Hoping this falls into the hands of someone who can help.

by hope
(Shawano, Wisconsin)

I have decided to write this letter out of my concern of the faults in the Wisconsin Child Support system. I am probably not the first person to have taken the time to do this, as these problems with the system have effected, and will continue to affect numerous families, as good jobs are so few. This system continues to run as if anyone can find a high paying job, anytime, anywhere leaving many paying parents at a loss as to how to pay current monthly support as their arrearages incur.


Once arrears are so high, even if the parent has been paying something all along, they are being incarcerated for up to 6 months per case. Then, while they are incarcerated, they are falling even further behind as the arrears continue to “rack up”. In these cases, many families are being torn apart physically, emotionally, and financially.

I would now like to discuss the case of my husband, James A. Reyes. I will do my best to inform you of details as I recall them. There are some specifics, such as dates, that I am not completely sure of. If you take interest in this matter, documentation is held in the county of Shawano, Wisconsin. I will include such contact information at the bottom of this document.

James is a 32 year old man who began paying child support when he was 19 years old. At that time he had dropped out of high school and was paying out of his hourly wage from a local car wash. As the years went by, he went on to have 3 more children, and paid child support for them as well. Over time he tried his hand at many different jobs in attempt to stay current with his child support orders. At one courageous point in his life, he decided to get his CDL. I say courageous because for a man with only a 10th grade education, this was a very intimidating step, but, nonetheless, necessary. He went on to drive semi truck for quite a few years, doing well, doing the best he could to keep up. At this point his child support was set as high as $1182.00 per month. This is the amount James was paying when I met him. He never complained about it, he just accepted it as reality. I notice a quiet submission whenever the subject came up. He could never afford and attorney, never thoroughly understood the court process, never really fought it… he just did what he was told to do.

Approximately three years ago James and I were married and expecting a child of our own. About 2 months after our wedding, James’ youngest child at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. It was about the same time that he was laid off from his job. During his time laid off, he spent his time seeing his son through intense treatments, in the hospital sometimes weeks as a time. It didn’t take long for child support to bring him into court and his child support was raised to over $2000 per month. At the same time, I was on strict bed rest due to complications with my pregnancy, so I couldn’t work either. We ended up having to move in with his parents. He was devastated, broken, defeated.

Once his son was responding well to treatment, James became more serious about looking for a job. By now, he was already seeing his arrears become out of control. To top it off, his case worker, Christy Kulas had pulled his driver’s license. Okay, how do you take a drivers license away from a man with a CDL? This made no sense to me. I began to really feel his pain, and see that he was really being beaten down by the child support agency. I had so many questions; he had so many questions, starting with “what do you do now?” We went through the process of him applying for jobs, but not being considered because they could never pay him an amount near his previous wages. I had to drive him everywhere, pick up applications for him, drop them off… all of this while trying to care for my family, and work myself.

I could go on and on about this time period, the disappointment, the fear, calling child support to BEG Christy for mercy, the arguing, the struggling, the accepting, and ultimately the giving up.

We eventually came to the realization that James was going to be on unemployment for a while. Everyone we knew was struggling to make ends meet, businesses were closing, and jobs were lost, so many people out of work. James continued to ask around for something, anything, to no avail. Child support had been taking approximately $550 per month out of his unemployment checks, leaving him with more than $1500 per month tacking onto his arrears. Now, we have a HUGE mess, and we have no idea how we are ever going to get out of it.

In April of his year James owed over $100,000 in child support. He was ordered to either pay a purge of $10,000, or report to the county jail for 18 months (6 months per case). James was under the impression that if he FOUND a job, any job, and that he would not have to go to jail. He found a job washing dishes in a local bar and grill, and called to inform Christy of it. Christy then told him that it wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t pay enough, and that he would have to come up with the money, or go to jail. He tried to talk to the State Attorney; he rudely said “you can get a job while you are in jail.”By the time he was incarcerated, his purge was up to $14,000… this amount is absolutely unattainable for us, so he is sitting in jail for a year and a half. Our family is devastated. Now, not only are we faced with this huge debt, we don’t have him either.

So, here I sit, wondering what to do next. I am doing my best to keep a roof over mine and my sons’ heads while my husband sits in jail. I am on government assistance, trying to run my own business, work part-time, and be mom and dad. I am struggling everyday in every way. Our 2yr. old just started carrying our family photos around the house pointing out his daddy. Jail policy here is that children are only allowed to visit on holidays, so, over the next year and a half my son and husband will lay eyes on each other only a handful of times. James is being treated like a criminal at the fault of a system that failed him. In turn, we are a broken family. By the time James is released, our son will be 4 years old. My husband fears that our son will not remember him.

