My name is Courtney Williams...

An Ozark E-Zine

I am the spouse of a man being pursued by the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement in Russellville, Arkansas. I have been attempting to investigate my husbandís case.

In doing so, I've found many noncustodial parents have been subject to oppressive laws that mandate federal imprisonment and heavy fines be imposed upon even the poorest of persons that may hold no indifference toward their child or children. Many are subject to economic reprisal by oppressive laws that give the office of child support enforcement the right to impose liens against real and personal properties, the right to seize taxes, unemployment, workmenís comp, court judgments, or settlements, assets held within financial institutions, and private and personal retirement funds. And as widely known, the office of child support enforcement also reserves the right to withhold, suspend, revoke, and restrict licenses and garnish wages.

Most who cannot afford such economic reprisal often suffer loss of home or employment. Some fall victim to hostilities rendered upon them by the system. Personal privacy is invaded, they are labeled criminals and have their pictures plastered over the Internet.

The right to privacy should not be nullified due to non payment of child support. For murder maybe. Not child support.

Many are subject to selective enforcements of their cases because they, for one reason or another, are looked upon as unfavorable.

In fact, there is little to no regard for the constitutional rights of noncustodial parents. There is no protection against the legalized rape and villianization of noncustodial parents by the very system put in place to protect them. And it seems the law itself is more protected than the actual individual.

With this said, I'd like to point out the United States Supreme Court's view and approach to governmental intrusions on parent - child relationships. In a plurality decision, the United States Supreme Court stated: "the interests of parents in the care, custody, and control over their children was perhaps the oldest fundamental livery recognized by the courtĒ and ďis protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment.Ē

The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed those rights. Parents are also supposedly guaranteed their constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children without hindrance from the state. The 14th amendment, according to the Supreme Court, protects the rights of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

I don't recall an implied stipulation stating those rights are reserved only for those parents that do not owe child support. Yet many noncustodial parents are banned from or conveniently left out of, the free discussion of state and governmental affairs associated with judgments made concerning their children. Noncustodial parents are often refused full unedited versions of disseminated information that would allow them to take part in the formulation of law and policy regarding child support. Noncustodial parents are often put off, misinformed (if informed of anything at all), told they are wrong, or that they have no rights outside of signing over a check.

My view is that if a noncustodial parent can be jailed or have his or her finances garnished or wiped out, he or she should be privy to any and all information he or she wants or needs in order to take the proper steps necessary to bring about a successful resolution to any existing issue or issues.

According to the "Family Support Act," child support offices are supposed to do a review every 3 years to make any necessary adjustments. It also states that a parent has the right to request a review in between times. The Family Support Act also requires states to notify parents of that right. And they have the right to be informed at least 30 days in advance of the review. Noncustodial and custodial parents alike are supposed to made privy to any proposed judgments or determinations. They are also supposed to have 30 days after notification to initiate proceedings to challenge the proposed judgments or determinations.

Personally, my husband never was informed of his rights to a review, and never has been offered a chance for a review. I guess the "donít ask donít tell" policy trickles down to more than just the military.

How can the system be a just system when noncustodial parents are hardly ever informed and made privy to information that directly affects their lives, finances, and children. Parents should not be snuck up on with warrants and body attachments. Even if parents are behind. They should be notified of the intent to take action if they do not comply and complete a government assisted program put in place to help them get back on their feet.

This program should definitely be available to those suffering economic hardships. Jobs are not a dime a dozen anymore. If they were, there wouldnít be an issue over the number of jobs available to the people. Job reform wouldnít be an issue. Even terrorists knew to attack our financial institutions.

It hurts to be hit where it really counts. By that I mean that it hurts to take a financial crunch of the wallet. Those same types of terrorist attacks are being waged upon noncustodial parents.

Child Support offices, laws, and policies make it harder than it needs to be to support a suitable, stable home for visitations and second families. Child support offices continually cut their own noses off to spite their own faces when they intrude upon a noncustodial parentís ability to drive.

The taking of a license is in and of itself a whole other issue. It borders on being arbitrary and capricious. A driverís license has nothing to do with a parents ability to either drive or parent. Why donít we then begin to take the licenses of those others who do things we donít like? The punishment doesnít seem to fit the "crime".

If we choose to find cause or reason with one group of criminals or offenders, then why not with drug dealers, murderers, child molesters, tax evaders, and delinquent credit card holders? Repeat offenders are even issued licenses and are allowed to drive.

License revocation is one more added vice used to squeeze every last remaining breath from the proverbial dead horse. Itís an impediment put in place by the system to work one way and yet it works only to further alienate a noncustodial parents involvement with his or her children. Whether it was meant to be implemented in this way or not, it still impedes a parentís ability to work and visit his or her children.

A noncustodial parentís ability to work should never be endangered by loss of license due to revocation by child support. It should never be endangered by imposed prison sentences. And it should definately never be endangered by legalized harassment on the job. In short, the policy of license revocation should be reviewed, modified, reworked, or done away with.

