits behind a desk in Phoenix, or your county seat, or maybe even your local courthouse. They tick-tick-tick on their computer, entering information from their never ending stack of files. New files. New custody agreements, new payment arrangements, new or updates jobs. They get emails, and faxes from employers. The bulk of their work is automated, though, as there's a computer program that keeps track of payments and all that happy horse shit.

They might call the custodial parent every so often, and the call sounds something like this:
"We were going over the case, and realise we don't know where the non-custodial parent is living. Do you have their contact information?"

I have NEVER gotten a telephone call from them. Not since I moved down to Arizona. In Michigan my case worker called me once-- to tell me she was retiring, and I'd get a letter from the new one, which I did, an automated letter that wasn't even signed with a digital signature. Instead, I get emails from the Department of Economic Security-- the child support people here in AZ -- sent through the site you can see above, about once a year asking if I still live on my bramble-synonym street, and if I know where my ex is.

I have to be honest and write them with the explosive news that Nope, I haven't got the faintest fucking clue. No phone number, no address, no ideas. Sorry. Now, about that support you're supposedly collecting....

If we were in Michigan I know that he would have been sued regularly and told to attend what's called a "show-cause" hearing. We don't do that down here. A show-cause is exactly what it sounds like, you show the cause of why you're not paying your support. You also have to pay a certain amount, say 300 bucks, and promise to make payments, or try, or something. If you don't, a bench warrant is issued, and if you get pulled over for speeding, or whatever they can arrest you-- but they're not going to go looking for you.

Down here, enforcement means sitting there wringing their hands and claiming to be "doing everything we can".

No, I am not joking! I wish I was.
I remember last year about this time I called because I was trying to apply for SNAP benefits-- even if just for a short period of time. SNAP used to be called "food stamps", but now it's a nifty plastic card, and for people it can literally save their lives. We were hurting pretty bad, and so I swallowed my pride and put in the papers.

We were denied because of the support order that Arizona has on file.

See, that support order means, as far as DES is concerned, that I get 857$ a month, period, end of story.

Never mind that last year's payment history was even more empty than this year-- all they cared about was that I was supposed to get it, so I was shit outta luck.

When I called to talk to someone up there, I asked the magical question: What in the hell do I have to do, sue Arizona to remove his visitation? Sign papers saying I don't want support? What do I have to do to get someone to help me?!

It was August when I asked them this. August: child support awareness month. I spent over an hour on the phone trying to get some answers, and finally hung up, having nothing. There's nothing I can do.

You know why? Because he hasn't gone six months without paying something. Even that pathetic 25 dollar payment, that helps keep him from suffering any real consequences for non-payment. And he's not alone. There's a "wanted list" a mile long for Arizona, non-custodial parents who owe more than five thousand dollars, most of them have "disappeared" as far as the state's concerned, and DES has "no idea" where they are.

Five minutes on Facebook, and I would know exactly where he is. I choose not to, because I want him to die in a fire-- yes, I wrote that. One phone call to his mothers, and they'd tell me. But I dont', beacuse I dont' want to put them in the middle of his crime.

If I can do this, what's DES' excuse? I think they're playing Solitaire or Mine Sweeper or maybe Angry Birds all day.


Now, I started this on the 1st day of August. It's not the 8th. I waited because if he made a payment, I would ammend the jpegs to show the new amounts.

There is none. So, we're limping through, getting the kids into school again, and all that.

And I will call DES soon, maybe tomorrow, maybe next Wednesday and see what's up with a weird number bump (arrears according to them are 13,422, rather than 13,2something, or the 14k it would be without any payment. It's confusing.) I'm trying to be as honest as possible, and to not put myself as a victim or anything like that.

Mostly, I wrote this to roll my eyes at the stupidly self-serving idea that people aren't aware of their support obligations! Any local police department who goes out and arrests the guy working at the Shell station for arrears is probably ignoring the one who's not working, and instead meanders around town collecting higher and higher arrears.

Anyway, that's the point of this one, and my irritation probably makes it hard to read, and for that I'm sorry.


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