Posts tagged ‘Fathers’ Rights’

Unwed father’s rights need safeguarding

by Jeffery Leving

Unwed biological fathers are often told they have no rights when it comes to their infant children when placed for adoption. The fact they fathered their child is not considered important when the mother decides, on her own, to give the infant child up for adoption in certain circumstances.

But, this gender disparity in equal protection and due process in parental rights is changing.

Recently, the State of Utah adopted House Bill 308 that is designed to safeguard unwed paternal rights in regards to children six months or younger from being adopted. This law would require unwed fathers to be issued official notification of the mother’s intention to give their infant child up for adoption in certain circumstances. Once received, the father would then have 30 days to assert his rights as a parent and petition the court for custody. This closes a loophole which had allowed mothers to circumvent notifying the biological father and thus committing the ultimate act of parental alienation – terminating the father-child relationship forever.

Common sense and fair play would argue that if an unwed mother decides to give up her rights to a child, then the biological father would automatically be given the opportunity to take custody of his child. Instead, a stranger can be given the right to adopt the child, often without the father even knowing he will never see his child again.

All too often these points are treated unreasonably in many states because too many jurisdictions have rejected the rights of fathers regarding infant children born outside of marriage.

The mother, it is aggressively argued, bears the burden of child birth and therefore should be the sole parent overseeing the child’s well-being and future relationship with the birth father. This not only doesn’t make sense, but can strip children of someone who has a natural biological drive to protect them – their own father.

Utah isn’t the only state that has begun to tear down these antiquated attitudes against biological fathers.

Recently, a legislative initiative evolved in the State of Michigan to adopt a similar law involving putative fathers. This House Bill (HB 4067), which, among other things, would allow biological fathers the right to seek to establish paternity even if the child’s mother was married to another man between the time the child was conceived and born.

The new Michigan legislation would provide a detailed mechanism to establish paternity for a biological father as previous statues automatically granted paternity to the marital father.

Again, common sense would dictate that the biological father, the one who conceived the child with the mother, would have rights to establish paternity and custody, but this is not always the case. Existing laws in many states not only ignore the rights of the father, but ignore the rights of the child.

Who better to enjoy the legal right to defend a child’s health, education, and welfare than their biological, natural father when mom walks away?

The rights of fathers should be balanced against the rights of mothers when it comes to safeguarding the well-being of their children. Equal protection and due process should exist in every state regardless of gender and marital status. Unwed fathers should not be wrongfully excluded from making decisions that are necessary in raising their children, including education, religious training, and health care. This is critical in this nation where approximately 33.1% of children are born out of wedlock.

However, if there is a child placement disagreement, the child’s future is too often decided based on parental gender and marital status.

Unwed fathers’ rights legislation will hopefully be enacted into law in both Utah and also in Michigan and spread throughout the nation. These are steps in the right direction to correct this unfair imbalance. Constitutional rights must apply to unwed fathers and their children too.

[Originally Published here:  http://www.standard.net/stories/2012/03/06/unwed-fathers-rights-need-safeguarding]

Advertisements

May 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

How To Avoid Divorce Denial – It’s a Messy World: Here’s How to Avoid Getting Screwed

By Jeffery Leving

Deniers simply are unable to face the fact that their marriage is over, even when the signs are unmistakable: Their spouse is cheating, siphoning money out of their accounts or making plans to move out. Still, deniers hope their marriage can be saved. Jack and Ellen’s story is an excellent example of divorce denial and of the mistakes men make in divorce.

A Loyal Man

Jack refused to believe his wife Ellen was going to divorce him. They had been married for seven years, and though he knew their marriage had problems, he was certain they could work them out. Some of the problems were related to Ellen’s bipolar disorder, for which she was being treated.

Unfortunately, Ellen sometimes refused to take the prescribed medications that helped keep the condition under control. In her manic phase, she drove recklessly, and though she had never done so with their two young children in the car, Jack always worried about this possibility.

In her “down” phase, Ellen talked about “running away and starting over.” But Jack, loyal to mistakes men make in divorce, was certain that no matter how many arguments he and Ellen had, she would never file for divorce.