Upon visiting James in jail, he informed me that almost all of the inmates that were housed in the upper level were in there for child support. I find it hard to believe that all of these men are straight up “deadbeats”. I can’t help but wonder how a system that was designed to help children could be so abused, and go so terribly wrong. These children are missing out on precious time with their parents over unattainable amounts of money. Whatever happened to giving our children what we could, and doing the best we can? What kind of message are we sending to our youth when we say that money is more important than their relationship with their parents? And, in cases like ours, what do we do next? How do we dig our way out of this? How and when will it get better?

My hope is that someone who can make a difference reads this letter, and finds a way to help us. James’ case is one of, what is bound to be, MANY more like it. This is bound to be an epidemic with our economy the way it is. These parents are going to continue to fall behind, and continue to be set up to fail, and continue to fill up our jails and prisons. I was always under the impression that we locked people up when they were a threat to society. Do you really think that these people are a threat? I think maybe they could become a threat out of mere desperation, and that would be another set of problems. Will you shield and protect your children from the person that owes $100,000 in back child support?

There are many other concerns that I have regarding my husband experience. One being that there is a strong possibility that one of the children he is paying for may not be his. We cannot afford a DNA test. James is not eligible for a public defender because of the nature of his case, and we cannot afford to pay an attorney. I strongly believe that there is a level of prejudice against James because he is an uneducated, Hispanic male with too many kids. I believe that there is an abuse of power within the Shawano Child support agency, and it should be investigated. Our only vehicle has a lien on it for child support. We know that we will never own a home, or have anything of our own. Our “American Dreams” have been shattered. I believe that my family has been “dismissed”, and “left for dead”. We don’t know who to go to, or where to go for help.

Thank you for taking the time to read James’ story, our story. If you or anyone you know is willing and able to help us, please contact me. My family will be forever grateful.
Sincerely,

Hope M. Sargent-Reyes

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Jul 30, 2012
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Similar situation
by: Donna

Mrs. Reyes.
I can understand you pain. My fiancee is curently incarcerated on a child support purge in Rock County. The judge has stated that he had not paid chid support in five years, when the reality was three months. He said that he is not looking for workm but he exceeded his job search and all the paperwork has been turned in. He has his daughter every weekend, all summer, all school holiday breaks, and even some weekdays, in which he drives his daughter 30 minutes to school. He has also taken on the responsibility of raising her sister for the past 14 years as her father was absent, and treated he no different than his biological daughter. His mother had almost died in the hospital. She had two emergency surgeries, in which the doctors informed her, she might not make it out alive. My fiancee's ex refuses to let him out and sign a stipulation order, that she agreed to, in order to have him released in order to take caare of his mother. The Huber office refuses to let him attend his job interviews, and when he was offered employment from over five companies, refuses him to work. I do not understand the system, and every time we ask for help, we are denied. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope that someone is able to help us all in need. The system needs to change!

Jul 04, 2012
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dead beat moms
by: Anonymous

mrs reyes i feel your pain so sorry to hear about your story , the ones that are really affected are the children not having there father there with them , it truely breaks my heart . my son is also in the same place as your husbend i cant bring my self to tell my 6 year old granddaughter where daddy is , when shes asked where daddy is. i hate that word . i live in a small town in michigan,where prejudice is alive and well.he falls behind on his child support and there they go hunting him , he gets thrown in . and gets further and further behind..hes has lost driving privliges and hasto live with my husbend and i and the mom shes not any better. she keeps having more kids with driffrent men dont you think they should be cut off , from any kind of assistance,i think so why does my son have to pay if she also was a willing participent ..

Jan 25, 2012
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Blah blah blah
by: Anonymous

Deadbeat parents get away with too much. I just witnessed my ex get hauled off to jail for contempt- he has huge arrears and he doesn't work. He could get a job but refuses, not his kids fault he is lazy. I have zero tolerance for people who refuse to get off the couch an get a job- mcdonalds is always hiring. A job is a job, and if it's not enough then get 2 or 3. Most of the time these deadbeats don't see their kids anyways so they have nothing but time to work. Save your sob stories for the judge and get off your a$$ and get a few jobs...I do what I have to do to raise my daughter and I don't go crying to the system to help me. Blah blah blah- peoples excuses falls on deaf ears.

