Veterans’ Child SupportIssuesKatie Scott, Esq.Director of Pro Bono ProgramsHomeless Persons Representation Project
Child Support Judgments andArrearsIn MD, the child support enforcement office can: Withhold child support from wages and unemployment benefits, as well as some federal benefits Intercept federal and state tax refunds to pay child support arrears Report parents owing past-due support to credit bureaus Refer parents owing past-due support to the MVA for driver’s license suspension Intercept Maryland lottery winnings to pay child support arrears Garnish accounts at financial institutions Request the suspension or revocation of a professional or recreational license Bring contempt of court actions against that parent (possible jail time) Deny the issuance or renewal of a passport Refer cases for federal prosecution when non-custodial parents move to another state to avoid paying child support
Child Support Arrears and Jail Time 2011 Supreme Court case Turner v. Rogers held that a parent in child support arrears does not have automatic right to an attorney, even if he faces jail time. The Sixth Amendment right to an attorney applies only in criminal matters (child support matters are civil in nature). Turner also holds, however, that the debtor can avoid jail if he can demonstrate his inability to pay and requires procedures to ensure that the debtor knows this.
Child Support and the VeteranCommon feelings or excuses Fear: “I might be arrested.” Stress: “Already too much on my plate.” Guilt: “I can’t face them.” (i.e., kids and or ex) Anger: “She won’t let me see the kids anyway.” Shame: “I don’t want to be called a deadbeat dad.”
The Effect of Child Support Arrearson Society Many homeless veterans find that their ability to move into permanent housing is compromised by child support debts. Many of these obligations were incurred while the veteran was homeless, in a phase of active addiction, or otherwise untreated for a serious mental illness. For incarcerated veterans, the growing arrears from unpaid child support can be particularly damaging to their ability to reintegrate into the community. Difficulty in finding (or fear of seeking) formal employment combined with homelessness can lead to recidivism.
Dealing with Child Support IssuesPositive reasons for coming forward: Stops the arrearage from building up more Avoid health issues or a psychiatric relapse “To improve self-esteem” “To see my kids” “To get a competitive job or a professional license”
How HPRP Can Help HPRP does not currently provide direct representation in child support matters. However, we can: Refer to CSE to resolve informally Refer to University of Baltimore Law School Civil Law Clinic if necessary for the case to go to litigation Refer to a private attorney, if appropriate If out of state, refer to appropriate legal services agency HPRP conducts intake at shelters every other month for expungement and service-connected veterans’ benefits. We screen at intake for outstanding child support issues. We also accept walk-in clients for veterans’ benefits cases.
Child Support Payment IncentiveProgram Encourages non custodial parents (NCP) to make consistent child support payments by: Reducing State owed arrears by half if the NCP makes full child support payments for one year. Eliminating the balance owed to the State if the NCP makes full child support payments for two years Any arrears owed to the family will not be reduced. Eligibility Criteria Applicant has a Maryland court order and there is an arrears balance owed to the State because the custodial parent received public assistance. Applicant’s gross income is less than 225% of the federal poverty level. Applicant has not been terminated from the program three times.
How Things Change for the Veteran Veteran feels they are an integral part of the community Veteran can get real employment, with benefits - no need to “hide out” or work “under the table” Veteran feels increased self-esteem Back-up plan or “safety net” for possible relapse or hospitalizations
How Things Change for the Veteran Veteran can have a bank account Veteran can keep or regain drivers and professional licenses Possibility for newly established visitation with children or prior visitation order resumed Tax and penalties are no longer increasing
Upcoming Changes… Treasury Department rule effective March 2013 protecting veterans, social security and other federal benefits from seizure by creditors EXCEPT state collection of unpaid child support. HPRP as possible pilot site in Baltimore for ABA’s project to help homeless veterans comply with child support obligations.
Any questions?Katie Scott, Esq.Director of Pro Bono ProgramsHomeless Persons Representation Project201 North Charles St., Suite 1104, Baltimore, MD 21201Direct: 410-685-6589 ext. 14Toll Free: 1-800-773-4340 ext. 14Fax: email@example.com