Sleeping in

He was wrong. Not only had she hired a lawyer and started the process, but she also had followed the lawyer’s instructions regarding her medical condition. Her lawyer, anticipating that Jack might use this condition to try to gain sole custody, had instructed Ellen to persuade Jack to sign a document attesting to her mental fitness; he helped Ellen create a cover story that she needed this document for health insurance purposes.

By the divorce, he was hopelessly behind. It took him weeks to find a lawyer, and even then he remained unconvinced that she was serious about sole custody; he insisted to his lawyer that this was just a negotiating ploy.

Jack, realizing he was falling victim to mistakes men make in divorce, finally emerged from his divorce denial.

Denial Signs To Be Aware Of

To prevent this from happening, be aware of the following signs that you’re in divorce denial:

  • Your spouse informs you she wants a divorce, but you insist to both her and yourself that she’s not serious.
  • The marriage is dead and your spouse moves out and makes a down payment on a new house, but you convince yourself that the separation is temporary.
  • You note that your spouse is taking money out of your joint accounts, that your relationship has experienced serious problems and that she is having an affair, but you refuse to put two and two together.
  • Your spouse has threatened to take the kids and leave, but even as you’re consulting your lawyer, you refuse to believe she would ever do such a thing.
  • When your spouse informs you that she’s filing for divorce, you refuse to hire an lawyer, convinced that things will work out if you avoid “playing her game.”
  • You tell your friends that your spouse is only using the possibility of divorce as a bargaining chip to buy a new house or change your bad habits, but that when push comes to shove, she’ll never follow through on the threat.
  • You hire a lawyer in response to your spouse filing for divorce, but you argue with him that your spouse has no intention of limiting your visitation, asking for sole custody, refusing to give you certain monies, or share property fairly; based on your certainty that your spouse would never treat you unfairly, you don’t follow your lawyer’s advice.

Done Deal

Divorce denial is dangerous, especially if you have children at risk. Recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to protect your rights and the rights of your children.

 

October 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Danny Glover Interview with Jeffery Leving – part 1

Part 1 of 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwz6fy5oKA4

JML: Can you tell us about your father, your family and how you grew up?

DG:
If I’m a good father, it’s because I try to be half the father as my father was. I had a father who I thought was a prince. Even though at times we disappointed him in terms of what we did as teenagers, as kids with all that energy. But for the most part, I just thought when I sit down and analyze what he gave me – the sense of comfort, the sense of safety that he gave me.

I knew that he wasn’t a big man, I’m a foot taller than my father but the sense of presence, and the way he took on his responsibilities of caring for the family – all those things I was able to take into fatherhood. And hopefully, even though some things I think I could have done differently, hopefully those had some sort of impact on my daughter.  And our relationship is a testimony that it’s had an impact on her.

DG:
That’s only because my father was there in the household and my mother was there. We had a unit as a family with 5 children and mother and father and we did things as a family. We traveled on vacation as a family. There was the concept that the family took precedence over me the individual. So we all had and took on responsibility whether it was the upkeep of the house or whether it’s the cooking of the meals and all the other kind of things and I think what it did was give me another sensibility.

So since there were 4 boys and 1 girl, there was no gender preference given to the boys in terms of responsibility. The boys washed dishes, the boys ironed clothes, the boys cooked – every one of them knew how to do all of that. I think those were important because in a sense that’s the images I saw in my parents. My father cooked, he washed clothes, he ironed, he did all those things – he took on that. My mother was a Cub Scout Mother. When we lived in the projects when I was a little boy, my father was my youngest brother’s Boy Scout Den Father when we lived in a house. So I applaud them in creating the sense of normalcy and the consistency in which they maintained that.

JML:
You’re fortunate because you grew up in a stable family where your parents were together and they raised you as a teen and you had a great dad. You had an excellent father.

DG:
I had a great mom and a great dad and I think they made each other the best that they could be. I had one of those mothers who had the most glorious smile that you ever want to see and yet she was a woman of magnitude. She was the president of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, she knew Dr. Dorothy Hite well, she was the first in her family in rural Georgia to graduate from college. So she was a woman going somewhere. And she happened to pick one of the most gentle men, one of the most beautiful men I ever met in my life – my dad.

JML:
I mean that’s great, as a divorce lawyer and as a fathers’ rights attorney, I’m a big supporter of children having two parents. And when we were growing up, a lot of children had two parents.

DG:
Absolutely, absolutely.

