Fathers Rights Lawyers, WI Father's Rights Attorneys, Dads Rights
In Butler County
Ohio, Cynthia Brown, the head of county child support enforcement office
decided that it was a good idea to put, what she calls, "deadbeat
parent's" on pizza boxes.
I have spoken out against
this practice as a method that is harmful to the children and a method
that also highlights the disparity in our legal
system that treats parents as wallets and pocket books rather than
parents. You may review some comments in an
Associated Press Article reprinted by Fox News and in my debates
with Cynthia Brown
on WBAL Radio in Baltimore,
WCCO Radio "Pizza Box"
Child Support Enforcement Tactics
and on the
National Fox Television Program
"Fox & Friends."
For additional information on the issue visit
the Website of National Father's Rights Commentator
Many people have asked me what is so wrong with seeking child
support payments by including parent's pictures on pizza boxes. My
answer is multifaceted but is focused primarily on three issues.
First and foremost, the practice harms children. Second, treating child
support paying parents and, particularly, father's like criminals by
creating a most wanted list ignores many of the reasons that child
support arrears accrue in the first place. Finally, the
practice clearly highlights the disparity between enforcement of child
support and enforcement of parenting rights.
Reasons Child Support Arrears Accrue.
There is no doubt that there are a minority number
of child support obligors who simply refuse to pay child support.
However, such parents are the exception and not the rule.
Yet, our state collection efforts, whether Minnesota or Ohio, paint them
all with the same broad brush.
It is compelling that a great majority of people who fall behind in
their support do so unintentionally or for understandable reasons.
These may include:
- Parents seeking to rationalize why they are unable to enforce
their parenting rights but must still pay child support;
- Parents who fall victim to life circumstances which may include
job loss, injury or other family tragedies;
- Parents who fall victim to mental illness or to feelings of
hopelessness and despair rendering them unable to act to resolve
their child support issues.
Further complicating these issues is the fact that our legal system
has grown complicated and confusing, often placing it outside of
the understanding of ordinary people. Parents who are behind in
child support often to not have the resources to hire legal counsel.
As a result, they must attempt to navigate the murky bureaucratic waters
related to finding appropriate legal forms, filing them correctly and
serving the other party. Even if the administrative procedures are
followed correctly, pro se litigants often fail to support their motions
with adequate information or evidence since they have not been trained
to understand legal burdens of proof or what evidence the court may
demand in a particular case. In such cases, motions may be denied,
income imputed while financial problems mount and arrears continue to
Support for the contention that the most
significant negative impact of our child support laws falls on the lower
income is highlighted in Butler County Ohio. First, it is a
concern that, as of this writing, out of 20 deadbeat parents pictured on
pizza boxes, 18 were fathers. Further emphasizing the
problem is the fact that
each of those fathers possessed
few employable skills and were qualified only for the lowest paying
unskilled positions. Those financial circumstances would make
any child support obligation
difficult and it would clearly place the parent precariously on the
brink of insolvency should even a minor event impair their earning
What is also compelling is the
non-modifiable nature of child support arrears. Despite the fact
that unforeseen circumstances can occur and despite the fact that the
legal system is difficult to navigate without counsel, child support
arrears cannot be retroactively modified except under very special
As a direct result, the ends of collecting child support against such
parents does not justify the means which includes attempting to shame
the parent with their face on a pizza box.
Punishing the Child
One thing that Cynthia Brown seems to ignore is
that by putting parents on pizza boxes, in the end,
it is the child that is punished. Ms. Brown contends that any
parent who is placed on a pizza box already has destroyed their
relationship with a child. My response is that, first, such a
contention is irresponsible and unfounded. A failure to pay child
support does not mean a parent does not seek a relationship with the
children whether it has been denied or not by the custodial parent.
However, assuming, arguendo, that Ms. Brown's point is valid, the
child is still victimized. The practice of putting a parent's face
on a pizza box serves to harm the child in the following ways:
Destroy the child's sense of
self identity because, regardless of how close their relationship is
with a parent, that child, draws part of their sense of self
identity from that parent. It conveys the message that if my parent
is bad and a criminal, I am bad.
private family matters to public scrutiny which further impairs the
ability of a parent to find gainful employment and to pay support.
- Alienate a child from the parent;
- Punish the child by
exposing that child to shame among their peers;
Potential for Error.
Even with the best laid plans, making a mistake is possible and the
consequence of an error is extreme. For those who have dealt
before with the state and county child support systems, it may even be
accepted without argument that the possibility of a mistake is probable.
Child Support Enforcement Agencies are presented with a great
volume of information that must be processed monthly, often with
uninitiated workers due, in part, to a high turnover rates in
child support departments. As a result, mistakes happen.
They happen regularly and they happen often. Mistakes may range from
failing to credit a child support payment to applying a payment to
ongoing support rather than arrears to improperly reflecting child
Despite overwhelming evidence that mistakes occur regularly,
Ms. Cynthia Brown has claimed on numerous programs that "we do not make
mistakes." This arrogance underscores
the potential for error and, in the case of placing photographs of
parents on pizza boxes, it may brand a parent long term.
What is even more
alarming is the fact that in Ohio, Ms. Brown acknowledges that two
"Wanted" posters are circulated each year on pizza boxes. Those
posters are not recalled. As a result, even after a parent brings their
account current, the deadbeat parenting poster remains in
circulation wrongfully picturing
a parent as a "deadbeat" that is actually current in their
Parents as Wallets
One thing that cannot be
ignored is the fact that our legal system and its administrative
machinations treat enforcement of child support in a much different way
than it treats enforcement of parenting rights. Parents who
fall behind in child support regardless of circumstance are exposed to
numerous perils as part of the collection process. Parents
may be jailed based on both state and federal criminal charges. Parents
may be jailed based on civil contempt. Parents may have licenses
automobile licenses, work licenses and sporting licenses.
Parents may have their passports invalidated. they may even appear
on most wanted posters and, now, pizza boxes as "deadbeats." Yet,
there is no similar treatment for parents who ignore court orders and
obstruct parenting time. Civil contempt remedies are rarely
supported by the courts. Jail time for contempt related to
parenting schedules is almost unheard of. Certainly, there are no
remedies related to license suspension or passport invalidation.
What type of message does this send? In essence we put the emphasis on parents as
wallets rather than as parent's who provide care.
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