The following vivid (although fictional) account demonstrates the pain and helplessness that far too many mothers and fathers in Minnesota experience as they try to reclaim their lives:
Reggie Jones, surrounded by two preschoolers, a pair of middle schoolers and his teen daughter, seems far from the standard image of a “deadbeat parent.” However, the 47-year-old father’s child support delinquencies total $20,000. As a result, Reggie spent two weeks in jail and lost his driver’s license for two months. He even owes child support for his daughter who lives with him. Reggie doesn’t know why, and he has been trying to ask the court to modify it.
Reggie claims that he was earning a $1,300 biweekly pay check driving trucks, but the state took over $500 of his pre-tax earnings for child support. Federal guidelines confirm that’s well within the limits; the state can garnish as much as 65 percent of a parent’s earnings for payments.
Reggie grew increasingly frustrated by his long hours and child care situation and felt that something was amiss. He quit his job two years ago, expressing concern for his children, and he now receives food stamps and other government aid. In the meantime, his child support bill continues to mount, much to the dismay and frustration of his ex wife, Patrice.
When Reggie’s youngest child starts school in the near future, he plans to apply for a position at the school, where he has been volunteering. He hopes that his earnings will cover his bills after the state takes out child support.
The Child Support Vicious Cycle: A National Issue
After more than 20 years of enforcing late child support payments, parents across the nation still owe more than $113 billion. Experts say that many want to pay but just don’t have the funds to comply.
Some experts blame an archaic system, established 40 years ago. They claim that some of the worst offenders earn less than $10,000 annually. If a parent goes to jail for non-payment, the whole family suffers. The debt never disappears, and adult children might pay a parent’s child support bill years later. Furthermore, debt can accumulate while a parent is in jail or prison. When a person has a criminal record, he or she often struggles to find employment upon release from custody, further complicating the problem and leading to more heartbreak.
The Obama administration has sought to fix the situation in a move that even many conservatives support. The administration wants to adjust child support, so that it’s based on the parent’s actual earnings. However, some conservatives feel that parents might try to “game” this system and duck their fair responsibilities.
As debate over this issue plays out on the national and state wide stage, however, many parents remain confused about their rights and deeply frustrated. Whether an ex spouse owes child support and refuses to pay, or you’re on the line to provide for your children but can’t afford to do so (a la Reggie), our experienced Minnesota family law attorneys can help. Call the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. at (763) 783-5146 to get the help you need.