The issue of continuous suppression and elimination of all input, involvement, and investigation by noncustodial parents is a real, viable, addressable, and fixable issue that should be met head on by the government on behalf of, and with the aide of, the noncustodial parent. Everyday numerous violations are occurring in the noncustodial parents substantive rights to know and actively participate in the affairs of the government and those licensed agencies of the government.

However, there will continue to be a saturation of special interests from the state, custodial parents, and their support groups, that noncustodial parents will be forever subject to unfair advantages being taken over them by those using child support as an issue nearly every time.

And yes, we do have supposed like access to courts when and if problems arise. However, I have found that in my husbands case and friend Bambi Pettyís case, orders made by judges in a court of law are not upholdable unless it is to jail the noncustodial parent for nonpayment or late payment of child support. My husband and Bambi both have visitation rights, yet when the custodial parent denies such visitation, a court order is not good enough nor usable by the noncustodial parent when they seek to use the help of police when picking up their children.

No police department will touch a visitation order. Why?? So, to say we have access to courts is all fine and well. Only if the orders are upholdable. As far as unimpeded access goes. Yes, we are entitled to unimpeded access to the courts, yet, what the system fails to realize is that to the poor, finances are, in themselves, impediments. So, the poor are forced to sit unrepresented, poorly represented, or not represented at all because they cant afford to keep going back to court and dishing out money for cases that may actually have a bonefied legal leg to stand on. If the old statement, "you get the justice you pay for" is true... Imagine the consequences to the poor, the noncustodial parent, and the children. Even children.

Siblings are often poorly represented by the government when the government continually allows the denial of visitations by the other parent to siblings from the other relationship. Parents often have to go to court to petition for rights already given to their children by the Chancery Court of Arkansas. Which in turn acts to further milk the finances of the noncustodial parent. In the state of Arkansas, children, regardless of degree of blood relationship to his or her other siblings, have the right to visitations with siblings that he or she may have via the other parent.

During which time, noncustodial parents continue to be hunted, jailed, and villianized while no punishment is sought out against custodial parents who do not abide by the very same court order that granted them support to begin with. And that support, inclusive of medical and college expenses is determined, sometimes, with little to no regard to the noncustodial parents personal finances and circumstance. All of which leads back to an exclusion of any input from the noncustodial parent yet again.

That violation often leads to other numerous violations of a noncustodial parents 14th amendment right to be included in any decisions regarding their children, and how his or her finances are used in support of his or her children. This, along with unbearable financial obligations, tend to end with parents breaking from their children and the system. Some parents give up and go to jail. Which benefits neither the parent, the possible second family, or the child or children involved. Some are forced to place their children up for adoption whether they want to or not.

This is called a "forced adoption". Most are adopted by the custodial parents current boyfriend or spouse. This is the very thing occurring now in my husbands case. Regardless of any constitutional right or wrong, it is simply unfair to subject a noncustodial parent to such things. And it is definitely not right to allow burden and villianize noncustodial parents with one sided, crooked, and oppressive laws. For those that have no problem with the system or the system works great for them, my issue is offensive. However, there are those out there that, for them, the system does not work. Most who say the system works are either those who dont know of the system or know of those who would seek to use child support as revenge against the noncustodial parent. Either that, or they ARE those ones who seek child support as a revenge tactic for a relationship gone bad.

They start the process, child support takes over, and all they have to do is sit back and watch the game. All though, to those losing, freedom, home, finances, rights, children, and family, its not such a game. Yet, the government takes no heed to the issue. What laws are in place to protect the noncustodial parent from the vengence of the other?

There are none.

None which are upholdable without funds anyway. What things are in place to make sure that support is actually needed outside of being wanted? What things are in place to make sure that funds are needed and spent in an effective sufficient manner on behalf of the child or children? There is nothing. In the meantime, a custodial parent may be using support payments to buy alcohol or drugs. I am not saying for one minute that those things are happening and happening with every custodial parent, but the issue is a real one. It is addressable. And it is fixable.

Why is it that custodial parents are FORCED to pursue child support just to get benefits? Some have perfectly good reasons for not pursuing support. Some may have a good working relationship with the other parent. The other parent may be contributing in every manner to their children and their childrens finances. However, some may not be on good terms.

For some, pursuit by the state seeks to further endanger them and their children if the noncustodial parent is abusive physically or mentally. Remember, when payment of child support is offered and rendered, this supposedly allows a noncustodial parent the rights to unhindered, unsupervised visitations with their children. Hopefully, when the system works or fails parents, it will work or fail for the right ones for the right reason.

A good start to fixing our broken system would be the employment of an unbiased group or agency trained to act as a watchdog over child support, child support laws, and child support policies.

Cases should be open to independent review and audit by this group or agency at the request of anyone who asks. (For example: If a custodial parent fails to receive monies for any reason, that case should be flagged and sent for review.) Parents, attorneys, and caseworkers, along with the review board, should all have the right to request a review independent of input from the office of child support except for those things which are asked of them. Both parents should be notified of such reviews.