Jan 04, 2012
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Prayer always helps
by: Elaine

I am also facing the same deal in Indiana and there is no forgiveness or mercy. My John's kids are grown and has children of their own and now we face going to prison for 2-8 yrs. or pay almost 300,00
I know I am not alone in this terrible system. My husband is disabled now and has apologized but there is no mercy from his ex. However his children have all said they forgive him.
I will pray for you and you can pray for John & Elaine in Indiana

Dec 12, 2011
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wish that would happen to my ex
by: Anonymous

I know where you are coming from, but as they say, "what you do today, affects your tomorrow, " meaning he should have been protected when having sex. My ex currently owes me over $18,000 dollars, and the state won't do anything. Haven't had a payment in almost a year, keep going back ad forth to court with no justice for my children who I take care of. How do you think it feels to keep telling your children you can't afford to do anything for them when the ex lives very comfortable and runs around like she has it going on. Yes I am a man who took custody away from my ex because she cares more about drugs and ex cons. She goes into court crying she can't find a job, but all the while she is working for cash and lying through her teeth. So yes I too live in Wisconsin, and they haven't done anything to help me. I will never see a penny of what she owes, how fair is that, the state in this case cares more about the criminal, (her), than the welfare of my children. There are always 2 sides to the story in child support.

Aug 31, 2011
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Laws need changed
by: Anonymous

I have been on both sides of this coin. I have an arrearage owed to me of close to $90,000 from an ex who is over 60 years old. He will never pay that off in his lifetime. He lives in Utah and is currently not in jail. He did go to jail for weekends for several months. He hid his income under his "wife's" landscaping business. After their divorce he was then required to pay $212 per month on the arrearage. He is currently not paying. Is living with someone so has not address to be served papers to and works under the table.

I also have another ex who is only paying $81 a week for 3 children. The order is through the state of PA. After we had separated he quit his $50,000 truck driving job and said he couldn't find work. They assessed my income "potential" as much higher than it was. I had 2 of our children and he had 1 at the time. Since then the 1 child that he had has come to live with me. I never took him back to have this amount adjusted. I am able to support myself and our children on what I make. I personally do not feel that it is right or fair to financially cripple another parent so that there is absolutely no way they can ever support themselves or begin to think about supporting another family while the custodial parent goes on to become financially stable through either remarriage or education, etc.

I am currently living with someone who had been paying close to $1200 per month in support for 2 kids and a "spouse" who won't sign divorce papers. He is also responsible for carrying insurance on all of them and also to pay for 68 percent of any uncovered medical expenses, deductions, perscriptions, chiorpractors, eye Dr.'s etc. He is an RN and makes about $16 an hour. Do the math. Laws need to be changed.

Jul 26, 2011
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To the person who says it should be equal!
by: Anonymous

This is for the person who responded by saying its not fair and the "custodial" parent should have to equally support the child. Who do you think is feeding and clothing that child when the non-custodial parent cannot afford to pay?

Sep 22, 2010
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definitely not alone
by: Anonymous

I feel for you beyond words... my husband is currently in process in Kenosha WI to modify his over-the-top child support payments set 9 years ago in IL & hope to decrease his $22k arrears that continue to accrue since BM changed jurisdiction to WI in 2006. He has been destitute since the divorce - living with family when he could, having roommates when no family would take him in, living without electricity so he could pay just a portion of the $650/month CS. He has nothing - no more than the clothes on his back, that were purchased for him. I support him $, I hired the attorney for him; we're also fighting for credit for missed dependent exemptions for 8 years of taxes where the BM claimed both children against the IL judgment. We brought it to court, & my husband is being put under the spotlight for contempt. No one cares that he is destitute; they assume he has a money pile buried in our backyard & that he has been "shirking" all along. His ex ruined his credit during the marriage with a bankruptcy, his credit is horrible & as a result he cannot even obtain employment - since 90% of IL employers base employment on your credit, regardless of the job. The ex: 6 new cars in 9 years, $45k+ job, owns a house & had breast implants in 2007. Why aren't both parents incomes factored for CS? The fairness calculators are out there, I've seen them online, but it doesn't matter: 17% for 1 child, 25% for 2. The court system in WI seems to be the worst - basing CS on gross income vs. net. There seems to be no hope for anyone, & with economy continuing to decline, these poor fathers are finding themselves jailed for being broke. That is what our attorney is hitting us with, that no matter, broke or rich, contempt is contempt & warrants jail time. If my husband is jailed for being broke, he'll never get a job & never see an end to this. The kids are 17.5yrs & 14yrs & the BM has denied him visitation for almost 4 years now. I support the idea of writing to the state - daily. The more of this they hear, maybe there is a chance at equality somewhere down the line. In all, none of it makes any sense.