JML:
Unfortunately it’s changed a lot and a lot of fathers get kicked to the curb and children suffer. And I’ve represented a lot of good dads struggling to be there for their children and the system kicks them out. But fortunately for us we grew up in a different time.

DG:
Yeah!  I’m 62 years old so I grew up in a time when it meant something to get in the car and the family go on a Sunday drive down the coast – I grew up in San Francisco – so we’d go an hour down the coast as a family and stop by a little, local hamburger/French fry place – that’s a cravat right there, there was the real thing about that. We’d have some hamburgers and French fries as a family and I loved that and I remember that so vividly in my mind, you know, with my parents. And it could be a way in which they were saying, “Okay, let’s as a family do something.”

We don’t have a lot of money; we weren’t blessed with a lot of money. My parents went from paycheck to paycheck all their entire time that I lived with them. And after I moved out of the house. But there was this sense of doing something that felt so and remarkably wonderful as a family. And I lost a sister, lost a brother to rheumatory arthritis, colon cancer to my sister. But I tell you – my younger brothers that are much younger that I am and I are very very close.

JML:
Oh, that’s great. I wrote this book, Fathers’ Rights and in it on pages 46 and 47, I listed a lot of statistics on how father absence effects in children and the most reliable predictor of crime in America is father absence. It says right here, 72% of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers. The absence of a biological father increases by 900% a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. And these assaults are not often committed by the dads, it’s committed by boyfriends of the custodial parents. These are the statistics that are somewhat new to our society.

DG:
I agree with you to some extent, but there are other factors that happen within a family, within the communal structure than just those particular statistics which apply to the individual. What are the social conditions? What is the stress level of the mother? What other kind of support mechanism does she have around? Where are the uncles around there to help raise those children? Where are the aunts around to help raise those girls? A lot of other factors that go into that. To say that the numbers, of course, when we take the fact that 2 million men and women incarcerated in this country. Those numbers who suggest that, but I think that there are a lot of other dynamics around the maintenance of a family. The laws and regulations and communities are family-friendly that create the kind of atmosphere as well in support.
The fact is they say that if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you’re with. We found that in most cases, when those single boys – and I’ve been in those situations – and those boys in those relationships where there’s someone who cares, where there’s someone there. He may be a father figure; he may be a father himself. But there’s someone who cares. And those girls are with people who care about them and care about who they are. Amazing things happening.

And sometimes in the 21st century, given all the kinds of dynamics that happen. In the last part of the 20th century, people were very mobile. They moved from place to place. They went from job to job as opposed to the first part of the 20th century. The last part of the 20th century, people become mobile and that has an impact on whatever the social dynamics among the family and the community itself. And also, the structures that employ us, remember – you take a place like Detroit. Detroit was one of the first places in this country as black people after the invention of the cotton picking machine in 1944 – black people were free from the land. 100% of the cotton was picked by hand in 1944, within 25 years 100% of the cotton was picked my machine. So black people moved, migrated. 5 million black people moved out of the South, to the North. All kinds of family disruptions. So almost a quarter of the black population moved in transit to find work.

They came to places like Detroit, got jobs – good jobs. Low skill jobs, good paying jobs. They built homes, raised families all over the country. Then those cities became de-industrialized. Those jobs went over seas to cheaper labor. Continued, we see it today. They went to some other place, for cheaper labor. Therefore are many losses: tax based. They lost a sense of self. They lost their sense of identity. Upon losing that sense of identity you have what you have now. Those are the kind of ideas that we cannot simply; we must incorporate any analysis of those things that have happened. That’s real history. That’s real history that’s right in front of my eyes.

My dad had a job, he retired from a job after 31 years. My mother when she passed away was still working. They had a job and everything else. They were able to build a family. We moved from the projects, I lived in the projects, the housing projects until I was 11 years old. We moved from there, we bought a home.

Every one of us got into problems; yes we did things as kids. But I remember when my dad came down into that police station and said after I had done something and came in and picked me up and said, “Son, I am disappointed in you.”

I’m towering over him now, I’m 6’2”, I am towering over him. “Son, I am so disappointed in you.”

