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Thursday, June 12, 2008

$842M in stimulus cash held back from debtors

The government has intercepted $842 million in economic stimulus payments for 1.5 million Americans who have skipped out on child support obligations, student loans or tax bills.
The amount withheld represents about 1.5% of the more than $57 billion distributed under the stimulus program. So far, 67 million tax filers have received payments.
About 54% of the cash intercepted will be funneled to states for child support, according to Dean Balamaci, a U.S. Treasury Department official. "We are really proud of that," he added.
Congress and the Bush administration came together earlier this year to enact a $170 billion economic stimulus package. The Treasury started distributing payments - $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples and $300 per child - to tax filers. The goal was to juice the economy by putting money in the pockets of consumers.
Stimulus Cash for Child Support
One unanticipated side effect of the stimulus program is the recovery of money owed single parents and government programs that support children on welfare.
Of the stimulus cash that has been recaptured, $459 million is being sent to states to distribute for child support payments. And of that amount, $166 million is used to fund state child welfare programs and $292 million goes to custodial parents who have not qualified for welfare payments but are owed child support, according to Balamaci.
"It is important symbolically," said Robert Fellmeth, director of the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law. "The government is saying that you owe this and your debt is more important than having you run out and spend the money."
Social service officials says the intercepted stimulus money helps reimburse state coffers, according to Anthony Farmer, spokesman for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
"The state has an interest in being involved in helping to collect child support because if people don't pay child support, then those parents go on public assistance," said Farmer.
Nearly 40% of the stimulus money that has been recovered by the Treasury Department is going back to the federal government in the form of back taxes owed and student loans. About 6% will go to states that are owed back taxes. Georgia, Maryland and New York - each of which has received more than $4.5 million - are receiving the biggest stimulus offsets.
The Treasury Offset Program
The stimulus offset effort is part of the Treasury Offset Program, which intercepts federal payments of any kind to pay debts. The entire program has collected $4.6 billion so far this fiscal year.
Generally, the offset program captures money owed by people who are found formally delinquent on tax or child support payments. Tax filers on scheduled pay plans with the government are not affected by the program.
Any debtor whose stimulus check is eligible to be absorbed by the program has already received notice that he or she is delinquent on a debt, according to a Treasury spokesperson.
"These are all situations where some attempt has been made to collect the bills on a voluntary basis," said another spokesperson for the Treasury. The program matches payments due with debts owed by Social Security number and last name, according to a spokesperson.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stimulus checks are seized for child support

All state government is seizing federal economic stimulus checks to settle debts for child support and income taxes.
The child support division had collected about $1.2 million from stimulus checks that were diverted from more than 1,800 people through May 23. "We do this every year with regular income tax refunds," said Jerry Joy, the department's assistant director for child support. He said the department has estimated it will receive $1.5 million overall.

Over $80,000 had been refunded to people who appealed the seizure of their stimulus funds. In some cases, their money had been taken from income tax refunds.
People whose stimulus checks were diverted received notices from the state.
By mid-May, the Internal Revenue Service had refunded $27 billion to about 30 million taxpayers. It expects to send 130 million refunds by the end of June.
The last checks, except for taxpayers who requested extensions in filing their returns and a few other exceptions, will go out in July.
A diverse group of more than two dozen Americans who tracked how they spent their stimulus payments.

Anne Heche ordered to pay child support

The judge cut Anne Heche some slack regarding her child support. Heche was paying her ex-husband Coley Laffoon a whopping $14,978 a month in child support and paying for their private school tuition.Anne went to court and pleaded with the court to lower her child support costs claiming poverty. She basically said that she couldn't afford that much because her show Men In Trees was cancelled. The judge was nice enough to lower her child support from $14,978 to $3,700. That's nice of the judge! While the judge dropped the child support payment significantly, he also ordered her to pay her ex- husband a lump sum divorce settlement of $275,000.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Man must pay child support, despite test

