Accountability For Misuse of Child Support Urged

January 12, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Legislative

Page 4 April 5, 1993 Cite as 7 Mich. L.W. 679


To The Editor:

I am submitting this Letter-to-the-Editor to assert that the time has arrived to demand accountability on the use of child support. Michigan has decided to “get tough” on the enforcement of child support and is on the verge of adopting draconian child support enforcement laws at both the state and federal levels. Such efforts have relied on numerous invalid assumptions which merit analysis before initiating actions which will have profound impact on payors of child support. This analysis will ask the reader to realize that unless accountability for child support exists, the best interest of the child is
ignored.

The primary appeal of strict enforcement of child support orders is the financial needs of children. Everyone agrees that children have financial needs which must met by their parents. However, if child support obligations are not used by the custodial parent to provide for the welfare of the child(ren), enforcement of child support obligations does not benefit the child(ren). Would anyone believe that our public policy should allow the recipient of child support payments to spend such funds on illegal drugs or on a luxury item for mother, e.g. on a new fur coat.

Very few noncustodial parents (and even fewer teenage children of divorce) believe their child support payments are all being spent on behalf of the children. Moreover, such child support only fulfills one of two parents obligation and should be augmented by the other parent’s financial support. Ironically, we only impose a legal obligation of support on the noncustodial parent.

We also assume the custodial parent is the best conservator of such funds and refuse to consider any alternative arrangements, even if the non-custodial parent has far greater financial skills and the custodial parent is a spendthrift. Which parent should be treated more harshly, a parent who spends child support payments received from the other parent on himself or a parent who fails to pay their ex-spouse the court ordered child support? Is a society concerned about the best interest of children if it imprisons parents (or revokes their auto and occupational licenses) who fail to pay their ex-spouse court ordered child support but fails to insure that such payments benefit the children. Why don’t we impose any sanctions on a parent who spends child support payments on themselves? We must either assume that such payments are always properly applied, that the cost of enforcement would be prohibitive or actually want to benefit the custodial parent and have little concern for children.

At the extreme upper end, Isaiah Thomas has a child support obligation of almost Two Hundred Thousand Dollars per year. Although the media reported that the mother of his child failed to obtain an increase, did anyone inquire how such funds were being spent? Does anyone believe all of such amount is properly spent on Isaiah’s child? As noted in the current issue of the Advocate, the journal of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association (and the common complaint of divorced fathers) often the child support payments for one child is used for other children or even to support an extended family. Where the custodial parent remarries, particularly where additional children are born, the children of the first marriage are often neglected or treated less favorably than children of the second marriage. Sadly, children often are neglected and the child support paid for their benefit is spent on luxuries for the mother or to satisfy her addiction(s).

Experience with human nature has forced everyone to recognize that where accountability is absent, abuse can be assumed. Recent examples include the Oakland County Sheriffs office, the Michigan Legislature and Detroit’s Police Chief. If public officials cannot be trusted with absolute secrecy over the use of funds entrusted to them, why would anyone assume that the ten million custodial parents in our country would all be above reproach? Every reader can certainly list numerous additional examples of abuse that occurs when inadequate accountability exists. No other example of such blind faith exists in our society.

Whenever any individual is entrusted with money to be spent on behalf on a third party, an accounting of the use of such funds is the minimum requirement. Without such accountability, our tax law assumes that the funds constitute either taxable income or a gift to the recipient. The laws applicable to fiduciaries, partnerships, corporations, trusts and estates all incorporate a strict accountability standard. Perhaps the closest analogy exists in Social Security benefits paid on behalf a deceased parent for a dependant child. The surviving parent is required to deposit such funds into a separate bank account and to file an annual accounting on how such funds are spent.

If the social security office believes such accountability is necessary, is it any wonder that noncustodial parents feel abused by a system that doesn’t even allow them the right to ask how their payments were spent?

Without accountability, the right to receive child support does not exist!

The assertion that the cost of requiring an accounting would be prohibitive cannot logically be sustained. Accountability may actually save taxpayers money because many noncustodial parents are so angry with the system they know treats them abusively and fails to insure the money they pay is received by their children that they refuse to pay any amount, abandon their children, jobs and neighborhood. A fairer system would remove much of the anger and bitterness in divorce.

