Child Support Agencies Get Creative in Collections Efforts

The Child Enforcement Agency in Butler County, Ohio is working with three Cincinnati area pizza parlors to add wanted posters of parents accused of skipping out on child support on pizza boxes.   Each box of pizza is plastered with a poster with the names, photos, and last known addresses of ten parents who are not paying court-ordered support, along with a toll-free number that pizza-eaters can call to report the deadbeat parent.

At least one attorney calls these tactics "horrible."  Maury Beaulier, who practices in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, says "It’s just a way of shaming people."  He points out that there are many circumstances that can cause people to get behind in support payments, which doesn’t make them deadbeats.

Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, believes that widespread public shaming can devastate the children.  "Think how children feel to see a parent on a wanted poster and know their friends might see it," he said.

Other states have implemented other creative ways to try to enforce child support orders.  Officials in Kern County, California can auction parents’ vehicles and give the proceeds to the children.  Virginia subpoenas cell-phone records from service providers to aid in their collection efforts.  Other states have included fliers in water and sewer bills, using the same theory as with the pizza parlors.

Sources:  "Take A Slice Out Of Child Support" published at KTHV; "Wanted in Ohio: Two Pizzas and a Deadbeat Parent" published at Yahoo News; "Pizza Boxes Spotlight Child-Support Suspects" published at KLTV.

SOURCE FOR POST: South Carolina Famila Law Blog

What to say when love goes wrong: Stay united telling the kids, but restrict news to others

Once upon a time, you mailed poetic words printed on pearly paper to friends and family, inviting them to share the joy on your wedding day.

But sometimes what begins as marriage ends in divorce. Sharing that news? Just what is divorce announcement protocol? Write a personal letter? Call people? Send e-mails? Preprinted announcements with a lighthearted twist?

Aside from telling your spouse before you tell your neighbor (yes, it happens), if you’re the initiator, and putting your children’s needs first, few hard and fast rules apply.

"There are no two divorces the same," says Carlton Stansbury, an attorney specializing in collaborative divorce in southeastern Wisconsin. "It takes energy to pick and choose the information you get and the information you share."

Helpful guidelines do exist, however, and it helps to begin by categorizing the people in your life.

Make a list

Imagine concentric circles around you, offers Cathy Crandell, a Milwaukee psychologist and divorce coach. "Start with the people closest – the people most directly affected," which would be your children, she says. The next layer is family, depending on how close you are, then friends and co-workers and neighbors.

What you say depends on your individual situation and how well you know each person.

"The temptation is to get people to rally around you, to go into too much detail, and that pulls people in too far unnecessarily," says Stansbury. "You really just want people to give you leeway and understanding."

Sam Margulies, a North Carolina lawyer, mediator and author ("A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce: How to Divorce with Grace, a Little Class, and a Lot of Common Sense"), agrees.

Be brief

"Generally, tell people as little as necessary. Tell them that you and your spouse, after a lot of thinking and discussing, are splitting up. You’re sad, but you’re optimistic . . . then leave it there," Margulies advises. "The hardest part is shutting up. There’s still nothing as admirable as dignified restraint."

Keeping it short offers you an unexpected benefit.

"In divorce, there’s what I like to call a ‘Greek chorus effect.’ Friends and relatives feel like they have to be advisers. They counsel based on their worst fears," which usually doesn’t help you at all, he says.

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Cobb County Child Custody Lawyer Reveals Tips to Minimize the Trauma of Divorce for Children

Syndicated columnist, college professor, and author Tom McMahon, offers the following guidelines for parents involved in contentious divorces to follow to minimize the negative effects on their children:

  • Coexist peacefully with your former spouse. This involves putting aside your differences for the sake of the children and supporting each other in the continuing roles as parents. Both parents should encourage each other to maintain contact with the children.
  • Do not argue in front of your children.
  • Children need consistency in their lives. Whenever possible, keep the same daily routines. If you share custody, both spouses should agree on the same household routines (bedtime, mealtime, discipline, etc.).
  • Do not use your children for emotional support during your divorce. Connect with adult friends and relatives for support.
  • Wait until your children are mostly healed from the divorce before you begin dating.

Source:  “Minimizing The Trauma Of Divorce For Children” by Tom McMahon, published in The Morning News.

SOURCE FOR POST: South Carolina Family Law Blog

Divorce Preparation: Step 7 – Assess the Financial Accounts

Michael Sherman at Alabama Family Law Blog is continuing his series of posts on Preparing for Divorce:

We continue with our series on steps to take when divorce is imminent.  We are on to Step 7 which is Assess the Financial Accounts.

If you’ve completed the prior steps in this series, then you already know what accounts exist and what the balances are. You need to make a decision about what to do with them.

It is an unfortunate reality that one of the first things that some spouses do when they learn/decide a divorce is imminent is to raid the accounts. This is typically done after receiving particularly bad advice from an adversarial lawyer or a well meaning, but poorly informed friend.

In a perfect world neither party would touch the financial accounts except to pay normal household bills until after the divorce is over. However, if this was a perfect world, you would not be reading this blog, and I would be in another line of work because divorce lawyers would be unnecessary.

That being said I do not recommend that you clean out the accounts. Doing so immediately escalates the conflict and stress of divorce.   It also will not be well received by the divorce judge.

So, you don’t want to clean out the accounts, but you want to be protected from your spouse cleaning them out.  If you have a reasonable fear that your spouse will raid the accounts, the only reasonable solution that I know is to remove one half of the funds from the accounts and put them in a new account in your own name.  Do not hide, dispose, or waste the money.  Document carefully where every penny is spent because you will likely need to make an accounting of it later in negotiations or at trial.  Additionally, you should not do this for the regular checking account out of which the household expenses are paid unless there is a substantial balance in the account over and above the amount needed for paying the current month’s bills.  You do not want to take action that would cause checks to bounce.

I don’t make this as a blanket suggestion. If the money can be kept there and neither party remove it, that is preferred.  Another option for certain types of accounts is to put a freeze on the account.  Obviously that is only practical for accounts that are not regularly needed to pay bills and regular expenses.

Before you decide how to handle your financial accounts, consult with your lawyer.  If they are suggesting you go take all of the money out without a good reason, I would seriously reevaluate the whether that lawyer shares your desire for a civilized divorce.

SOURCE: Alabama Family Law Blog

The Civilized Divorce – Part I

The following article is by North Carolina family law attorney Lee Rosen:

Nationwide, collaborative divorce is attracting considerable attention as a proactive and humane settlement option, and it’s starting to catch on . . .. When executed as agreed to by divorcing individuals and their attorneys, studies show that a collaborative settlement is reach faster than older forms of negotiation and greatly reduces the emotional trauma families experience in the throes of a divorce, especially the children. It also significantly lowers the expenses incurred by divorcing couples, protecting families from unnecessary resource depletion at a time when monies are needed to establish two households.

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has the support, protection, and guidance of his or her own lawyer. Often, other professionals, such as child specialists, financial experts and divorce coaches will be brought in to advise matters in their areas of expertise.

Collaborative divorce is not a dispute resolution option in the same sense as mediation or arbitration. Rather, collaborative divorce is a set of voluntary ground rules entered into by the professionals hired by you and your spouse. While the details vary, the central idea is that the parties agree not to take the case to trial. You, your spouse and all professionals involved sign a contract to honor the following core elements of collaborative divorce:

  • To negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients
  • To engage in open communication and information sharing
  • To create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients
  • To ensure the withdrawal of the involved professionals if either client goes to court

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