Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions

U.S. Supreme CourtJune 20 marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Turner v. Rogers case. (See the July 2012 Child Support Report.)  Mr. Turner, the noncustodial parent, was ordered to pay $51.73 per week in child support. Over the course of several years, he was held in civil contempt for nonpayment and incarcerated a number of times.

After the last hearing, Mr. Turner appealed. He alleged that his constitutional rights were violated. He argued that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment required the state to provide him with appointed counsel in a civil contempt hearing that could lead to incarceration. Neither the custodial parent nor the state child support program was represented by an attorney at the hearing.

In Turner, the Supreme Court held (based upon the circumstances in his case) that a state does not necessarily need to provide counsel to a defendant in a child support civil contempt proceeding, as long as the state provides adequate procedural safeguards. The Supreme Court said that due process does require an express finding by the state court that the noncustodial parent has the ability to pay the purge order based upon the individual facts of the case. Last month, I issued policy guidance for state child support agencies implementing the Turner decision and information about alternatives to incarceration.

As a result of the Turner v. Rogers decision, state child support agencies and courts are examining their civil contempt procedures. The goal is not to eliminate contempt procedures in cases where it may be appropriate, but instead to implement fair and cost-effective procedures that assure that families receive reliable child support payments, improve fairness and access to justice for parents without an attorney, and reduce the need for jail time. Incarceration may indeed be appropriate in those cases where noncustodial parents can afford to support their children but willfully evade their parental responsibilities by hiding income and assets. However, jail is not appropriate for noncustodial parents who do not have the means to pay their child support debts.

The first step to reducing the need for contempt hearings is to set accurate child support orders. The research is clear that setting realistic orders based on actual income can actually improve compliance, increasing both the amount of child support collected and the consistency of payment. The research says that compliance falls off when orders are set above 15 to 20 percent of a noncustodial parent’s income.

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. For the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, this law will offer an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from starting in 2014. Those who can’t afford insurance will get tax credits that make coverage affordable.

Already, 34 states including the District of Columbia have received 100 percent federally funded grants to set up health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, which will allow individuals and small businesses to compare and choose private health plans. Each state will take the lead in designing its own menu of options. In the child support program, we know that our medical child support responsibilities are evolving. We look forward to working with child support professionals in the coming months and years to develop medical child support policies that complement state health care policy decisions and work for families.

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14 Responses to Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions

  1. Dadzrites says:

    “The first step to reducing the need for contempt hearings is to set accurate child support orders. The research is clear that setting realistic orders based on actual income can actually improve compliance, increasing both the amount of child support collected and the consistency of payment. The research says that compliance falls off when orders are set above 15 to 20 percent of a noncustodial parent’s income.”

    How is it possible for judges to set accurate child support orders when their pensions are salaries are directly & indirectly linked to the amounts of child support (and alimony) awarded, enforced upon & collected??? (See Title 42 USC Section 658(a)(the federal child support enforcement reimbursement incentive to the states). Judges are too tempted to artificially inflate child support orders (through such things as “imputing income” when people have been unemployed, underemployed or disabled through no fault of their own). Judges are too tempted to abuse contempt power to extort/extract monies from unsuspecting litigants/taxpayers/voters.

  2. Pete Schuler says:

    As a matter of state law, Kentucky requires the state to provide counsel for indigent defendants facing confinement due to their failure to provide court ordered child support in civil contempt proceedings. See Lewis v. Lewis, 875 SW2d 862 (1993).

  3. Alexis Duncan says:

    Custodial Parents and children are currently at a total disadvantage if the non-custodial parent is self-employed. Although Child Support Enforcement has made some great progress for those situations were non-custodial parents obligated to pay child support work for wages, there is still a lot to be desired child support enforcement actions for self-employees non-custodial parents. Involving financial institutions is a great first step. How about self-employed individuals who are issued 1099s, own their own companies, or have asset overseas. CAN WE INCORPORATE MONTHLY ELECTRONIC REPORTING OF 1099 income as another pilot to help out children and custodial parent who are not receiving child support. How about once these non-custodial bank accounts are located, requiring these folks to submit their bank statement? How about running an IRS masterfile to see all the businesses associated with the social security number? There must be more that we can do. I’d love to be on a
    national work group, think tank, brain storm to put to gether strategies to tackle this issue.

  4. Joyce Mascio says:

    Enlisting private investigators at random times would solve most of the problems we see with non-payment of child support. My question is how do they manage to pay their own bills for 5 years and supposedly not work?

  5. kismet says:

    Funny that there are all of these suggestions about ways to make non custodial parents pay up..and its especially interesting when the IRS is mentioned. Why is there no process to verify the use of child support funds? Parents receiving child support should be subject to random audits and need to keep receipts. I work everyday and pay taxes, but at anytime I can be called upon to justify my expenses on funds I EARNED. For the record, I raised a son alone, no child support and my son has a great relationship with his dad…funny how things can work when there is no vindictiveness, anger, lawyers or courts involved….

  6. Kevin Davis says:

    @Alexis Duncan—all parties are at a disadvantage if there is fraud. This is true because the custodial parent can understate their income too, thus increasing the non-custodial parents obligation and resentment which will affect the child.

  7. Another one says:

    After accessing this website accidentally and reading it, it all entails even the highest court system favors the CS system. Unbelievable!