Accountability would partially diminish the financial reward to the parent that succeeds in preventing the child’s other parent from remaining actively involved in their child’s life and should promote cooperative parenting. Moreover, a law which allowed the noncustodial parent the right to an accounting but left the enforcement to the noncustodial parent would not inherently force the Friend of the Court to incur any costs. The requirement could be as simple as requiring a separate bank account, a percentage allocable to household expenditures without separate accounting and an annual accounting to the noncustodial parent of the balance. No enforcement costs need be assumed by the Friend of the Court and the sanctions for failure to account for such funds could be limited to repayment of funds taken without support. I have enclosed a copy of the accountability requirements for social security and revised language which would require accountability for child support. If you agree with this proposal, please advise the Family Law Section Council, your State Senator and Representative. _________ offered the following amendments to House Bill 4138:

1. Amend Sec. 33 to add a new section (3) to provide as follows:

(a) Whoever receives payment of money ordered by the circuit court under this subchapter for the use and benefit of a child and having received such a payment, knowingly and willfully converts such a payment, or any part thereof, to a use other than for the use and benefit of such child shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be fined as deemed appropriate by the circuit court or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both. In the case of any violation described in the preceding sentence, including a first such violation, if the circuit court determines that such violation includes a willful misuse of such funds by such person, the circuit court shall also require that full or partial restitution of such funds be made to the child or a conservator appointed for such child.

(c) Any individual convicted of a felony under this section may not be a recipient of further payments of money ordered by the circuit court under this subchapter for the use and benefit of a child.

(d) If a court of competent jurisdiction determines that a representative payee has misused any child support paid to such representative payee, the Friend of the Court shall promptly terminate payment of child support benefits to such representative payee pursuant to this subsection and certify payment to an alternative representative payee or to the individual, if not a minor, or to a conservator for such child.(5)

(e) In any case where payment under this subchapter is made to a person other than the individual entitled to such payment, the Friend of the Court shall establish a system of accountability monitoring whereby such person shall report not less often than annually with respect to the use of such payments. The Friend of the Court Advisory Board shall establish and implement statistically valid procedures for reviewing such reports in order to identify instances in which such persons are not properly using such payments. The Friend of the Court may require a report at any from any person receiving child support payments on behalf of another, if the Friend of the Court has reason to believe that the person receiving such payments is misusing such payments.(6)

(f) The Friend of the Court shall include as part of its annual report required under ___________, information with respect with respect to the implementation of the proceeding provisions of this subsection, including the number of cases in which the representative payee was changed, the number of cases discovered where there has been a misuse of funds, how any such cases were dealt with by the Friend of the Court, the final disposition of such cases, including any criminal penalties imposed, and such other information as the Friend of the Court determines to be appropriate.(7)

Phillip J. Holman, Esq.

National Congress for Men and

Children, Michigan Chapter


The footnotes, below, were omitted from the published version of this letter:

1. “A taxpayer who receives an amount under a claim of right, without restrictions as to its disposition, has received income for tax purposes…”, RIA Federal Tax Coordinator 2nd, J-8000 and extensive cases cited in footnote 1. In fact, an excellent argument exists that under current Michigan cases which provide that no restrictions on the disposition of child support exists, all child support received is taxable to the recipient. The taxpayer does not have taxable income where he does not have an unrestricted right to the funds, but holds them as a conduit for either the payor or the payee. See RIA Federal Tax Coordinator 2nd, J-8004 and cases cited therein. Thus in Illinois Power v. C.I.R, 792 F2d 683, 689 (6th Cir, 1986) the court stated:

“Where …the taxpayer’s obligation to refund the money…is contingent, the money is taxable as income….The underlying principle is that the taxpayer is allowed to exclude from his income money received under an unequivocal contractual, statutory, or regulatory duty to repay it, so that he really is just the custodian of the money.” Thus the recipient of child support does not receive taxable income if there is an unequivocal statutory duty to use such funds for the children, but not otherwise.

Internal Revenue Code 71 provides in relevant part, as follows:

“(a) General Rule.–Gross income includes amounts received as alimony or separate maintenance payments…. (c)
Payments to Support Children.–

(1) IN GENERAL.–Subsection (a) shall not apply to that part of any payment which the terms of the divorce or separation instrument fix (in terms of an amount of money or a part of the payment) as a sum which is payable for the support of the children of the payor spouse.”

The above language led Commerce Clearing House to state in its explanation in Standard Federal Tax Reporter at 6095.09:

“It has always been clear from the terms of the statute that when payments are specifically designated by the terms of the decree, instrument, or agreement as a sum payable for the support of a minor child, they are neither deductible by the payee nor taxable to the recipient.

Prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1984, amounts were not considered ‘fixed’ unless the decree, instrument, or agreement specifically designated that such amount was designated as child support. The Tax Reform Act of 1984 overruled that portion of the Lester (referenced below) decision …”

for amounts reduced upon the happening of a contingency related to a child of the payor” (i.e. attaining a specified age, leaving school, etc.). Internal Revenue Code 71 (c)(2) treats the “amount of such reduction as an amount fixed as payable for the support of children of the payor spouse.”

In Merrill v. Commissioner 34 TCM 688 (1975) the court refused to consider the father’s argument that some portion of the payments designated as child support were never received by the children and were instead used by the mother for her own support and maintenance. The court cited Lester for the proposition that “Congress has established a hard and fast rule that the language of the decree is conclusive. 366 U.S. at 303…. To shift the tax burden from one spouse to the other on the basis of extrinsic evidence of the parties intent not embodied in the terms of the decree or incorporated in the agreement, or of their subsequent conduct would defeat this apparent legislative purpose.”

The Court failed to address the issue of whether the amounts would be included in the taxable income of the recipient if no legal obligation existed (as contrasted with intent or actual conduct) to use such funds for the benefit of the children. For other cases which considered only language in decree and failed to reach the issue of whether a legal obligation to use such funds for the benefit of the children existed, see Commissioner v. Star, 48 TCM 1063 (1984) ; Commissioner v. J. B. Platt, 51 TCM 49 (1985); Commissioner v. Walstatter, 63 TCM 2389 (1992). In Commissioner v. Lester, 366 U.S. 299 (1961)
the court held that in order for payments to constitute child support rather than alimony “the ‘written instrument’ must ‘fix’ that ‘portion of the payment’ which is to go to the children. Otherwise, the wife must pay the tax on the whole payment.” Importantly, the United States Supreme Court adopted the claim of right doctrine, stating at 366 US 303-304:

“One of the basic precepts of the income tax law is that ‘[t]he income that is subject to a man’s unfettered command and that he is free to enjoy at his own option may be taxed to him as his income, whether he sees fit to enjoy it or not.’ Corliss v. Bowers, 281 US 376, 378…(1930). Under the type of agreement here, the wife is free to spend the monies paid under the agreement as she sees fit. ‘The power to dispose of income is the equivalent of ownership of it. ‘ Helvering v Horst, 311 US 112 …(1940). Including the entire payments in the wife’s gross income therefore, comports with the underlying philosophy of the code. As we have frequently stated, the Code must be given ‘as great an internal symmetry and consistency as its words permit.’ (citation omitted).

It does not appear that the Congress was concerned with the perhaps restricted use of un-specified child-support payments permitted the wife by state law when it made those sums includable in the wife’s alimony income. Its concern was with a revenue measure and with the specificity, for income tax purposes, of the amount payable under the terms of the written agreement for support of the children. Therefore, in construing that revenue act, we too are unconcerned with the variant legal obligations, if any, which such an agreement, by construction of its nonspecific provisions under local rules, imposes on the wife to use a certain portion of the payments solely for the support of the children. The Code merely affords the husband a deduction for any portion not specifically earmarked in the agreement as payable for the support of the children.

As we read the 22(k), the Congress was in effect giving the husband and wife the power to shift a portion of the tax burden from the wife to the husband by the use of a simple provision in the settlement agreement which fixed the specific portion of the periodic payment made to the wife as payable for the support of the children. (citations abbreviated and emphasis added). Thus, in Lester, the court believed that the general rule under Corliss and Helvering v Horst was consistent with the rule of requiring inclusion in the wife’s income under Internal Revenue Code 22(k). Thus internal symmetry was maintained with a two prong standard the court considered. In order for periodic payments to be excludeable from a wife’s income: (1) the recipient must not have unfettered command over the use of such funds, rather there must be a legal obligation that such funds be used for the support of the children; and

(2) the agreement must expressly fix the portion of the payments which are to be used for the children.

The Tax Reform Act of 1984 overruled only the portion of Lester which required the agreement to “fix” the portion of the funds which are specifically allocated to child support in the agreement. The Act provides that payments of amounts which are reduced by the terms of the agreement upon the happening of an event related to the child, are be sufficiently fixed by the agreement to constitute child support. Thus such provisions satisfy the second prong of the standard announced in Lester. However, based on Helvering v Horst and the extensive cases which follow this pervasive and basic rule of tax law, unless a legal obligation to use such funds for the children exists, such amounts are taxable income to the recipient. In effect, such amounts are not “child support” as contemplated by federal tax law, unless state law imposes a legal obligation to use such amounts for the child. Any other construction would violate the rule that the Code must be given as great an internal symmetry and consistency as its words permit. It may be important to distinguish between amounts deductible by the payor as alimony and amounts excludeable from the recipient’s income. Even though amounts may not qualify as deductible as alimony by the payor and taxable as alimony by the recipient, under Helvering v Horst, the recipient receives taxable income if there is no legally enforceable duty to account for the use of such funds.

