May 2011 | Cordell & Cordell

Archives for May 2011

Lawsuit alleging child support over-payments

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the state of Ohio for allegedly overcollecting on child support payments.

The lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) claims that it has collected $176 million too much from more than 114,000 people who pay child support, according to a release from The American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC).

Michael McCormick, the executive director of ACFC, said that the issue at stake in the lawsuit was important for everyone in Ohio.

“Overzealous and erroneous child support collection efforts affect all citizens. This case is not about parents who don’t, or can’t, pay child support,” he said. “ODJFS is literally taking money it is not entitled to from tens of thousands of good support paying mothers and fathers who could use those funds for food, shelter, and education for their children when they are with them.”

Other issues regarding child support in Ohio have emerged over the years. In 2010 the Columbus Dispatch reported that a single father had $50 deducted from his wages every week for child support, even though his son was living with him.

Single-dad households rise drastically

While men make the vast majority of child support payments, that trend might be changing a bit in Maryland, where the rise in number of single-father households was greater than the increase in single-mother households for the first time in more than 40 years.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the 2010 Census found that there were 47,200 families led by a single father, which represents an increase of about 6,000, or 14 percent, over 2000. This is compared to an increase of just 3.2 percent of single-mother households over the same period.

“There’s been a slow shift in the way that men view their roles as father, the way that women view men’s role as father, and the opportunities for women in the workplace,” Geoffrey L. Greif, an author who also teaches at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, told the news source.

Rachmiel Tobesman, who used to be the president of Maryland’s Fathers United for Equal Rights, said that the state has begun to shift to a playing field that doesn’t favor women at the expense of men.

The Census also found that less than 50 percent of households have married couples, which CNN reports is seen as a historical shift.

Madoff victim seeks modification of divorce

The New York Supreme Court is currently considering a divorce case that could have wide-reaching implications for people ending their marriages in the Empire State.

Steven Simkin and Laura Blank divorced in 2006 and when their assets were split, Simkin put part of his share in funds managed by convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, while his wife received her share in cash, according to the New York Times.

After the Madoff scheme came to light in 2008, Simkin filed a lawsuit seeking modification to the divorce. Specifically, he wanted to alter the settlement, arguing that he should receive money from Blank to make up for his losses.

According to the news source, Simkin’s suit relies on the doctrine of “mutual mistake.” The news source reports that under the doctrine, contracts can be voided if both parties are incorrect about a vital part of the agreement. Simkin’s divorce attorney said that both parties mistakenly believed that they had an investment account with Madoff, when, in fact, the account was worthless.

Some legal experts say that the ruling in this case could have wide-reaching effects but law professor Lawrence Cunningham told CBS New York that he expects the court to make a narrow ruling in the case.

Changes to help inmates pay child support

A number of states have begun to implement changes designed to help fathers in prison obtain child support modification so that they will not fall behind on their payments.

The Associated Press reports some states, including Texas and Massachusetts, allow inmates who are fathers to modify their child support so they are only paying between $20 and $80 per month. In addition, Connecticut and a number of other states have rules that allow judges to stop child support payments completely when the payer has no source of income.

Charisse Hutton, Connecticut’s director of support enforcement services, said that such rules typically lead to more fathers actually making child support payments.

“I want that order to be fair, so there is a better chance that person can and will pay,” she told the news source.

However, some states, such as Tennessee, consider jail “voluntary unemployment” and allow fathers to accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in back child support, something that advocates say hurts the chances of it ever being paid.

In 2007, there was nearly $25 billion collected in child support payments around the country, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Man chooses jail over alimony

A West Virginia man is sitting in jail rather than paying alimony to his ex-wife, in a move that he hopes will lead to the state enacting child paternity laws.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reports that Sean Keefe is spending six months in jail rather than pay his former wife $1,800 a month in alimony.

Keefe said that he discovered during the divorce process that he is not the father of his wife’s youngest child, and while his current wife says he has continued to pay $1,300 a month in child support, he has drawn the line at paying the spousal support, reports the news source.

Keefe and his current wife are hoping that Senate Bills 502 and 503, which were introduced in the state legislature during the most recent session, will be passed and help men going through divorce.

The purpose of SB 502 is to “provide a procedure for vacating a judgment of paternity when there is genetic evidence that excludes the previously established father as the biological father of the child in question,” according to the website of the West Virginia legislature.

Bill 503 would bar alimony payments if there is proof of an affair.