Aug 28, 2010
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Poor fathers
by: Anonymous

The laws were inacted so states could collect from non-custodial parents. There is no allowance for correcting back support payments. You have to go back to court each time your job changes for adjustment. Some time you can not afford to go thru the court for adjustments and fall further behind. There is a point of no return and you will never be able to pay the balance. It is a injustice for the poor man or woman who gets into this trap. The Brady bill/law (federal) took the rights away from you and others who got there selves into this financial mess of no return. You can not get blood from a rock and jail time will not improve the situation. Most men that fall behind loose the driving privilige, fishing licinse and any real property. Not driving will limit the jobs that they can work.Many times they can't afford gas or a car anyway. The payment goes on even when in jail or layed off. If I remember right it takes two to make a baby. Should there be equal resposibilities for raising and suporting these children. The laws are gender biased. I say get the fathers out of jail, put them to work, make sure they can eat have a roof over their head. Many fathers are homeless because they do not have the means for even a sleeping room. It is easy to blame the father for non-support but walk in his shoes and feel the pinch.

Jul 14, 2010
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not alone
by: Anonymous

Don't see the system changing for the better anytime soon if it helps this is happening all around the country and your not alone but solutions i don't have the system is made for laundering money not whats in the best interest of the child and parents who love them good luck

Jul 12, 2010
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I feel for You
by: Anonymous

The system doesn't care about anyone but the firt child in the system. My ex disapeared with my daughter for over 13 years I continued paying child support until the courts and the child support division told me to stop because either my daughter was adopted or she had passed away (that was in 2000). I was told I owed nothing and had a 0 balance. I recently found my daughter in 2008. she is now 20 years old and has a child of her own. Now get this, first, she take my daughters entire childhood away from me, alienated me from my daughter, told my daughter I didn't want or love her and now my ex is coming after me for back child support for the years of 2000-2010. Not for one second did I think I owed her anything because the child support division and the courts closed my case. Boy was I wrong they held me liable for all the 10 years of child support and also the 10% interest for those 10 years?!?!?! I was told to stop paying my case was closed I had a 0 balance. I am married with 3 children 6,11,16 and one on the way. They have put leins on my propertys, vehicles, taken our tax returns, trying to take my drivers license and I have to pay her 48,000 plus 10% interest. Had I known for one second that I owed that money I would not have allowed me and my family to get into the debt we are in (new house, cars, etc.)but now I have to fork out a great deal of money and I am not sure how I will do it.
Our Child Support system is truely messed up. And this is against our constitutional rights to be jailed for a debt but they (the courts)twist everything to suit there needs and call it legal. Saying they are putting you into jail for contempt of court for not paying and thats how they get you in jail. Its not right the courts and government are putting there noses into place they are not suppose to be (your home). But nobody cares because it is not happening to them. Most people do nothing about something that doesn't effect them. We use to pass laws that pretained to the whole comunity but now we pass laws that only affect a selected few, which I beleive to be unfair. Most people don't care unless it affects them. Most people are not aware these things are happening because the law doesn't affect them, Yet! Your story is not unique it is happening all over the place. They distroy families and put one family on wallfare just to give the money for another. The goverenment needs to stay out of people personal relationships and there situations and let them work it out on there own. The courts and government are sending a signal to our children that money is more important then, love, honesty, relationships, family or anything else. I feel for you sooooooooo much but don't give up thats the only way we will be able to change it we have to fight the government and let them know they are wrong.

Jul 11, 2010
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not all parents do....
by: Anonymous

get put in jail even when they have a large amount of rears due!!! My ex is almost 29K behind & Calf. is NOT doing a thing until I got a hold of the Attorney General & he has been WONDERFUL. I wrote to all the U.S. Reps. & Senates of that county & state & all 7 Attorney General's in Calf. & I finally got someone's attention & they are working on my case, but when my ex keeps leaving & bailing every time he is served w/the papers to appear in court!

Jul 11, 2010
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Mrs Reyes
by: Anonymous

I am so sorry for you and your husband plite. It seems to be consistent around the country. You case is not the only one that is being abused by the system. I dont have an complete answer. However I am working to try and get the laws changed reguarding the child support. I would tell you to do as I do . See your senators and reps. Wright and email daily to their offices . If everyone flooded thier offices with letters and emails daily we would see a change . Please you wright a great letter . Now wright one to your congressman and senators. Send it daily. Good luck.

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