They should be made apartied to any review and they should be made prevy to any and all information concerning their cases and any proposals or adjustments to their cases. No information should be withheld, concealed, or edited. All information should be, and needs to be taken from those who would attempt, for any reason, to conceal it. It should be taken and put back into the hands of those it affects the most. THE PARENTS!!

In fact, as long as there is consensual agreement between both parents at any given time, child support offices, policies, and mandates should be nullified, voided, and removed all together as a third party hindrance. If at anytime, child support offices are sought as a mediator, both parties should be a contributing factor in terms of any adjustments, proposals, or financial determinations.

Those who receive foodstamps are made to report their income and circumstances by way of a quarterly report. It should be the same for both parents in a child support case. Both sides should have their personal financial situations and circumstances reviewed before any considerations of monetary judgments for one side or the other is rendered.

If either parent should become in contempt of his or her order as a custodial or noncustodial parent, he or she should be made to be accountable for his or her contempt. Concessions should be made or an adjustment posed. And if that parent continues to be in contempt without just cause, he or she should be fined for every day, week or month that they continue to be in contempt. At the time of issuance of quarterly reports, if he or she is in contempt without just cause, he or she should be arrested and placed in jail until which time he or she can be seen in court. Then, any punishment rendered has to be considered and imposed by a judge. Not child support.

I pose that we make available, the necessary programs to aide both parents in having an efficient, well rounded experience with the system. We should have parenting classes, job training classes, job placement programs, and whatever other programs it takes to aide both parents in doing whatever it takes to be an efficient contributor to themselves and their children. These programs should be meant to ensure the parents ability to rejoin the system, society, the workforce, and the lives of their children. We should make an effort to ensure their leaving these programs more positive and productive.

Slowly and surely, families can learn to live "together", separately in a better, more positive, light with a good attitude towards themselves, the system, and their children.

The system can be made more efficient, productive, and fairer for everyone involved. Even the Lord our God does not seek to give us more than we can bare. The government and child support offices shouldnít either.

We are given laws to benefit and protect us. We are not given laws to be ruled nor penned like animals for such petty issues as the non payment of child support. I am not saying that a person should or should not pay child support. I am not saying that both parties arent responsible for the making and caring of their children. I am not saying any of those things at all. But I am saying that if the law is good to sacrifice one for the "greater good", all should be held accountable in every way in every case. But we know we cant do that. Not all cases are the same. This is the issue.

Government for the people by the people. Those only interested in perpetuating their own employment should be removed from the seat of power in which they reside. They should be replaced on every level. And a new platform which seeks justice for all instead of just the one, should be put in place for those who need it, when they need it, for whatever reason, regardless of circumstances and financial standing (if there is any finances to speak of). It would not hurt child support workers or government officials on the state and national level to take a course in personal relations, either.

Our system needs to be versatile, understanding, and empathetic when working with anyone, especially parents. We are all individuals with individual circumstances. We should be treated as such. Whatís good for the goose is not always whatís good for the gander. Itís easy for officials to sit behind the desk and pass laws and render punishments for the breaking of those laws, when they donít see the common person that is being impacted by those laws and punishments.

Itís widely known in the field of criminology, that even the worst murderers or serial killers often place an object over the face of the victim during or after the commission of their crimes to avoid that one on one eye contact. Most donít want to see what they are doing to the individual they are perpetrating their crimes upon. Its the same with those who sit in seats of power. Its easy to pose laws, pass laws, ignore the need for reform, and jail people. Sadly most have no experience with the laws they are passing and have no idea how it affects the common person. To stand and fight to undo wrongs is too hard for some. So they ignore or donít try at all.

To them, they do what they do because they get paid to do a job. Who cares who writes the check, and who cares what person was done wrong or affected by what they do or say. In the end, they all go home to their cozy little homes, to their cozy little families, and go to bed with no thought to the common man, whilst they dream cozy dreams on their cozy little pillows. They donít care if these laws and punishments mean taking finances and restricting even the poorest of persons to a further life of poverty. That is not acceptable to me. I deserve better, you deserve better. Our children definitely deserve better. Its time the government bridges the already troubled waters of families on the edge. Its time they remove the wedge of oppressive laws with those that really seek to help all and not just the one.

Parents should be able to take a stand to take back their pride, their lives, their finances, and God given rights and freedoms. Inclusive of driverís licenses. The system that claims to represent us as a whole is broken. -That is just cause for reform. This is my case. My issue. I speak for many without the courage to speak. I speak for those who cant afford to speak for fear of retribution by the system. Well, the system can come get me. I, much to their chagrin, do not owe child support. They canít jail me for that, and they canít jail me for what I stand for. And I stand in defense of the noncustodial parent and I pose the need for reform. I challenge anyone state and nation wide to prove me and thousands like me wrong. I put forth the challenge to any state and local officials to do what truly is right by the people.

Courtney Williams
OZZLETTE@aol.com
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