From MG: On the Bradley Amendment and child support obligations: is it all fair?

 Bradley Amendment (Federal Law:  Public Act 99-509 (42 U.S.C. § 666 – yes, I appreciate the irony of the number 666 as the sign of the Beast/Devil), and its effect on Child Support.

Quickly, here is what the Devil’s Law (okay, I’m pushing the irony envelope here), I mean Bradley Amendment does:

-Automatically triggers a lien each time child support is due.  That means, if you miss 3 payments, you have three separate liens against you.  Each occurring on the date that the child support is due.  The obligee does not have to do ANYTHING to initiate the lien.  It’s an automatic judgement against the obligor, as if you got sued 3 times and lost 3 times.

-Since it is non-expiring, it never ends.  It does not matter if you are 95 on Social Security eating dog food; it survives.  There is no Statute of Limitation.  I guess that the government puts this on par with murder.

-But unlike murder, it survives death.  That is, if you die, you cannot be charged with murder.  But for child support purposes, if you die (or the obligee dies, or the child dies) the lien still exists.  It ends up in probate court for them to find anything of value to satisfy the lien.  It does not matter if you are 95 and your child is now 75.  Or if your child died before you and you inherited from your child’s estate, and then you died; the obligee gets the money.

-It cannot be discharged in Bankruptcy.  Here is where the corruption of family court makes it worse.  Judges often tell attorneys (or attorneys do on their own) to list attorney fees as “in the nature of child support” (whether true or not) so that attorney fees are treated as non-dischargeable.

-It cannot be discharged, even if it was based on lies/fraud/mistake (mother named wrong dad).

-It does not matter if the Child died.  If the State does not enter in the computer that the child died, child support continues without discharge.

AND NONE OF THIS CAN BE CORRECTED RETROACTIVELY.  That is, once the date the support is due, it is written in stone.  In other words, it cannot be corrected, despite lies, fraud, mistake, stupidity, unconstitutionality, you name it.

AND THE BIGGIE IN STUPIDITY:  There is no judicial discretion.  Zero.  Ziltch.  No matter how warped, stupid, or unconstitutional the results.  Here are some of my favorites of stupid (and unconstitutional) results.  There are cases where the obligor was:

-In a coma (and failed to go into court to reduce their child support, not that a judge would even reduce it.).  I heard of a case where a judge ordered a obligor in Australia who was in a long-term coma be placed in custody for contempt until he started paying.

-A captive of Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.  I guess Dictator Saddam Hussein would not give the guy time to file for a modification to child support.

Here are some actual cases (with the State’s response):

-Bobby Sherrill, a Lockheed employee in Kuwait from North Carolina, was captured by Iraqis and spent nearly five months as an Iraqi hostage. Sherrill was arrested the night after his release for not paying $1,425 in child support while he was a hostage.

Clarence Brandley, a Texas high school janitor, was wrongly convicted in 1980 of murder.  After spending many years in prison and on death row, he was released in 1990 and he then sued the state of Texas for wrongful imprisonment in 1993. The state then responded with a bill for nearly $50,000 in child support that had not been paid while in prison.

Taron James, a U.S. Navy veteran from California, was forced to continue to pay child support until 2006, even after the child was demonstrated by DNA test in 2001 to be not his; James paid $12,000 in such payments.  There are lots of cases similar to this one.

-Larry Souter was wrongly convicted of murder in 1992 and spent 13 years in prison before being exonerated and released in 2005. Upon release, he was ordered by the court to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to pay $38,000 in combined back child support, interest, and penalties (damn, interest and penalties too).  Notice a State pattern – we wrongly convicted you, you could not pay (because we wrongly locked you up), so now we’re going to punish you more.

Link this with the perverse incentives of Title IV-D, and a obligor has no chance.

And that my kids, is today’s lesson on the Bradley Amendment and Due Process in America.  Sleep well.

MG–advocate for fair child support payments

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