That has meaning to me. That had meaning to me because of their life. That had meaning to me because of all the things that have happened. And that was the last time I had been involved in anything like that. I’ve been arrested for doing other things like for protesting something or sitting in or something like that. But it’s the last thing. Those are the kind of things I think of enforcedly. I know that now. I got a 5 year old grandson whose father is not there. I know that I have to tell him everyday that he is the most important person in my life. I have to tell him every day that I love him. I have to tell him that everyday, the best job that I have, the best job in the world for me is to being your grandfather – and everything else. Your dad may not be here, but you know what, I’m here. That kind of infrastructure, that kind of support will give him a shot! Give him a chance, you know. Somebody loves me. And maybe it’s nice that I love myself as well.

JML:
I see.

 

May 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

The Michael Connolly Tragedy Should Not Have Happened

michaelconnollytragedy
By Jeffery M. Leving

The death of Duncan and Jack Connolly, two Illinois children allegedly murdered by their father Michael Connolly, touched many people’s hearts. I lament this terrible tragedy. However, as a fathers’ rights advocate and attorney, I regret that this case is now reinforcing the malicious stereotype of the brutal father, potentially sabotaging the efforts of many good fathers who love their children and want to be a part of their lives. The media coverage of this case has pushed the fathers’ rights movement back 10 years.

The fact is that most fathers do not harm their children. Domestic violence is not gender specific. Some mothers have also committed similar unnatural acts. For example, I am currently representing a soldier, formerly deployed in Iraq, who is now struggling to rescue his daughter from the alleged abuse of her mother in Chicago.

Without a careful review of the entire file and transcripts of court proceedings, it is hard to say why the judge in the Connolly custody case made his decision to give unsupervised visitation rights to this father. With hindsight, it appears that the judge’s decision was clearly wrong. But, the current petition to remove that judge from the bench does not seem to solve the problem. The correct method of seeking accountability in such a matter is done through the Judicial Inquiry Board.

Until we know all the facts, I caution against unrestrained emotions which may militate against the rights of good fathers struggling to protect their children. A mother has lost two children; let us support her but not lose our sense of reason.

April 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

System to Protect Children Tramples Fathers’ Rights

jefferymleving-banner14
A mother recently regained custody of her newborn baby from DCFS after being accused of placing her baby face-down in a water-filled toilet bowl during a family party. Last week, the body of a decomposed newborn was discovered in the same mother’s Belleville, Illinois home. The Illinois “Safe Haven” law (Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, 325 ILCS 2/1, et seq.) is an emotional reaction to this type of tragedy. We can no longer continue to ignore the rights of disenfranchised fathers to protect their children from neglect and worse.

Since “Safe Haven” became a law in Illinois in August 2001, 54 Mothers illegally abandoned their babies in non-approved locations, with 27 of the babies dying.

The Illinois “Safe Haven” law was born out of good intentions to protect infants from literally being thrown into garbage cans and otherwise left to die. However, the manner in which this law and others throughout America are written have created a number of problems for both children and their fathers.

First, the anonymity given to the mother by the “Safe Haven” laws leaves little or no chance that the father will be contacted so that he can pursue custody or protect his child from harm. In fact, in the case of a mother dropping off a child forever pursuant to a “Safe Haven” law, the father does not even need to really be notified. In contrast, in a legal adoption proceeding, the father has to formally relinquish his parental rights.

Secondly, there is an unhealthy gender disparity in our system. Fathers who walk away from parenthood are labeled “deadbeat dads”, or may even go to jail for failing to fulfill their financial responsibilities. On the other hand, mothers who walk away from their babies are protected by the “Safe Haven” laws from any legal and financial accountability and are often viewed as courageous.

Finally, and most importantly, the impact “Safe Haven” laws have on abandoned children must be addressed. The children are denied the chance to grow up with their dads or any other biological family members. They are also denied the right to know their true identity and medical history, which can create a potentially life-threatening situation.

Statistics show that in spite of “Safe Haven” laws, children continue to be thrown away in dumpsters. The “Safe Haven” laws need to be rewritten to protect the children whose mothers are disposing of them; and to protect the fathers who have the right to know that their children exist so they can protect them from harm, death and abandonment.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

March 5, 2009 at 8:09 pm 2 comments

Incarcerated Fathers & The Law

jefferymleving-banner10
Editors note: This article is educational and not intended as advice for
a specific matter. The laws of each state vary, and readers should seek
legal advice from a licensed attorney in the appropriate state.

