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Oklahoma father tells legislative panel more services needed for child support help

James Murrell is a 46-year-old father who was hit with a divorce notice from his wife of two years when their daughter was an infant. The Oklahoma resident told a legislative panel of the struggles he has had in trying to keep in touch with his child, according to the Oklahoman.

After his divorce he was ordered to pay child support and half the cost of sending his daughter to day care in Tulsa, a payment he still makes despite his wife’s relocation to Texas with their kid, according to the Oklahoman.

Calvin Williams, director of fatherhood services for Public Strategies, addressed the panel as well in an effort to lower the number of children in Oklahoma that grow up without a father.

“It increases when you have the economic downturns like we do because when a father has the inability to provide for his child, his absence is the guilt and shame,” Williams said to the panel. “Mom becomes an impediment at that point — you can’t provide; you’re not going to see your kid.”

Williams and Public Strategies work to try and help Oklahoma residents become more involved in their children’s lives, according to the organization’s website.

Understanding Pennsylvania’s New Child Custody Laws

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell left a lasting legacy upon his exit from office, as the politician reformed the state’s child custody laws, according to the Centre Daily Times.

The new laws have led to four major changes in the state’s handling of parents, children and custody. While the legislation has increased the level of protection for kids due to more stringent rules regarding past convictions and drug use, the main change has to deal with the gender of parents, the news source reported.

According to the Times, the new laws make gender neutrality in custody cases official. In a dispute between two parents, the rules direct that there should be no presumption that full rights will be given to a particular individual.

Judges in the state are not allowed to give any preference to a parent’s gender when they are deciding a custody order, the news source reported.

In 2007 alone, the Office of Child Support Enforcement collected up to $25 billion in payments associated with child support cases, and established more than 1.2 million new orders for parents and children, according to the Administration for Children and Families.

Fathers encouraged to stay in childrens lives thanks to community organizations

Child services organizations have often had a reputation for being the enemy of fathers and non-custodial parents, as the agency is usually the one seeking past due child support payments or seeking to incarcerate non-payers. However, some agencies are attempting to reach out to fathers in their communities to provide support, dispel myths and help these men become better parents.

One such organization is Lucas County Children Services in Ohio, the Toledo Journal reports. Recently, the agency hosted a town hall meeting at a local church. When fathers expressed personal problems at the event, someone from the organization was introduced to them to provide help.

Other fathers spoke up in praise of the organization.

“I’m here to tell you that the Children Services Board isn’t here to take your children,” Carl Christopher, a father of three, told meeting participants, according to the news source.

The agency helped him have the opportunity to clean up his life and after improving his situation, he was granted full custody of his children.

According to Fathers and Families, an agency devoted to promoting two-parent approaches to child custody, half of American children are growing up without a father in their homes due to divorce or unmarried parents. However, the agency feels that fathers often get inaccurately dubbed as irresponsible when misguided laws, government policies and judicial traditions also play a role.

Michigan lawmakers re-examine paternity laws

A Michigan man is awaiting the outcome of legislation in the state that would help him get to see his five-year-old daughter.

The Flint Journal reports that a Michigan law from 1956 assumes that a child’s father is the man married to the woman at the time of birth. This law has prevented Daniel Quinn from seeing the daughter he had with Candace Beckwith.

According to the news source, Quinn and Beckwith had a child while the latter was separated from her husband. Beckwith and her husband got back together and then moved to Kentucky, restricting Quinn’s time with the child, who he raised for the first two-and-a-half years of her life.

The package of bills made it through a state senate committee and now waits for action from the full House and Senate.

State Sen. John Gleason said that the bill would give parents a chance to be a part of their child’s lives.

“We want for him and others in the future that they will have the ability to share their lives with their children,” he told the news source.

Daniel told NBC 25 that at least 13 other states have similar laws to the one he is attempting to overturn in Michigan.

Parents struggling to pay child support cant get ahead

Parents struggling financially and falling behind on child support payments are often mislabeled as “deadbeat,” MSNBC reports, as they are sometimes jailed or punished with fines when what they really need is support themselves. These parents have lost their jobs, lost hours at work or faced other financial hardships and have still been punished for the missed payments.

For Randy Miller, 39, paying child support was a challenge after returning from the Iraq war and losing his job in July 2009.

“I felt that with my payment history and that I had just started working, maybe I could be able to convince the judge to give me another month and a half to start making the payments again. But that didn’t sit too well with him because he went ahead and decided to lock me up,” Miller told the news source.

According to Fathers and Families, an advocacy group in favor of fair and equal parenting rights, sending parents to jail in a situation when financial strain results in missed child support payments simply makes the problem worse.

“There they can’t work, can’t earn, can’t see their kids and all the while their indebtedness increases,” explained the organization.