    Where there is good there is evil. This could also be applied as where there is a good father there is a deadbeat father. The issue of child support has been ongoing for centuries and the system has been delegated to be favored more on the custodial end. The laws that justify what is fair within child support or custody is an approach of being biased against the non-custodial parent. It’s a nationwide issue that affects all men/women that are non-custodial parents. The whole CS system corruption includes all the Attorney Generals of all states, lawyers, judges, and other state agencies. Eventually, from what I have experienced hiring a lawyer is expensive and I am still paying the bill and trying to make ends meet. Yet it’s pointless hiring an attorney because it may seem as if they are fighting for you, but in reality we as caring non-custodial parents have no right! The only right we have is “The right to be with your child or children” NO [####]! Who gives the law the right to tell us that? We have every right even without their intrusion. The whole system is violating our constitutional rights and judges’ are aware of our due process, but just seem to ignore it. Without the crookedness the system would be broke. Morally it is totally wrong how the law gets involved and treats us as deadbeats and who want to be in our children’s lives, but only enables our lives to struggle and makes ends meet.

    We, as caring noncustodial parents’ get the end of the stick no matter what and label us a deadbeats. The force of making someone work twice as hard to pay CS is morally wrong, illegal, and definitly in violation of our Constitutional rights. Yet we can get other jobs but that only eliminates time to be spent with our child(ren) and pay additional CS to the lazy custodial parent. If not, we get punished by being incarcerated and suspending our driver’s license. Nonetheless, the United States isn’t like it used to be, what happened to the right Justice, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness here in the U.S.?

  8. Crystal Norment says:

    The Child Support System needs to be completely overhauled. It began based on social norms of the day with a marriage and a man’s responsibility to take care of his kids. That is no longer the social makeup of families. With Gay Marriages and Gay’s adopting kids and the whole “Baby Momma/Baby Daddy” phenonom, how can we still hold only the male father responsible for child support. In many instances the father did not have a “relationship” with the mother and the mother has multiple baby daddys. What is the mother’s responsibility to care for children that she made a choice to have without consulting the ensuing father. How will the law address these new social norms. It is ridiculous and unfair to imprison a man for failure to pay child support and not hold the mother to any standard.

  9. pat elpers says:

    there are two sides to this story and i’m sure there are abuses of the system it took me thirty years in an Indiana court to finally get all the support ordered in my case I heard more excuses than there are stars in the sky, It was really frustrating I went from lawyers to prosecutors and my ex was always allowed to defend his excuses However i was rarely ever allowed to speak one thing that I think even the courts should keep in mind, the money paid is to take care of the children a judge is not compensating the ex spouse but trying to compensate the children my children did without a lot due to the negligence. they deserved a near normal life because of their deadbeat dad they didn’t have it the court just prolonged the agony of divorce.

  10. Maulik Modi says:

    What is the law on providing child support for an in vitro fertilization (IVF) child? As someone mentioned here that the laws have not kept pace with social norms. The contention is the laws have not kept pace with technology either. What if two males decide to have an IVF child together, only one of them can be a biological father. With help of an egg donor and surrogate, the males can be proud and happy parents of a lovely IVF child. But what if the relationship turns sour DURING the IVF pregnancy and the non-biological parent ABANDONS the IVF/Surrogacy? What if both intended parents ABANDON the IVF pregnancy? Is the innocent IVF child the responsibility of the surrogate who will give birth? What is the accountability and responsibility for bring an innocent IVF child into this world who did not ask to be born? Are the needs of such an IVF child LESSER than a natural born child? Is the CHILD SUPPORT for the parents or to help the CHILD with daily supplies and necessities? Then why should the GENDER of the parent matter in assigning child support?

  11. Pedro Rosario Ruiz says:

    If a veterans get jailed for more than 6 month compensation will be suspended until he get released. That means that the veterans and his other dependent will go true a financial hardship. And that means that when he come out it will possible become a homeless veteran and not be able to pay the child support and get him financially up to date.

  12. Gail Brown MD MSW says:

    First in our PC (policitcally correct) environment I think calling people “Turnips” is appauling. In my opinion this is not differnt than calling someone a racial slur. We have not walked in that person’s shoes and until the Bradley Amendment can be modified that will continue to happend. Second, the cusodial prent can withold visitation and contact and the non-custodial parent has to spend thousands of dollars to take the custodial parent back to court. The custodial parent usually can get a “free” attorney. If the custodial parent becomes homeless – why is he or she not charged with child neglect? I know it may not be due to their fault, maybe lack of child support, loss of a job or a current spouse? What ever the reason, they are not charged for being poor and down on their luck like the non-custodial parent is. Even a medical disability allows for student loans to be deferred and sometimes “written off”. This must be addressed and done so in a manner that goes beyond this current Supreme Court decision as it did not address the unconstitional parts of the Bradley Amendment. I am sure that was not allowed to brought up – but maybe in a future hearing it will be.

  13. Paul - Private Investigator says:

    It seems you are having the same difficulties over there in the US as we do in the UK.

  14. Stepp AR says:

    You know whats sad! All this support encouges the custodial parent to sit around not work not go to school the less work they do the more they recieve. The system is messed up we need the federal gov to step in and fix it… what child spends 2000 dollars a month what child needs 90% of a fathers income if the father stayed with the family that child wouldnt require 90% and how about the times when the child is with the father and the father has no money left to buy his child a gift or take him or her to the movies fix rhe system.. all children should be joint responsiblity this is a stupid unfaiir process. There needs to be a set amount depending on area lived a resonable amount. Set per child depending on age.

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To get help with your case or learn how to apply for child support, contact your state or tribal child support agency.  This is a moderated blog. All comments will be reviewed and cleared before they are posted. See Comment Policy.