January 31, 2002

Sir,

I am the Communications Director of Generation GAP of Oklahoma. We deal with issues concerning the laws on divorce, child support and visitation for parents and extended families in Oklahoma. There are many topics of discussion on this issue. I would like to begin by telling you about something that happened to me on January 21st 2002. I went to work Monday morning and during the course of the day the lady that does payroll for the company I work for came to me and informed me that she was instructed by Child Support Enforcement Section to withhold my child support from my pay check. This seemed strange to me since I have never been late paying my support. I called my Representative Terry Engmire because I received no notice of this impending action; I was notified after the fact. Mr. Engmire told me that he too thought it was wrong to do this to parents in this state that are in compliance with the law. He instructed me to bring him the letter I received from my payroll department and a copy of the letter they received instructing them to perform this action. He would take it back to the Capital with him and make some phone calls to get to the bottom of this. Mr. Engmireís office called me to tell me that he called the office of the Director of DHS and they would have someone to call me to see if we could get this problem solved.

I was contacted by a Ms. Yolanda Bowen who while looking at my file told me that I was what they call perfect pay. She told me that the law says all parents that pay support must be on income assignment due to a law that was passed several years ago, but she didnít understand why all of the sudden I was placed on that list, given my history. I told her that I am not some deadbeat that needs a government office to force me to support my children. I have not only paid my support every month to Child Support Enforcement Section, I also see my children every week two days a week, three weeks in the summer plus holidays, birthdayís etc, and I consider this to be a slap in the face. I am an involved parent that is in compliance with the court and my duties to my children, yet I donít even rate the proper notice and rights that criminals are entitled to. DHS dismisses my objections to their actions saying that this is an old law and they were just getting around to putting me on income assignment, but fail to see anything wrong with doing it without notifying me before hand. This is a violation of my right to due process of law afforded me by the Constitution of the United States.

Is this action ever justified? What ever happened to being innocent till proven guilty, are we to except that even parents that comply with the law are to be treated as if they are not trust worthy?  Do they need to be supervised by a government agency and be presumed untrustworthy. Are we to believe that parents who have been in compliance for twelve years are no longer trustworthy and in need of government
supervision? What has this country come to when the government feels they have the right to trample over the rights of its citizens?  I feel that as a non-custodial parent I can complain of the abuses and the violations committed on me by the system and it falls on deaf ears.
When I got divorced in 1991 I asked for joint custody but because my ex didnít want it, the judge ruled against me. I didnít do anything that justified limiting access to my children. There was no abuse or fear of it, yet I was denied joint custody. Denying joint custody without reasonable cause is violating due process. The true best interest of children is to have two active parents working together as parents, not one parent that has all the power and control over the other parent/ visitor. Visitation has nothing to do with being a parent, visitation is for non-parents. I know fathers that have been to court as many as fifteen times on access denial complaints and judges still havenít charged the mom with contempt of court. Courts are loath to take children away from their mother but they wonít hesitate to do it to fathers. If fathers are expected to pay extremely high support payments and the courts donít protect their access, is it any wonder fathers give up and quit? I have heard people say two wrongs donít make a right, but that is a cop out because those people do nothing to stop that injustice, and until they do parents will continue to abandon children, because that is the only way they can fight it. Give them another option, protect their rights and see how many will stick around.

Enforcement has become big business for states in matching funds and I believe this has tainted their compassion for parents who pay support and are in compliance with its law. Laws like Title 43 section 115 an order for child support or modification of order--Provision for income assignment. This law should be for the protection of children that are denied support from a parent, not to make it easier for Child Support Enforcement Section to keep their books, and not for parents that do support their children and are active in their lives. It is counterproductive to the goal of the state to harass parents that are in compliance, because it will cause parents to resent paying support even more. Itís not bad enough that the law is unfair in its assessment of child support payments for non-custodial parents. Not taking into account for their own cost of living and maintaining a home for their children when they are with them.
Paying support based on gross income is the same as taxing people twice. There are no tax breaks for non-custodial parents. If you are a single parent paying support and your ex remarries, she will end up living better than the parent that is still single.

Parents that are forced to hold down two jobs to survive have their income from that second job attached for the purpose of child support, which creates a vicious circle that will make parents slaves to child support and the state. It was once argued that if an intact families income improves and they buy their child a horse and then later their income increases again, that doesnít mean they will go out and buy the child another horse. The cost of raising that child did not increase just because their income did. Child support should be based on actual cost of raising a child and not on supporting the custodial parent. At some point you must require the custodial parent to pay more of that expense. It seems that the government would allow parents to remain in poverty not being able to provide a home for themselves, as long as they pay their child support. Then if they can not provide a home that has enough room for their children, the children will not be allowed to stay with them. This will in turn be detrimental to the children, because they will grow up never bonding with that parent. There is a lot more to the best interest of the children than paying support, but the other part to being a parent is buried beneath the surface of supporting the children and receives little or no attention from our legislature.

Custodial parents can get by with claiming that they make less than minimum wage for the entire growth period of the children. While the burden of paying support rest on the shoulders of the non-custodial parent whom for low income families can not even provide for their own retirement. Little if nothing is done about access denial, because there are no matching funds for the state to receive. We have an Office of Child Support Enforcement to ensure children are supported that cost the custodial parent nothing. But thereís not an Office of Access Denial to ensure children have access to both parents and extended families. Non-custodial parents must rely on the courts for this protection and a lot of the time it is smarter to take the abuse quietly, because they will come out of court worse off than they were before, having to pay court cost and attorney fees.

The problem of nonsupport could be drastically reduced, if our government adopted a nation wide Shared Parenting and Equal Time-Share law that did away with the adversarial nature of our courtrooms and put children first and providing for a more reasonable child support award. Instead of setting up one parent in the business of raising children and stripping parents of their rights to their children, the courts should demand that both parents remain parents, jointly sharing the responsibilities of raising their children.
Judge Murphy here in Stillwater told one father that a calf follows a cow not a bull, I suppose that was his way of saying mothers are more suited for the job of raising children than a father is. No matter how you think about that statement it still comes out sexist.

But even if he had never said it most judges think it and therein lies the problem. It is time that the courts grant men the same rights to children as we have granted rights to women in the work place. I say if women want equal rights then let them have them. Let them have the right to be denied their rights to their children. Let them pay the same child support men have to when they are the non-custodial parent.
Let women go to jail for not paying support. I know a man here in Stillwater that went to DHS and asked them to go after his ex for failure to pay support for the last twelve years, but all they will do is take away her drivers license. Now he is sure not to ever get the support. It is time for Oklahoma to give Parents a chance to be Parents. I hope to hear from you soon and I thank you in advance for your reply.  
  

Sincerely,

Darrell Romine

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