Equal and Fair....

Over the last two years, I have done a lot of research into the family court system and it's treatment of non-custodial parents. While there are women who are non-custodial parents, most of them remain men. When I began my research I had certain preconceived notions. As I continued to look at things, those notions were challenged.

Recently, the Utah State Legislature passed several laws regarding child support, non-custodial visitation and enforcement of child support and child custody guidelines. As of January 1, 2008 the State of Utah will be able to take up to 75% of a non-custodial parents income while providing no relief based on a second family. A weakly worded bill providing for "mediation" of custody issues was also passed. The "mediation" costs have to be paid by the non-custodial parent and have no legal enforcement...meaning that the police will not enforce a mediation agreement any more than they help enforce a custody agreement entered by a court.

There have been several stories in the news lately regarding family court judges forcing men to pay support for children that are not even biologically theirs and yet the only real media coverage continues to be stories of overworked, underemployed custodial moms who look sympathetic on the evening news. While there are cases of "dead-beats" who don't pay their fair share, it has been my recent experience that those cases are not as prevelant as we are being led to believe.

Many non-custodial parents are being forced into underemployment and poverty situations by a system unfairly biased in favor of the custodial parent. While the custodial parent is given representation by the state, the non-custodial parent is left to either go it alone, or find a way to pay huge retainers for private family law attorneys. They can be jailed for back support due, which is not legal for any other form of debt in this country. They can be arrested and charged with contempt of court, but are never given a trial by jury or access to an attorney .

In short, we provide more rights to convicted child molesters than we do to non-custodial parents. I'm left to wonder where the media outcry for this injustice is. Is it okay simply because we are comfortable assuming that these men (and a growing number of women) must have done something wrong?

Put yourselves in the place of some of these people. You wake up one morning and simply because you are divorced with children, you find that all of your basic civil rights have been stripped from you and there is nothing you can do to defend yourself from it. How would you react?

We hear talk about equal treatment under the law and fair assessment of support. Take a few minutes this week and look into the family court system and laws in your state. Do they seem equal or fair?


Paula said...

Custody laws are totally stupid - one huge reason being that they encourage parents who don't even WANT full custody to seek it in order to use the kids as leverage over money. Makes no sense at all. Yet there should be some way of discouraging deadbeat parents from abandoning one set of kids in order to run out and create another set.

Suzanne said...

Again, you raise so many excellent points. Our biggest problem in this country is that there is no sense of collective responsibility for the well-being of kids. Under that mentality, you wind up with these perverse systems where people are nickled and dimed to death. Not that people should not support the humans they create, but for goodness sake, we all have a stake in keeping kids healthy and safe.

knightjorge said...

You know what? You should email this to the local news stations. I'm not kidding. You want media coverage so that people are aware, right? Do something about it. The government hasn't been listening to you so get the news on it and get the people listening and the government might then actually sit up and take notice.

All I could think about while reading this is that we've had this conversation several times recently and you should get the news crews involved in this. You should hit the newspapers with it too.

viciousrumours said...

You would think that they would pay attention to something like this, wouldn't you? I've called all four major stations and emailed both the Trib and the Deseret News....nada.

It's not a popular thing, saying that non-custodial parents aren't being treated fairly. Everyone is comfortable believing that all custodial parents are poor, picked on helpless women that need protecting from the evils of their "deadbeat" ex's.

Sadly, the only thing that's going to change that is a series of protests (which I have thought about) or someone suing the state for civil right violations (which I have also thought about)

It took this long to get anyone to enforce child support. It's going to take a long time to get it balanced.

Mo said...

My parents divorced when I was 3 and my father paid his child support every month, without fail, until I turned 18. It wasn't much I can tell you that but it did help to support my mother's drinking habits! My mother could have blown that money any way she wanted but heaven forbid a dad being a little late on his child support check for fear of being thrown in jail.