A man who claimed for almost 13 years that he was the father of a child born during his marriage, despite evidence to the contrary, remains responsible for child support even after a paternity test proved otherwise, the Court of Special Appeals has held. A judge in Garrett County Circuit Court should not have granted Darren G. Kamp’s request for genetic testing without considering the best interests of the child, the appellate panel said. Because of that error, “it follows that the court erred in terminating [Kamp’s] child support obligation based on the paternity test results,” wrote Judge Ellen L. Hollander.
Case: Dep’t of Human Resources, Garrett County DSS, Bureau of Support Enforcement, ex rel. Vicki Jo Duckworth v. Darren Gerald Kamp, CSA 2871, Sept. Term 2006. Reported. Opinion by Hollander, J. Filed May 30, 2008. Issue: Did the lower court err in ordering a genetic test and in terminating the child support obligation of a presumptive father who failed to contest paternity for almost 13 years? Holding: Yes; the lower court erred in ordering the genetic test because it failed to consider the best interests of the child, and erred in terminating the child support obligation because the genetic test was improperly ordered, the appellee’s legal status as father was never terminated and his claims were barred by laches and judicial estoppel. Counsel: Joseph B. Spillman for appellant; G. Gary Hanna for appellee.

Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph B. Spillman, who argued the case for the Garrett County Department of Social Services, felt the court came to the correct decision. “We certainly were pleased that the court made it clear that courts are required to give careful consideration of the best interest of the child before upsetting parental relationships established in divorce proceedings,” said Spillman. Kamp’s attorney, G. Gary Hanna, a solo practitioner in Cumberland, said recent events make him unsure of the case’s future. “We were disappointed with the decision, especially in light of the fact that the child and child’s mother have now completely left the jurisdiction,” said Hanna. “That is a subtlety that we weren’t able to tell to the Court of Special Appeals but since she’s now taken the child from the jurisdiction we really don’t know what will transpire.” Presumed parent Four children were born during Kamp’s marriage to Vicki Jo Duckworth, including a daughter who was born about four years after Kamp had a vasectomy, according to the appellate opinion. Despite allegedly knowing he was not the child’s father, Kamp held himself out as the girl’s father. Even when the parties divorced in 1999 and he was ordered to pay child support, Kamp did not dispute the girl’s paternity. In July 2005, the Department of Social Services filed a petition to increase Kamp’s child support obligation. Kamp then argued that the girl was not his biological daughter, but rather the child of a man with whom Duckworth was having sexual relations in 1992. The lower court ordered a paternity test, which excluded Kamp as the father. The court then terminated Kamp’s child support obligation for his daughter. DSS appealed, arguing that Kamp was precluded from contesting paternity and obligated to continue to pay support. Statutory duty Even if the test itself had been properly ordered, the appeals court said, it would have been an error to terminate child support because paternity was never terminated. “The decision made it clear that once a parental obligation is legally established the child support obligation continues unless parental rights are terminated,” said Spillman. Spillman said he thought the court placed great weight on the fact that Kamp never sought to terminate his parental rights. “One thing that does make this stand out a little bit … is Mr. Kamp did not want his parental rights terminated,” said Spillman. “He was seeking solely to have child support terminated.” Furthermore, the court found the burden was improperly placed on Duckworth to demonstrate that she could not get support from the girl’s biological father. “The best interest standard does not permit a court to cut off one source of a child’s economic support on a mere assumption that another source will arise to fill the void,” wrote Hollander. The court also held that Kamp’s claims were barred by the equitable doctrine of laches as he had waited almost 13 years to contest paternity, and that his request to seek termination of child support was barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel because he informed the court on several occasions he was the girl’s father. “By waiting until 2005 to assert a paternity challenge … appellee slept on his rights,” the court wrote.

I read the Courts decision and I agreed. Although once the father hits economic hardship and is having trouble paying child support is it really in the best interest of the child? If you take food out of one childs mouth to feed another is that in the best interest of the child? If so which one? Once money becomes a factor in a parent child realtionship it can sever ties that the court claims is already built up! So what then?

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