Posts tagged ‘court system’

Expert Says Child Support Poll Results Show “Crack” in Court System

By Michele Bush Kimball, Ph.D.

A recent poll shows that custodial parents are not receiving their child support payments.

Almost half of the poll respondents, 43 percent, said they are not receiving one dime of court-ordered child support payments. The poll, conducted by GFK Roper and commissioned by Divorce360.com, further illuminated the discrepancy
– just 25 percent of custodial parents are receiving their payments. Of the rest,
17 percent, are getting some of the payments, but not getting all they are due, 6
percent are fighting to get child support.

The independent polling agency spoke by phone with more than 1,500 people.
The margin of error for the study is plus or minus 2.6 percent.

Part of the issue is that noncustodial parents, who are not living full-time with
their children, don’t like paying child support, according to Brette McWhorter
Sember a former family law attorney and author of several books about divorce,
including “The Divorce Organizer & Planner,” and “Child Custody, Visitation and
Support in New York.” She said she thinks noncustodial parents don’t see how
the money they pay goes directly to the care of their children. “I believe child
support is essential, but from the point of view of the person paying it, it seems
as if it benefits the other parent more than the child,” Sember said. Those who
are not receiving the child support should be prepared to ask the court for help
getting the money, Sembler said. “You need to become familiar with the court
system and learn how to use it,” Sember said. “You need to get the child support
paid through the state enforcement agency when possible so that they can make
sure it is paid.”

Sember said the discrepancy between what’s ordered by the court and what is
actually received can be attributed to many factors, from resentment about
paying at all to frustration that the custodial parent is not using the money in the
way the noncustodial parents wants it to be used.

NONPAYMENT AS EXCEPTION?
Sari M. Friedman, the general counsel of a New York  Fathers Rights Association, said the poll results are not indicative of what she sees. Friedman said most noncustodial parents are paying to child support. If they are not, Friedman said, it could be because they do not have a job or an income that the state can garnish for child support. Also,
some circumstances make it difficult for the noncustodial parent to pay.

Perhaps the noncustodial parent had a higher income when the divorce decree
was signed and can no longer make the payments. Sometimes, Friedman said, if
the noncustodial parent owns a business, the state can’t see all of the income
earned, and the amount ordered is inaccurate. “People are always exaggerating
their side. And sometimes the truth may fall somewhere,” Friedman said. “It is up
for the judge to believe someone and decide what to order.”

There are many possible scenarios that force a noncustodial parent into the trap
of not making child support payments, and once it starts, it may become an
endless cycle, she said. “And then it becomes like a rat on a wheel, and the
arrears add up,” Friedman said.

Jeffrey Leving, a Chicago attorney who specializes in representing fathers in
custody cases, believes most noncustodial parents pay their child support.
Leving is the author of two books, “Fathers’ Rights,” and “Divorce Wars.” He also
co-authored the Illinois Joint Custody Law, and he gave testimony before both
branches of the Illinois Legislature on Joint Custody, Grandparent’s Visitation and
Child Support Accountability bills.

He cautions that while nonpayment exists, it is also not solely a women’s issue.
“Basically what I see is that custodial parents, whether they are mothers or
fathers, both have issues with nonpayment of support,” Leving said.
“Nonpayment of support is not gender-specific.”

Leving said he thinks some parents don’t pay child support because they tie their
payments to the amount of visitation they are getting. Though support and
custody are separate entities, he said it is hard for some people to look at them
that way. “One parent uses the children as tools to negotiate and tools for
revenge, and the other parent uses his income,” Leving said. “Even parents who
love their children do this, and they don’t realize it. They are just so caught up in
the divorce.”

He said that parents who have more contact with their children are more likely to
pay support. However, the process of divorce becomes so adversarial, that is
difficult to negotiate. “To correct these problems, you really have to use honey
before vinegar,” Leving said. “And if you use honey first, you won’t have to get to
the vinegar.”

And if the honey and vinegar don’t work, “They better get a very skilled attorney,”
Leving said. He said custodial parents must find an attorney trained in marital
law who is willing to be dogged and creative because it is very difficult to get a
noncustodial parent’s financial information. “It’s not easy to collect support if the
noncustodial parent is not going to pay and instead fight you,” Leving said.

GETTING ADEQUATE CHILD SUPPORT
The best case child support scenario includes flexibility in the original divorce
decree, said Colette Frey-Bitzas, a certified financial planner from Financial
Planners for Women. In her practice, she often advises clients to make room in
child support payments for their children’s future needs. At first, her clients focus
on their spouses’ current salaries and what percentage they need.
“Unfortunately, there is more to picture,” Frey-Bitzas said.

As children grow, the cost of clothing increases, they may participate in
expensive school activities, they may need dental work or more complicated
medical care and they may attend college and need help with tuition. “Try to be
as detailed as possible and try to leave the door open for things you have not
thought of,” Frey-Bitzas said.

Generally, it is the financial negotiations that tie up the divorce process, Frey-
Bitzas said. “The custodial issue is generally one of the primary focus of
attorneys. ‘Let’s make sure the children are settled,’” Frey-Bitzas said. “It’s the
financial issue that carries on in court.”
She said her clients are usually surprised by the financial negotiations. She
attributes it to the fact that people are still reeling from the divorce. “They are
emotionally crippled people who need to think clearly. I find initially people
underestimate what is going to happen,” Frey-Bitzas said. “They fail to recognize
that the children are going to get older, and there are going to be additional
expenses.”
When custodial parents are not receiving the support they need, they must go
back to the court system. It may be financially difficult, Frey-Bitzas said, because
they will need an attorney and will pay more legal fees. But it may be beneficial to
have the court reevaluate the situation. “If financial circumstance changes, you
can go back to the court and have it revisited, and the income can be adjusted,
be it upward or downward,” Frey-Bitzas said.

