The pain caused by a deadbeat dad

January 26, 1995|By Nola N. Krosch

ROBIN MILLER's recent article on this page about the pain of being a deadbeat dad was such self-serving drivel that I -- his ex-wife -- had to respond.

Robin Miller reported half-truths that left out some salient facts that would significantly alter the sympathetic picture of himself that he presented.

For example, Robin wrote that because he is asked to pay more money in child support than he earns he feels like a "loser" that our children should not associate with -- so he hasn't seen them in three years. The truth is: Robin ceased to show any interest in his children the day he walked out the door, long before child support became an issue. He initiated no efforts to even see his children, nor did he send any voluntary support payments.

It's true that Robin appeared in court on Dec. 1, 1994, with $540 in hand, to give me. However, Robin left out the details of how we arrived at the Dec. 1 meeting.

Robin has been in court for nonpayment of child support three times: November 1992, July 15, 1993, and Dec. 1. In 1992, he was ordered to pay $120 per week for three children, plus $10 per week on $8,445 back support he owed. He made no payments. On July 15, 1993, I forgave over $11,000 in back support, so he could begin again with a clean slate. Between July 15, 1993, and Dec. 1, 1994, he accumulated over $8,000 in new arrearages, and even now, he makes no consistent effort to pay them. Then, three weeks before Christmas 1994, he appeared in court with the $540 check, which he refused to use to pay child support, even after repeated requests by Assistant State's Attorney Linda L. Panlilio. He initially stated that it was intended to pay the rent on his apartment. However, upon being informed of his right to obtain counsel, he said he would keep it in case he had to hire a lawyer (He did pay $360 between then and Christmas).

Contrary to what Robin wrote, the document he refused to sign on Dec. 1, was not a waiver of his right to an attorney, nor was he threatened with jail if he did not sign it. It was an acknowledgment that his rights had been read to him, and that if he did not bring legal counsel with him at the next court date, his right to legal representation could be waived at that time.

Multiple court appearances such as Robin's are the rule rather than the exception for noncustodial parents who don't make child support payments, according to the state's attorney's office. Jailing them is a last resort after years of refusal to pay. This flagrantly contradicts Robin Miller's assertion that the court system wants to put parents behind bars.

Also, contrary to Robin's claims, the child support enforcement system is willing to compromise. For example, the $120 per week he has been ordered to pay was a compromise between the $105 he proposed and the $150 the state had wanted him to pay.

On Dec. 1, Assistant State's Attorney Linda L. Panlilio did state for the court record that if Robin Miller did not bring $2,500 on Feb. 8 -- our next court date -- the state would recommend incarceration. This recommendation comes after three years of trying -- and failing -- to get regular support payments.

Robin Miller wrote that partial payments are not accepted by the court; that's not true. I have observed many other support cases during my three hearings, and the judges were uniformly more sympathetic to absent parents who were continuing to make partial payments than to those who made no effort. The state never refused to accept even $1.

Here are a couple other issues raised in the deadbeat dad article and my response:

* While Robin wrote about his "pain," he didn't mention the pain of his children. They cannot participate in such simple activities as roller skating, the Boy Scouts or dance classes because the money isn't there. Robin didn't mention the birthday presents and parties they don't get because the money isn't there. Also, he didn't refer to the debt their mother continues to incur by supporting them alone.

* Robin mentions that high-paying, blue-collar jobs for men are in short supply, and that he -- and many other deadbeat dads -- are no longer able to earn a decent wage. Since when have mechanics and electronic technicians all gone to Taiwan? It would be really difficult to get our cars and computers repaired if that were truly the case.

The truth is that many deadbeat dads choose low-paying jobs purposely to keep their child support payments low. But they supplement their incomes by working other "off the books" jobs where they are paid in cash -- no records, no taxes deducted. Many who own their own businesses don't register with the state or pay Social Security taxes. Therefore, it's often impossible to know exactly what a deadbeat dad's income is in trying to determine child support payments.

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