Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act – What Can It Do For You?
Over one million parents were delinquent in their child support payments in 1997 – back when you could sing along with the AOL dial-up noise, Blockbuster was still a thing, and collections of back child support was only a measly $13.4 billion nationally. One year later a false sense of hope and misguided vindication came in the form of the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA), which was signed into law by Bill Clinton. The measure was touted to leverage the power of the federal government against parents who willfully evaded child support payments, but as most things that sound too good to be true, the devil lies in the details.
Not only would the deadbeat parent need to be shown to be avoiding making payments by travelling across state lines in order for them to be considered committing a federal crime, there are levels and years of bureaucracy involved in escalating a case to the federal level. The name of the law seemed to make its meaning and purpose pretty clear and quite frankly, so was the punishment for breaking said law: don’t pay your child support for over a year or incur a debt greater than $5,000, and punishment of possible prison time and fines would be imposed on the guilty parent. The catch is, you have to prove that a parent was willfully failing to pay child support as opposed to being unable to pay child support because of financial hardship. You see where this is going right?
Let me share a story with you…Marilyn Kane and her husband divorced after 21 years of marriage and her ex was ordered to pay just over $9k/month in child support for their three children. When he didn’t pay, she took him to court to get what was rightfully owed – a process that took six years. When he moved states, got remarried and adopted two children, the amount had reached over $500k! After being jailed twice by a state judge because he claimed he was penniless and couldn’t make a down payment towards the debt, a federal judge rejected his plea to challenge the order Marilyn successfully used the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act to get him put in jail and he was ordered by the court to pay over $63k in back child support. Eventually, Marilyn and her ex reached an agreement.
The DPPA enabled federal prosecutors to assist state authorities by locating, arresting, and prosecuting her ex who abandoned his children and avoided his parental responsibilities.
Although the law exists and a few parents have successfully been able to collect using this law, the hoops that one has to jump through to prove the parent has willfully evaded child support payments, makes this law out of reach for the majority of moms. Currently it is already difficult to find your ex and collect on your arrears at the county level. Pursuing this course of action like Marilyn has would have you go through not just the county level but the state and then federal courts. That sounds as challenging as it actually is.
The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act is only one of the avenues that can be used to force a parent to make his financial obligations to his children and considerations to other methods to secure payment such as having the noncustodial parent’s wages garnished through an automatic income withholding, which is within state law is another option. Other enforcement avenues that may be available include having the noncustodial parent’s tax refunds intercepted, securing a lien on his or her property, having the noncustodial parent’s driver’s or professional license suspended or pursuing a contempt of court case. What is not told to you, is most of these options don’t get you paid and you and your children could still be without. There is no time like the present to seek out new solutions that cost less but are more effective and get you the money that is rightfully yours.