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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Parents Requesting Child Support Modifications in Down Economy

As parents across the country find themselves unable to meet their existing support obligations in the current economic climate, courts have faced a rush of child support modification requests. With national unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, more people are being forced to take unpaid time off, having their hours cut or losing their jobs altogether.

With finances growing increasingly tight, some parents are finding it impossible to care for their children on the amount of support they receive each month. Other parents are finding it equally difficult to keep up with their support obligations on decreased or non-existent incomes. Applying for a child support modification is one way parents may be able to alleviate some of their financial stresses.

Do Not Stop Making Child Support Payments

Unilaterally decreasing the amount of child support paid each month or stopping payment altogether is one of the biggest mistakes parents who are required to pay child support can make.

Under Virginia law, the only way to legally change the amount of child support owed each month is by court order. Even if the parents reach an agreement together to change the amount of support, this agreement is not legally enforceable until a court has approved it.

Parents who stop paying support or pay less than they owe will begin accruing arrears and may be subject to other significant penalties, including wage garnishment, property liens, driver's license suspension, fines or even jail time. Unpaid child support payments do not go away and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Only a Court Can Change a Support Order

Parents who are unable to make their monthly support payments must submit a petition to the court for a modification of the child support order. Either parent can request the modification. The court may decide to increase the amount of support, decrease the amount or leave the amount unchanged.

In Virginia, a court will only grant a request for a modification if there has been a substantial change in circumstances in the parent's or child's condition since the current support order was entered.

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances include:
-New employment
-Job loss or reduced income
-Marriage or divorce of one of the parents
-Serious medical condition of a child or parent
-Birth of a new child

The parent requesting the child support modification has the burden of proving that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. If the parent is seeking a reduction in the amount of support he or she must pay, the parent also must fully disclose his or her financial situation to prove inability to pay. Additionally, the parent has the burden of showing that the inability to pay is not caused by a voluntary or negligent act.


In Virginia, the court has the power to impute income to a parent if the parent is underemployed or voluntarily unemployed. This means that the court can use a parent's former income rather than the current income to calculate support payments in certain situations. For example, if a parent voluntarily leaves a well-paying job without having a new job, the court may use the salary from the former position to determine the appropriate child support payment.

In the current economy though, many parents are losing well-paying jobs and being forced to take lower paying positions or even part-time work to keep a steady paycheck. Depending on the parent's profession or work experience, it can take six months or longer to find a new job, making it difficult for many to find comparable employment and income. Under state law, the court could consider this underemployment.

Before deciding whether to grant a modification, the court will consider all of the relevant factors and examine the impact of the modification on the child. Some judges are more understanding of the economy's impact on a parent's ability to find comparable employment and may be less inclined to impute income. However, this is not always the case.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help

Before you submit a petition to modify a child support order, it is important you speak with an experienced family law attorney. The modification process can be frustrating for someone not familiar with the legal system or the specific requirements for making the request.

An attorney can review your family's specific circumstances and develop the best possible strategy for presenting your modification request. In some cases, the attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement with the other parent to modify the support amount without litigating the matter in court. While the agreement still will have to be approved by the court, a negotiated settlement will decrease the amount of time you will have to spend in front of a judge.

For more information on child support modifications, speak with an experienced family law attorney.

African Billionaire's Family Surviving on U.S. Welfare

Gabonese Democratic Party candidate Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba may have some explaining to do abroad -- and here in the United States.

While the presidential hopeful is focused on winning the Gabonese election -- he is among 3 candidates claiming victory in the Aug. 30 contest -- his estranged wife, Inge Bongo (nee Inge Collins), and their adopted children subsist on welfare in the United States.

The beautiful California native (pictured left leaving the welfare office in Riverside) told Black Voices that she still loves her husband.

Who's Zooming Who?

Bongo (pictured right in June) is the son of the late Omar Bongo, who served as president of Gabon from 1967-2009.

In 2007, Inge Bongo was seen on VH1's 'Really Rich Real Estate' shopping for a $25 million mansion in Malibu for herself and her husband. This raised a few eyebrows considering that the average Gabonese person made the equivalent of $6,670 that year.

Now, she says she has gone from high roller to living off government assistance. Yet, her husband and his second wife, Sylvia Valentin, don't seem to mind.

U.S. taxpayers, however, should, because they are footing the bill.

For the Love of Money

Bongo and Valentin are under investigation in France for corruption, and so far, $900 million in assets has been seized from the couple. Ironically, Bongo has vowed to "redistribute the proceeds of economic growth and fight corruption and fraud."

It appears that the son may have more in common with the father other than DNA. The late Omar Bongo was also under investigation for corruption.