2. To avoid a power to obtain funds held in trust from being taxed as a gift to the holder of the power, a clearly measurable standard under which the holder is legally accountable is required, see RIA Tax Coordinator 2nd., Q-1931.

3. Derived from federal provisions applicable to social security benefits, 42 USC 408, which provides in relevant part as follows:

408. Penalties (a) In general

Whoever–

(5) having made application to receive payment under this subchapter for the use and benefit of another and having received such a payment, knowingly and willfully converts such a payment, or any part thereof, to a use other than for the use and benefit of such person; …

shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both. … In the case of any violation described in the preceding sentence, including a first such violation, if the Court determines that such violation includes a willful misuse of such funds by such person…, the court may also require that full or partial restitution of such funds be made to the individual for whom such person or entity was the certified payee.

4. Derived from federal provisions applicable to social security benefits, 42 USC 405, which provides in relevant part as follows:

405. Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments

(j) Representative Payee

(1) If the Secretary or a court of competent jurisdiction determines that a representative payee has misused any individuals benefits paid to such representative payee…, the Secretary shall promptly revoke certification for payment of benefits to such representative payee pursuant to this subsection and certify payment to an alternative representative payee or to the individual….

5. Derived from federal provisions applicable to social security benefits, 42 USC 405, which provides in relevant part as follows:

405. Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments

(j) Representative Payee

(1) If the Secretary or a court of competent jurisdiction determines that a representative payee has misused any individuals benefits paid to such representative payee…, the Secretary shall promptly revoke certification for payment of benefits to such representative payee pursuant to this subsection and certify payment to an alternative representative payee or to the individual….

6. Derived from federal provisions applicable to social security benefits, 42 USC 405, which provides in relevant part as follows:

405. Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments (j) Representative Payee

(3)(A) In any case where payment under this subchapter is made to a person other than the individual entitled to such payment, the Secretary shall establish a system of accountability monitoring whereby such person shall report not less often than annually with respect to the use of such payments. The Secretary shall establish and implement statistically valid procedures for reviewing such reports in order to identify instances in which such persons are not properly using such payments…. [T]he Secretary may require a report at any from any person receiving payments on behalf of another, if the
Secretary has reason to believe that the person receiving such payments is misusing such payments….

7. Derived from federal provisions applicable to social security benefits, 42 USC 405, which provides in relevant part as follows:

405. Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments

(j) Representative Payee

(D)(6) The Secretary shall include as part of the annual report required under section 904 of this title information with respect with respect to the implementation of the proceeding provisions of this subsection, including the number of cases in which the representative payee was changed, the number of cases discovered where there has been a misuse of funds, how any such cases were dealt with by the Secretary, the final disposition of such cases, including any criminal penalties imposed, and such other information as the Secretary determines to be appropriate.

Legislation Is Disastrous For Noncustodial Fathers

January 9, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Legislative

  

FRIDAY, MARCH I 9, 1993

(Editor’s Note: This letter by Travis Ballard, a lawyer in Adrian, was submitted by the National Congress For Men and Children in reference to House Bills 4135-4138)

I am submitting this letter in the hopes that our citizens and our Legislature will wake up in time to prevent the loss of an untold number of lives in the State of Michigan. The legislation presently pending in the Michigan House was approved in Committee on March 10, 1993, and is expected to be promptly enacted. It involves the latest attempt to coerce child support collections by authorizing and directing the loss of driver’s licenses and occupational licenses of individuals with child support arrearages.

Although supported by many well intentioned individuals, the proposed legislation is poorly drafted and will result in destroying far more people than it benefits. In the final analysis, the amount of child support collected will undoubtedly decrease.

Child support enforcement agencies refuse to consider the legitimate concerns of non-custodial parents, which primarily concern the areas of access to their children, the necessary accountability over the use of the child support payments and the reasonableness of the amount awarded.

The emotional agony in divorce involving children is inherently intense. When child support enforcement agencies ignore due process and prefer one gender and over the other, it generates absolute frustration and despair. Most of the fathers who will suffer sanctions under these provisions will be financially unable to pay. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 66 percent of custodial mothers stated the reason they were not receiving financial child support was financial inability to pay.
However, few fathers will receive any sympathy or concern from a system that views them solely as objects to be manipulated, instead of loving parents caught up in the emotional and financial crisis of a divorce.

