Georgia readers may be interested in learning that a Connecticut newspaper
columnist has suggested that her state follow Georgia's lead in addressing
certain family law issues surrounding child support. Divorce often spawns
ongoing issues that survive the final decree, including child custody
and support disagreements. Of particular interest to the columnist was
her state's inability to successfully collect back child support payments.
She gave no slack to those obligated for the country's economic malaise.
But she made some interesting observations. The state currently has more
than $1.5 billion outstanding in uncollected support arrears. She claims
the legal process is a charade with the same people appearing before the
court over and over again. One side pleads for payment while the other
side pleads for poverty.
She believes Connecticut should follow the collection procedures used in
Illinois, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio. Specifically, she asks why Connecticut
does not suspend the driver's licenses of those owing money to force
payment. Indeed, she cites one Georgia example, where a father was a self-employed
painter. He was said to be repeatedly behind in his support payments until
he learned during a traffic stop that his driver's license was suspended.
Faced with the prospect of not being able to drive to work, the man was
said to pay his $8,000 arrears the next day. In this instance, it wasn't
because the man couldn't pay the support; he simply didn't want
to pay it. Ultimately, someone has to come up with the money, even if
it isn't the child's parents -- often being taxpayers.
It turns out Connecticut does have a similar law, but it can only be enforced
through the courts and not state run agencies like the department of motor
vehicles or social services. It is rarely used because the threat of jail
is more immediate than a driver's license suspension, which apparently
has a 30 day stay before it can become effective. So what should be done?
While the columnist groups all persons owing back child support together,
the fact is some have fallen behind because they do not have the money,
and the disparity creates a perplexing family law conundrum. Those owed
back child support have a right to collect and sometimes need legal assistance
in doing so. Those, despite the best intentions, who are legitimately
behind on their child support need help too. And the law permits relief
by way of a modification petition due to a substantial change in circumstances.