According to BBC, in 2003, Omar Bongo was named in one of the biggest corporate trials in France involving the oil firm Elf. Allegedly, he pocketed $16.7 million from Elf in exchange for preferential treatment over U.S. and British oil firms. As a result of the trial, many former Elf executives were jailed.

Omar Bongo's name once again popped up during a 2005 investigation into fundraising appropriation on the part of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. A U.S. Senate Committee investigation revealed that Abramoff requested $9 million to arrange a meeting between Bongo and President George W. Bush. 10 months after the request, Omar Bongo and George W. Bush met in the White House's Oval Office. According to The New York Times, there has "been no evidence in the public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with Gabon."

Records show that the family's financial history is sketchy at the very least. At the time of Omar Bongo's death in June, the family owned more real estate in France than anyone. Meanwhile, the average Gabonese person would be lucky to own one piece of real estate.

Hood Rich, Cash Poor

Located south of Cameroon, Gabon was once a wealthy African nation due to the oil boom in the 1980s and the country's relatively low population (nearly 1.5 million people). But like many African nations, it succumbed to the temptation of foreign loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Nowadays, Gabon has joined a long list of African nations experiencing foreign exploitation because of financial misappropriation and dependency on foreign aid.

On paper, Gabon may be one of the wealthiest African nations, based on its GDP, but the country imports most of its products and suffers from high inflation rates.


While the current election has been propped up as a democratic process, several thousand Gabonese protesters don't see it that way. According to the Agence France-Presse, earlier this month, thousands of demonstrators rallied against Bongo, calling for his resignation as defense minister. One demonstrator who declined to be identified, said, "We supported the father, but we don't want the son. If people don't listen to us, everything will burn."

If Bongo steals this year's presidential election, as many believe he will, he certainly will not be the first African leader to steer an election in his favor. Quieting dissent through violence, payoffs to the opposition and other sneaky-handed tactics have been used in other African countries to secure election victories.

First Wife's Tale

While Bongo is living lavish in an $800 million presidential palace, Inge and their kids (ages 22 and 10) are living like paupers.

The Los Angeles-born Mrs. Bongo is, admittedly, not a saint, but she is legally married to her husband both in the United States and in Gabon. And here in the United States, polygamy is a crime.

When Black Voices caught up with the 45-year-old former interior designer said that she did not want U.S. taxpayers to have to support her and her children, and that she simply wanted her husband to man up.

"I'm trying to feed my children," she humbly stated. "I love him. And I still support him," she said, fighting back tears. "I'm going to vote for him. For the sake of the Gabonese people, he needs to win the election. I don't want to see Gabon become another Ivory Coast."

Inge said she believes her husband will make sure he wins the election at any cost.

When they met, Inge says, she was young and naïve. The couple had their first date in 1988 and were married in 1994. At that time, she says, she was happy and had little idea what her life as the wife of an African dictator would be like.

She didn't expect for her husband to have countless mistresses, and she certainly didn't think that she would be physically assaulted (Bongo allegedly physically and emotionally abused her for years). She revealed that she almost lost her life on a number of occasions.

If Bongo wins the election, she will be the first American first lady of an African nation.

And Inge Bongo is on welfare.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lil Wayne: Lauren London & Nivea Expecting Sons?!

Rumor has it, Lil Wayne has two babies on the way, so if true, he’ll be a father of four. Actress Lauren London is reportedly six months pregnant with Wayne’s son and Weezy’s fiance Nivea, is rumored to be having a boy as well. So, who will deliver first? Hopefully their due dates are far enough apart that Wayne won’t have to try to be in two places at once. Awkward! I guess they could share a hospital room, you know, to make things less complicated.

T-Pain Sued For Child Support

A loyal reader who works in the same midtown building as rapper T-Pain’s lawyer emailed over the weekend to say she saw T-Pain, real name Faheem Rasheed Najm, leaving his attorney’s office on Friday (8/28).

Word gets around quickly, and she learned that T-Pain was there to attend a mediation meeting to resolve child support issues with his baby mama, Elisa Hood, aka Ms. Cherry from VH1’s Miss Rap Supreme.

Let’s just say that the mediation didn’t turn out as well as all parties had hoped.

For a rapper who just put out a track titled “I Support baby Mamas” he certainly isn’t supporting his own very well.

Before Friday, Ms. Hood was barely making ends meet with a measly $2,000 a month from the same rapper who bragged about dropping over $400,000 on a “big ass chain” inlaid with 197kt. diamonds. When T-Pain posted the pics of his 10 lb. chain on twitter last month, we chose not to participate in the nignorance by reposting the pics.