Most of our judges were raised mainly by their mothers (fathers working). As a result, fathers are unable to overcome the subrosa inborn prejudice and are treated with more contempt than shown to violent criminals. Consequently, their financial inability to pay will be ignored. Most will already have lost their homes, the ability to parent their children and already have an extremely high incidence of suicide. Taking the additional steps of removing their ability to drive and their ability to earn a living is certain to push many over the edge. Many will decide they have nothing left to live for.

Although I condemn violence and certainly recognize that violence in domestic relations matters only diminish fathers’ rights and the public sympathy for our plight, this legislation is certain to result in substantial loss of life. How many fathers will commit suicide and how many will improperly and unjustly face financial ruin before enough people recognize that our system must treat fathers with the concern and respect they deserve?

The proponents of the bills are primarily concerned that the Friend of the Court lacks an effective tool to collect child support from independent contractors who cannot be subjected to withholding by their employer. However, even this group is likely to have many unintended victims.

Unfortunately, the bills go too far and are certain to be applied inappropriately to destroy many loving fathers whose only crime is being male in a society that somehow fails to understand that divorced fathers love their children and strive to provide for their financial and emotional needs.

Some of the worst aspects of the legislation which desperately need amending, are the following:

l. There is little, if any, public policy reason to raise alimony to this level of punitive enforcement.

2. Ability to pay as defined in House Bill 4138 Section 26 (A)(4) is far too vague. At a minimum, the act must allow courts to consider the hardship to the payer and his family. The act implies the payer can magically obtain funds from a source other than currently available resources.

3. The bills allow suspension of licenses even though an income withholding order is in effect if it “has not been successful in compelling compliance with a support order.” By definition, if the withholding order cannot compel compliance-the payer has inadequate income to pay the amount of the order.

4. The notice provisions should require personal service. Imposing the obligation on the payer to keep the Friend of the Court informed of his or her address will result in many individuals failing to receive actual notice. Many fathers will have notified the Friend of the Court and the file will never be corrected, the required notice will be improperly addressed, lost in the mail or inadvertently misplaced at the payers residence (e.g. by a roommate or relative).

5. Allowing only 14 days after notice is mailed to request a hearing is far too short. After deducting the days lost in mailing, an individual out of town to look for a job, a death in the family or on vacation will never have an opportunity to request a hearing.

6. The bills allow the payer to seek a modification of his support order. However, an individual in such situations is likely to be unwilling to risk incurring the wrath of the referee who holds, what amounts to power of life and death over his head. Consequently, the referee should have the affirmative duty to determine that a downward modification is not then appropriate.

7. The law will require the Court to order a suspension if a payer fails to comply with an arrearage payment schedule. This provision will destroy many individuals who are unable to make the arrearage payments scheduled. Moreover, no clear guidelines are provided to the court in making its determination of the schedule for payment of the arrearage.

8. The court is directed to presume that the payer has Currently available resources equal to four weeks of the amount due under the order, in the absence of proof to the contrary. Few payers will be able to provide the “proof” required to satisfy a skeptical judge. When applied to license revocation, the inevitable injustice is inexcusable.

9. The Friend of the Court or a party should be required to seek, and the courts should be absolutely required to impose, the same sanctions for:

a) Repeated failure to comply with a visitation order; and

b) Repeated false allegations of physical or sexual child abuse.

10. Since the proposed legislation is only justifiable if it benefits children of divorce, lets make sure all of the money is spent on the children by requiring the funds to be deposited in a separate bank account and an annual statement of how such funds are spent filed with the Friend of the Court and mailed to the payer. If Social Security benefits paid for the benefit of a dependant child when a parent dies justifies such accountability, surely the far greater amounts generally paid in the form of child support, merit equal or greater concern.

Sincerely,

Travis Ballard

President
 National Congress for
 Men and Children

(Note for Web page: Written by Phillip Holman on behalf of Travis Ballard).


Bills Targeting ‘Deadbeat Dads’ Anger Fathers

January 8, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Fathers Rights


Thursday, MARCH 18, 1993
Detroit News Home Page

Kenneth Cole

DETROIT NEWS LANSING BUREAU

LANSING–James Thienel is fuming over a set of bills steam rolling through the Michigan House that would suspend the driver’s and occupational licenses of so-called “deadbeat dads” who fall behind on child support.

