A system based on inequality
by David D. Abildgaard
My complaint is a result of the Child Support Review Process (CSRP) to which I was asked to participate in.
This case stems from an argument with my ex-spouse (custodial parent) over the treatment of my child. After reporting her to Child Protective Services for letting her boyfriend to strike my daughter with a belt, she retaliated by contacting the AG's office and asking for a modification to increase child support.
About one week later, I received a notice that asks me to voluntarily participate in the CSRP on 7 Oct 08. In the literature, it says the purpose of the meeting is to resolve legal issues without going to court.
The letter also said, "The CSRP is for parents who are willing to negotiate orders to establish paternity, set current child and medical support, establish visitation rights, pay retroactive child support, obtain judgments for past due child support, modify child support amounts, or enforce the payment of child support".
Prior to the meeting, I conducted some research to determine what a modification actually meant. In the Texas Family Law, the modification basically says that the amount of child support is normally based on 20% of net resources; however those are only guidelines.
During this time, I received a phone call from a representative from the AG's office. In this discussion, the representative demanded my financial records prior to the CSRP.
After admitting the meeting was purely voluntary, she informed me that there would be no meeting unless I submitted the necessary documents. Furthermore, they threatened to subpoena my records and take me to court if I failed to comply.
Although reluctant to do so, I submitted all necessary documents based on some legal advice I received. Even though I was not under legal orders to do so, my actions were a matter of cooperation; not defiance.
When submitting my financial records, I also submitted a written proposal of some factors that should be included before reaching an agreement. Most importantly, I wanted the amount the custodial parent already receives (from the state), deducted from the 20%. This additional income is an adoption subsidy we were entitled to for adopting my daughter through TDPRS. Another issue was my provision for Health Care. I currently have my daughter under my plan, but she has health benefits through the state as well.
The CSRP meeting was to take place at 12:00 through a conference call. At 12:15, I finally called them and was informed by the representing attorney from the state that no meeting would take place and that the issue would go to court. The reason I was given was that my proposal indicated I would not agree to the guidelines as written. When asked if the custodial parent and I could agree on an amount other than the 20%, the attorney indicated the AG's office would only follow the guidelines regardless what the parties agreed to.
Additionally, this individual indicated that the use of the monies received in the form of Child Support was "not my concern". She basically said the custodial parent could spend the money any way she sees fit so long as the child's needs are met.
My discontent with this whole process is that the agency uses the phrase "in the interests of the child" to collect child support, but takes no action to ensure such interests are being met. If not, then one can argue this is more about spousal support than it is child support.
Although I can make several arguments about this case, my main focus and the nature of this complaint is the manner in which this CSRP was handled. If the purpose of the CSRP was to allow the "parents" to reach an agreement as mentioned above, then the agency failed to follow their own guidelines as written in the literature provided. Basically, the agency lied about the their true intentions of this meeting and deceived me into providing them my financial records.
Essentially, there is no negotiation between parties when the AG's office dictates the outcome. My point is this; the only agreement to be made is one where the non-custodial parent must be willing to comply with the Texas Family Law guidelines. There was no agreement or discussion between the parents as led to believe. What I was being asked to do was comply with the guidelines without exception. In doing so, there was no room for negotiating. These actions contradict the very program the agency seeks to promote.
Bottom line; without the involvement of the AG's representative, the custodial parent may have agreed to a reasonable increase without going to court, but any possibility of negotiation was blocked by said office and now I'm forced to seek legal counsel at my expense.
I would hope to see this case investigated, because I strongly feel the policies are flawed, and the state does not provide the same level of representation to non-custodial parents as they do the custodial ones. What they do is abuse the meaning of "best interests of the child" for the benefit of the custodial parent.
I would almost bet when this case goes to court, the focus will be on me versus the state. It's doubtful the other party involved will even need counsel because the AG's office desires the same thing she does; more money. By abusing the "interest of the child" phrase, they indirectly represent the custodial parent.
By the way, now they tell me I will have to pay all courts costs simply because I'm the non-custodial parent. Fair and balanced? I think not!