She said she is not surprised at the number of people who reported that they are
not receiving child support. She said it is common for a noncustodial parent to
disregard the support order. “The piece of paper is worth nothing unless it is
followed through on,” Frey-Bitzas said. “I think there is a big crack in the system.’

Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization
in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she
teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national
research award for her work. She can be reached at Michele@MicheleKimball.com.

March 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm 1 comment

Anatomy of a Background Check

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Anatomy of a Background Check

George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” For detectives and fathers these are words to live by.

Several years ago I received a call from a client who was a wealthy businessman. He asked me to do a background check on a man he was considering for a position as a personal liaison. My client wanted to be cautious because he was not only wealthy but a well known collector of rare documents. The personal liaison would have access to his home, office and much of his wealth. He told me he was sure everything would check out because the candidate was a retired Army Major and had handled the interview perfectly. After checking out the job candidate’s background I discovered he was never in the military and was recently released from prison havng served time for forgery, counterfeiting, and burglary. The subject’s modus operandi was obtaining jobs where there was access to valuables. The subject would then research the interviewer in order to obtain enough knowledge to ace the interview. Once hired the subject would forge, counterfeit, and commit burglary as evident in his criminal record. Needless to say my client did not hire the criminal and has not hired anyone without doing a background check since.

Background checks are critical in business, but they can be equally critical in divorce and child custody cases. Information on the mother, father, boyfriend or relative responsible for caring for the child can be very relevant, and always important. What is the most effective way to conduct a background check? Is there such a thing as an instant nationwide background check?

In most cases the answer is, no. However, there are some very effective and reliable methods to uncovering the background of an individual. Cost and time are almost always a factor and the information must be accurate especially if it is going to be relied upon to determine custody, visitation or employment. For these reasons, as well as others, it is important to understand the structure and anatomy of our court and criminal system and some of the problems inherit in both.

Investigators and the criminal justice system break down records into four categories:

1. Arrest Records – these are arrest reports prepared by law enforcement agencies.

2. Criminal Court Records – records compiled from local, state, and federal courts.

3. Department of Correction Records- prison records.

4. State Criminal Repository Records- arrest, criminal court, and Department Of Correction records.

There are currently two nationwide systems that are used for background checks. The first system is the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. NCIC is the nation’s largest criminal justice database and is restricted to law enforcement only. This database compiles information from most of our nation’s federal, state and local courts. It is the responsibility of each court to report information to NCIC. Breakdowns in the reporting process compounded by lack of personnel available to do the reporting, creates errors in accuracy. NCIC currently stores 52.3 million criminal history files. Many counties do not or simply cannot report many of the lesser offenses committed in their jurisdiction. Most counties don’t have the capacity to report all offenses let alone update the information contained in the NCIC. Most misdemeanors are not reported. Modification of a felony conviction, probation or parole information or charge reductions and case dismissal may not even appear in the NCIC. A domestic battery conviction may not be important to a potential employer but may be of grave significance to a judge determining the custody of a child.

The second nationwide system is the National Criminal File (NCF). This database includes 60 million records. This system relies heavily on the State Repository Records which is just as poorly reported to as the NCIC.

The most reliable source of criminal information is individual county court records. Every person who is arrested for offenses ranging from loitering to murder has a file in the county court where they live. There are 4,086 counties in the U.S. In order to conduct a complete nationwide background check each county would need to be searched. This would be an almost impossible and ridiculous task. Many times an investigator is given a very short period of time to complete the investigation.

So how do we conduct a thorough background check on an individual or company? We must first learn a little about the person we are investigating. Most people only frequent counties where they live or work and some people never leave the county they live in. We need name, date of birth, social security number and any aliases used by the individual. Once we have the above information the decision needs to be made as to which counties to search. Since most courts keep records for a minimum of seven years, a seven year address history must be developed. This can be done a number of ways including; contacting relatives, utilizing old phone books, talking to the subject directly and in the cases of licensed private detectives, databases can help to determine this information. Sometimes as the investigation unfolds new information may lead the investigator in a different direction. A check of each of the local courthouses should be conducted. Any files identified for the subject should be manually reviewed and the identity of the person being investigated should be verified. For example, if an investigator is conducting a background on a James Roberts, date of birth 1/2/1950, and a person matching that description is identified in the courts system, the investigator should then pull the actual file which contains arrest reports, court orders and pleadings. On the arrest report the defendant’s social security number and date of birth usually appear. If it matches the social security number of the person being investigated, this would be one way of positively identifying James Roberts as the offender. In addition to court records, a check of sex offender, state criminal repository and department of correction records should be conducted as well.

While this process is time consuming, it is the only way to effectively know the criminal history of a subject. A professional investigator will then prepare a report on his or her findings for the client.

When looking for an agency to conduct a background investigation, it is critical to hire one that is licensed by the state in which they operate. This ensures the agency they are hiring is insured and one whose testimony will likely hold up in a court of law.

Criminals don’t always look like criminals and people that seem honest may be dishonest. When making decisions regarding employment, custody or business it is always better to be safe than sorry. By understanding the history of an individual, we can better assess that person’s integrity and ensure the safety of our assets. This includes our most prized possession: our children.

Detective Wayne Halick is a Licensed Private Detective and the agency director of Millennium Investigations, Inc.  http://www.dadsdetective.com/

You can e-mail Detective Halick at halickpi@sbcglobal.net. His agency is located at 358 W. Army Trail Road, Unit 140-355, Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. Their telephone number is 630-543-7282.

March 3, 2009 at 10:02 pm 1 comment


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