Thienel, the owner of a Maytag appliance store in Royal Oak, believes the bills will unfairly punish men like him who don’t have custody of their children. “This legislation will only make the problem worse,” Thienel said. “There are a lot of fathers now being pushed to the brink, and these bills may push them over.”

Thienel, 45, who pays his ex-wife $87-a-week in child support for their 11-year-old son, Jared, also blasted the term “deadbeat dad,” which lawmakers often use to describe noncustodial fathers.

“That term evokes the same feeling for men that a racial slur evokes for a black person,”he said.

“Sure there are some deadbeat dads. But the Legislature is using the term to brush all men.”

Philip Holman of the National Congress for Men and Children agreed and called the bills ”draconian legislation that treats loving fathers like criminals.”

“It’s based on the premise that there are all these men who are able, but unwilling, to pay,” Holman said. “That’s invalid.”

Specifically, the bills, which are before the full House, would let the state suspend the driver’s licenses of parents who are more than a month, or $1,000, behind on child support, whichever is less.

Occupational licenses also would be suspended under the legislation, and the state could also deny guilty parents the right to register cars with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Although the bills, which could pass the House and move to the Senate next week, designate neither sex as a target for punishment, more than 85 percent of the state’s 200,000 noncustodial parents are men, according to the state Department of Social Services.

“All these bills do is further punish men, who already are the victims of a gender-bias domestic relations industry,” Holman said.

Sharon Gire, DÄClinton Township, chief sponsor of the bills, defended the measures. “We have people who are self employed, who are making money, who can afford to pay child support, who have court orders to do 80, but are not responding” Gire said. “These bills just give the courts one more enforcement tool.

“And besides, if a person’s been given the privilege of making a living by virtue of a license, they ought to follow the law and show some responsibility toward their kids.”

Chuck Peller, a DSS spokesman, said the bills could help a lot of poor families on welfare escape poverty. “If people are paying child support, it means fewer children will get caught up in the (welfare) system and that means less kids will be living in poverty,” Peller said.

DSS records show that among households receiving aid to families with dependent children (ADC), only 12 percent of child support eve~ gets collected and $1.7 billion is outstanding.

About $648 million in child support is delinquent for families not on welfare in the state.


Turning Loving Fathers Into Visitors

December 22, 2011  |  No Comments  |  by admin  |  Legislative

State wants to go after ‘deadbeat dads’who fail to make child support payments

By Kenneth Cole

DETROIT NEWS LANSING BUREAU

LANSING — Despite a good record of collecting child support, Michigan wants to crack down further on “deadbeat dads” by having courts report them to credit bureaus the state’s social services director said Wednesday.

Gerald Miller said the move would generate additional federal dollars for the cash-starved state and strength- en families, particularly those dependent on welfare.

The measure is part of Gov. John Engler’s plan to reform Michigan’s welfare system and is one in a series of bills aimed at penalizing dads who fail to pay child support.

Other bills would prevent fathers from renewing their driver’s licenses, professional licenses and automobile registrations. The package could go into effect as early as Oct. 1, when the 1993 fiscal year begins.

“The bottom line is we want to make Michigan as strong as possible in child support collection,” Miller told a House committee on social services. “We’re doing a reasonably good job in this area right now, but that’s not good enough.”

Michigan ranks second among the 50 states in child support collection, behind Pennsylvania.

Still, among households receiving aid to families with dependent children (ADC), 12 percent of child support is collected, and $2.4 billion in court-ordered child support goes uncollected annually in the state, according to Department of Social Services records.

“Just think of the implications (for the families) if we can get just 10 percent of that money,” Miller said.

The House Judiciary Committee may take up the bills Thursday.

One measure would require Friend of the Court officers to report to credit bureaus fathers who are more than $1,000 behind in child support.

“They don’t want that on their credit record,” Miller said. “It gives us another tool in our arsenal.”

Added Karen Smith, DSS communications chief: “For every dollar we can bring to a family–whether they’re on public assistance or just low income–the less it has to rely on the state.

“Plus, if we fail in our ability to get child support dollars, children are deprived of something to which they are entitled.”

Phil Holman, interim president of the Michigan chapter of the National Congress for Men and Children called the bills “outrageous.”

“When parents are allowed access to their children, the problem of noncompliance disappears,” Holman said, charging that much of the information the state is using to launch its attack on dads comes from bitter mothers.

“Domestic relations in this country turns loving fathers into visitors,” he said.


Thursday, June 26, 1992