It is not revelation to prison readers that American Society has
declared war on crime. All wars generate collateral damage and, in this
case, the damage consists of families of those who bear the burden of
the public’s wrath with crime. This is particularly true of the most
vulnerable and defenseless members of society – the children of
imprisoned men. These children, through not fault of their own, are
often denied spiritual and emotional nurture by their fathers. Never
forget: Incarcerated fathers are parents, too. Fathers are not “social
accidents” as many people have been incorrectly taught due to
negative male-stereotyping.

As an advocate for fathers’ rights for over two decades, I’ve long
understood that positive father involvement is vital because fatherless
children pose a high risk for leading lives of poverty, addiction, and
crime, as documented in my book Fathers’ Rights (Basic Books).

Children are the future of our society, and this is no less true of the
children of incarcerated men. Imprisoned fathers are responsible for
most of the 1.5 million minor children of incarcerated parents. We
need to break the cycle of criminality through positive father-child
involvement because the most reliable predictor of crime is neither
poverty nor race, but growing up fatherless.

Several years ago I represented an incarcerated father I will call Bob.
Bob became embroiled in a divorce and visitation dispute that was as
bitter as it was high profile. Yet I was able to reunite him with his
children and keep him connected to them. This required aggressive
and strategic litigation on my part, but it was worth it. I pursued
visitation for Bob and did not give up until I had obtained a court
order. The court even ordered specific dates and times for phone
visitation. Upon release, he was reunited with his family.

Obviously, visitation is more difficult for incarcerated fathers. However
it is possible. Often a letter or note from a law office motivates
reluctant caregivers to let fathers back into their children’s lives so
bitter legal battles can be avoided. My goal is never to use the law to
manipulate mothers or make their lives miserable, but to maximize
responsible father contact for the child. In Bob’s case, I had to right
hard. It meant going to court many times, initiating discovery, and
correctly persuading the court that the best interest of the minor
children would be served by consistent paternal contact that could be
insured only by court-ordered visitation. Successful litigation kept this
father connected with his kids.

A court order is meaningless without something to back it up. In the
jurisdiction where I practice, that something can be the contempt
power of the court. When a visitation order is violated by mom, then I
can file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause against the mother in the
civil proceeding requesting that the court find her in contempt for
violating the order. If mom is held in contempt of court, she can be
sentenced to a period of time in the county jail. In Illinois, we can also
recommend an alternative to contempt proceeding, because visitation
interference is a crime in my state, which can be prosecuted by the
state’s attorneys office. This decision is best made on a case-by-case
basis.

A critical reason for maintaining visitation, even if only by phone, is to
attempt to prevent the possible termination of parental rights. One
possible problem for incarcerated fathers is the potential threat of
court-ordered termination of parental rights in an adoption. Illinois
courts have held that an incarcerated father may lose his parent rights
if he has shown little interest in his children. Failure to write, telephone
or otherwise communicate or take an interest in his children can
constitute grounds for termination of those rights. This sets the stage
for adoption of his children. In fact, a recent Illinois legislative
initiative gave birth to the Baby Abandonment Law, which allows a
biological mother to legally abandon her infant without notice to the
father under certain conditions. I believe this law is unconstitutional
and ignores the rights of fathers.

If you feel your parental rights may be threatened, familiarize yourself
with the laws of your state and, if it becomes necessary, find a family
law attorney in your state to protect those rights. More importantly,
make sure you educate yourself in the art and craft of parenthood. The
law can be hard on incarcerated dads; it’s harder on those who don’t
invest some energy into being a good dad.

I believe many incarcerated men are ready, willing and able to
contribute to their children’s lives. There is a significant social cost to a
narrowly punitive policy, which may not take account of the needs of
the children of incarcerated fathers. If we recognize and change this
policy, we may achieve a reduction of crime without requiring new
taxes by simply promoting positive father-child involvement.
And in a similar vein, incarcerated fathers need to understand and
protect their parental legal rights. Incarcerated fathers are parents,
too.

Jeffery Leving is an attorney and founder of the Incarcerated Father Project. His practice will respond to any inquiries you may have about fathers’ rights as much as possible at The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., 19 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 450, Chicago, IL 60603. (312) 807-3990

March 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm Leave a comment

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

Older Posts


Recent Posts