According to court documents, this dead beat dad pulls down $15 million a year in records sales, royalties and appearance fees. He owns an impressive collection of almost 40 luxury vehicles, including a Lambo, Bentley and a Phantom. Yet the cheapskate and his attorney put an offer on the table for a mere $500 per month more than the $2,000 he is already paying Ms. Hood in support for their 2-year-old son King!

Don’t you hate so-called ballers who value money and material possessions over their own seed? Oh, did I forget to mention that T-Pain was already married with children at home when he laid up with Ms. Hood?

Woman charged with sex with minor

WEST POINT — A 37-year-old Syracuse woman was arrested Sunday for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

Kerrie Lynn Ferguson faces four counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, all third-degree felonies, according to charges filed Monday in 2nd District Court.

A Davis County Sheriff's deputy spotted the woman and a 15-year-old girl in a parked car Sunday afternoon at Bingham Park, near 4550 West and 550 North. As the officer approached the vehicle, he found the two "in the act," Davis County Sheriff's Capt. Kenny Payne said.

The deputy placed Ferguson under arrest and released the girl to her parents. Payne said police believe the girl is a friend of Ferguson's daughter.

Officers booked Ferguson into Davis County Jail Sunday for investigation of several first-degree felony charges because police believed Ferguson was a person who had a relationship of special trust with the victim, said Steve Major, deputy Davis County Attorney. "But (we) couldn't show she (the girl) was under a type of special trust."

Utah law states a juvenile is not old enough to "consent" to sex until he or she is 16 years old, Major said. And even then, so-called consensual sex by minors is only defensible if the older party is less than 10 years older than the minor.

"The idea is we don't want 42-year-old men having sex with 16-year-old girls..." Major said. "It's less predatory if you're 18 and your girlfriend is 16."

It wasn't immediately clear if Ferguson would face an enhanced felony charge for being 22 years older.

She posted a $50,000 bail prior to her initial hearing in court Monday, which she did not attend.

Ohio man sentenced to 6 months for failing to pay $15,000 dollars in child support

AKRON — John Lee Bishop Jr., 50, of Akron, was sentenced last week to six months in prison for failing to pay $15,100 in child support.

He pleaded to criminal non-support Aug. 28 and was sentenced by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Teodosio.

Bishop owes support for one child. He was ordered to pay $132.80 a month in 2000.

He pleaded guilty to that offense and was placed on community control for five years. After violating the conditions of his probation, he was sentenced to the Oriana House Work Release Program.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Couple accused of passing $27,000 in fake money orders to pay for child support

Two Baltic residents who reportedly paid nearly $27,000 in child support with phony money orders were indicted for forgery Thursday.

Brian William Denson, 49, was being held at the Minnehaha County Jail last month for nonpayment of child support. At Denson's request, his 29-year-old girlfriend, Jamie Ann Moore, reportedly brought 27 counterfeit money orders to the Department of Social Services office in Sioux Falls to pay off Denson's bill, according to court documents.

Later that day, she used two other counterfeit money orders to pay the child support of Denson's friend Jonathan DeBelts, who also was being held for nonpayment of child support.

Sioux Falls Police got a call about the forgeries from the Department of Social Services in Pierre on July 7, police spokesman Sam Clemens said.

"That's pretty rare," he said. "We do run into the fake money orders, but it's usually some kind of scam."

The Department of Social Services declined to comment on the ongoing investigation, but spokeswoman Tarah Jahnig did say that this was the only case of child support fraud in recent memory involving forged money orders.

"It's usually just bad checks," she said.

After the Pierre office told police about the money orders, Moore was put in a lineup for two Sioux Falls DSS employees. They identified Moore as the person who brought in the forged money orders, and police obtained a search warrant for the couple's Baltic home.

That search turned up computers, printers, scanners and seven other $950 counterfeit money orders.

Denson told police that he wasn't aware the money orders were fake until after he was released from jail.

Moore was charged with 10 counts of forgery and Denson was charged with 10 counts of aiding and abetting forgery.

They each face up to five years in prison on each count.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Penn Hills man who owes nearly $70,000 was arrested on bench warrants

A Penn Hills man who owes nearly $70,000 in child support was arrested Saturday morning, the Allegheny County Sheriff's office said.

Keith Douthett, 49, was among the sheriff's "most wanted" child support offenders and was wanted on three bench warrants issued in April 2006, according to the sheriff's office.

Douthett was apprehended about 8:50 a.m. in the 100 block of South Avenue in Wilkinsburg, the sheriff's office said. Detectives began putting the area under surveillance after receiving an anonymous tip several days ago.

Douthett is being held in the Allegheny County Jail.

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