I wonder how many people have a story to tell about how the judicial system, working in conjunction with a Maintenance Enforcement Program, devastated their lives.
Family Justice Gone Wrong
The War of the Roses was fought inside and outside of the courtroom. All for the sake of the children. In the end the sharks took most of our assets.
The Beginning to the End
I want to make something perfectly clear from the start. I am all for fair maintenance payments to the custodial parent to support the children of the marriage as long as it is done in a fair and equitable manner. It's also important that neither party becomes classified as a deadbeat dad or mother for failing to uphold the terms agreed to in a court of law. Let's give the person a name. Why? Because making human beings into an it is how we rationalize abusive behavior against that person. We dehumanize them. Governments do this in times of war, too. So there will be names used in this example for the person who is to pay monthly support payments from his gross income and for the custodial parent who relies on this help to raise the children. I recognize this happens to everyone but in this example it will be a father who is paying.
His name is Daryl for the lack of a better choice. Daryl gets married in 1981 and by 1998 his
marriage is in serious trouble. He is forced to make a decision he thought he would never have to
make. Daryl didn't get married with the thought of getting a divorce. A total breakdown in
communication happened between Daryl and his wife, whom we shall call Kendra. They look each
other in the eye one day and say, it's over. It's time to separate and live in two different places.
Daryl leaves the home as it's the honorable thing to do. His children need a home to live in with their mother and the decent thing to do is not to tear that apart. After all, it's not the children's fault that their parents have decided to separate from one another.Weeks go by or maybe a month. Kendra's lawyer sends a rough draft to Daryl's office for his perusal and fine tuning. He reviews the document with his lawyer and agrees to most of the terms in the agreement. Daryl leaves the marriage with little more than the clothes on his back and signs his homestead rights over out of compassion for the family.
Daryl's position is that he wants his children to stay in the area where their friends are and continue to attend the same school. Kendra is happy and smiley-friendly when Daryl appears to collect the balance of his personal belongings. Of course she's smiling. Daryl gave up $40,000.00 because he wanted to just leave it in the homestead and not force Kendra to sell the home and give him half of the equity. Many women are forced to downsize to an apartment with the children like he was forced to do. Daryl didn't want to do that to his children. So the final agreement is hammered out and both parties sign it. Copies are filed in the court and a monthly support amount arrived at based on Darryl's gross income at the time. Daryl is comfortable with knowing that he's helping to support his children and all visitation rights are also agreeable to both parties. Little did Daryl know at the time that he was about to go for a roller coaster ride to hell that will erode his self esteem, his mental and emotional health, and ruin his career as a successful Realtor in his city.
It all started with the issuance of a year's worth of timely post dated check's. One day, through no
fault of Daryl's, one of the check's went NSF and the bank did not inform him that they had failed to
process funds from another account on time. Consequently, a check made payable to Kendra for
a monthly support payment bounced.Now here is where Maintenance Enforcement comes into the
picture with both guns blazing. They quickly secured a court order - I believe they manifest these
within hours from the local court house. They serve it to the bank and freeze Daryl's account, causing him to have to make quick arrangements to come up with the support payment that was not in that checking account at the time. Daryl talks to his bank and they tell him that due to Maintenance Enforcement putting a hold on his account, they would have to assess him $75.00 extra for the paperwork involved in the exchange with Maintenance Enforcement. To add further insult to injury, they suggest he consider banking elsewhere. He is losing a bit of his humanity now... he is in the first stage of becoming an it.
Daryl closes his account and informs Kendra that those post dated check's in her possession are
useless. Little does he know that Maintenance Enforcement arrangements were being made to
place a garnishing order at Daryl's place of work. It's a surprise when he gets his next commission
check. Maintenance Enforcement had placed the garnishing order and his employer had deducted
not only the current support payment due, but also a further deduction unrecognizable to Daryl. It's
impossible for him to retrieve without paying a lawyer. Daryl has no money now but even if he did, it
would not be worth the fee of a lawyer to fight for the extra couple of hundred dollars that they took
Daryl's self esteem started to deteriorate. He began getting migraine headaches and nausea on a
daily basis. This affected his sleep, which in turn made things worse. Kendra was also playing head
games with his kids and saying bad things that affected his relationship with them. He was made
out to be the bad guy, when all along he was doing his duty as a single dad, paying his support and picking up his children every second weekend to stay with him. His oldest daughter had now sided with Kendra and would not visit him. Because of an NSF check and a breakdown in
communication with Kendra (a common occurrence with separated couples), they become
unfriendly to each other and less communicative. I wish to remind my readers that this is a case of a father paying support and being estranged from his children. I don't wish to seem gender-biased because the system is blind when dealing out its injustice. I have a female friend going through a similar situation with her ex-husband and she is trying to get an emergency hold on the court order filed against her. It's an absolute lunatic case and appears that she has serious grounds to overturn the decision against her. If not, she will have to pay back all the support ever paid to her and relinquish her portion of a pension agreed to during the divorce settlement. Why? Because her ex quit his job to avoid support and wants his money back. The court allowed it and it is a travesty against everyone's rights. He who lies best, wins. Her ex actually said that. Unfortunately for my friend, she didn't lie. Perhaps she should have. But then, how could she? She was never served.
This proves my point that it's not a gender issue. It is a judicial issue. The justice system is an oxymoron. Back to Daryl. With all of the problems piling up against him and his back against the wall, he is depressed. He's having daily anxiety attacks. He starts turning down business. Any couple who is going through a divorce and wants him to list their house for sale, he turns over to another agent as he can't deal with it. Finally he hits the proverbial wall head on. He crashes in his office chair. He breaks. Eventually he gets up on some sort of autopilot mode and walks to his broker's office. I quit, he says. He packs up his desk and goes to his lonely apartment, a far cry from the home he once occupied with Kendra and the kids. He sits down with a stiff drink in his hand and the bottle beside him and contemplates many things about his present situation. Does he drive off a cliff? Does he lock himself up in his apartment and drink himself to death? What type of work will he do in the future, or is there is a future at all? These thoughts go through his head for six months before he changes careers totally and get's back on track and into the world of the living. He's one of the lucky ones.
The point I want to make here, readers, is this. Anyone who goes through a difficult, mind consuming, energy-draining divorce is suffering. It's not a surprise that some will break when they
are harassed, humiliated and belittled by the strong arm of Maintenance Enforcement when they
receive the order for enforcement. It doesn't matter who you are. They simply are enforcers of court orders. They have an extraordinary power of authority and apply the same brutal methods to a diligent parent as they do to one avoiding responsibility. Daryl investigated many cases of men (he is a man, after all) who were left penniless due to the exorbitant amounts the system would take off a pay check for any arrears that may have accumulated due to a breakdown in paying on time. Remember, this breakdown could occur for any reason - illness, job loss, and not simply refusal to pay. Maintenance Enforcement shows no mercy and has the authority to seize any monies owing in arrears from pensions, unemployment benefits, tax refunds. They also can and will take one's drivers license away from them, even if it's a means of getting to and from your job. Imagine if you are a driver by profession - you would be unable to do your job but the arrears would keep mounting.
The insanity behind the system has put some men into an early grave. These are the men who had
no extra means to pay back the arrears, let alone catch up. Some took their own lives. I witnessed
this by going to a website and reading about cases from a lawyer who posted the suicide letters
these men left behind. They all cited depression, mental breakdown, drunkenness, drugs, forced to
live in the streets, could not find a job. And many of these men were no different than you or me.
Unfortunately for them and others, it went beyond their control and they lost everything. We say that lost everything without understanding it. We can lose money, cars, houses - it's just stuff. When you lose humanity, that's everything. When you feel like you as a person no longer matter, that your life is without consequence and the system confirms it for you, that's losing everything. This is when things snowball. Here's how it feels: You have lost everything. You have become an it in the eyes of society. You are now seen in the same light as those we, as a nation, have gone to war against. Only you are alone. You have no compatriots. You are behind enemy lines and nobody is sending out a search party. Well, I'm writing this to say, you are not alone! There are legions of us. Since when does death and despair benefit the children? Come on, people!
I hope this real story of Daryl and Kendra brings to light some serious thinking and planning before
you take on the thought of separation or divorce from each other. If at all possible hammer out the
details not only with your lawyers, but with your doctor, counselor and priest or pastor. Folks, it gets
ugly and the children will suffer. They all do regardless of how civilized you are about handling it.
Daryl is a changed man today. He has an anger problem and he had to get help to manage it but it's all directed inward. He doesn't hit anyone. He's just bitter. His oldest son has now stopped speaking to him. Daryl is not sure why. Then his youngest daughter. The only child left in his life is his youngest son. He is thankful for this but misses all his children and it is a permanent ache in his heart. Before getting divorced, he was a happy father and a success in his career. Today you will rarely see a smile appear on Daryl's face. He has aged since the divorce and looks tired most of the time. He has no real desire to do much other than sit at home, read books and watch TV. His drive has left him. So who got hurt here? Well, obviously Daryl. And Daryl's children. And Kendra - she has aged badly, too. And the grandchildren who are yet to come. That's a lot of pain.
I wonder how many Daryl's and Kendra's there are in our societies today? I last read a report that
more than 60% of marriages are failing.
Why? I suppose one could argue that rapid technology, two people working outside the home, pressure with finances and raising of children along with cheating partners are causes for many of the breakups today. But underneath all that is this - we have become self-indulgent and expect happiness on a daily basis and that's just unrealistic. I urge all married couples to communicate, pray, seek counseling, attend group therapy but do everything you possibly can to keep your marriage together. Better yet, go to marriage preparation classes before you make a commitment in the first place. Reality says we will continue to have divorce in our culture so we, as people living in this society, need to create a more human way of supporting everyone in the family. In most cases, there is no bad guy. It's all just perspective.