Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Criminal Non Support Amendment - Missouri

Introduced Bill to Modify Missouri's Criminal Non-Support Statute

Most of us know that the child support payment system is a charade for spousal support or more accurately, installment payments for a nine month rental of a womb. Throughout the United States there is not one state who has a child support payment system that accurately reflects the cost of raising a child. At the root of the child support payment system is government intervention into the familial decisions as to how to provide support [food, clothing, shelter and medical care] for children.

It is because of this reason that it is often difficult for a parent to comply with a child support payment order. The system does not recognize families who are fiscally responsible or those who do not buy all products at full retail prices. Many of us shop at garage sales, through on-line auctions or in the clearance isle to get necessities for our children. The court's have mandated that all products and services are to be new and at full retail price and both parents will work outside of the home.

This drastically alters the lifestyle that many families had prior to divorce and can be a very challenging adjustment that is an unlawful intrusion into family privacy. The courts, however, simply ignore this in favor of receiving financial incentives for issuing excessive child support payment awards.

Senator Moore has taken an approach to criminal enforcement of child support payments that recognizes why most men fall behind in support payments.

This act does not mandate but will allow any circuit court to establish a division, within the family courts, for disposition of criminal nonsupport cases. This bill seeks to treat this offense more akin to a civil contempt proceeding, which is to provide coercion to bring about compliance, rather than simply a punitive disposition.

The bill recognizes and seeks to accommodate some of the problems that lead defendants to have child support payment arrears. Defendants may be referred to education, vocational or employment training, substance abuse treatment, or work programs. After successful completion of a court-ordered treatment or training program or commencement of support payments, the defendant may have the charges, petition, or penalty against him or her dismissed, reduced, or modified.

This is a step in the right direction but still ignores the underlying problem which is the government's invasion into how parent's provide support to their children. If I want to continue living off the land, providing food by hunting, fishing and gardening; providing shelter by building a log cabin; by providing clothing by sewing them myself, and; by providing health care through natural means that have been proven successful over thousands of years, then I should be able to.

Separately, this act provides that criminal nonsupport shall be a Class A misdemeanor unless the total arrears are in excess of an aggregate of twelve monthly payments, in which case, it is a Class D felony. Currently, the crime is a Class D felony if the person owes more than $5,000 or has failed to pay six months of payments within the last twelve-month period.

This section provides a bit of balancing to people in like circumstances. A man who pays $50 per week could go nearly two years before triggering the same offense level that a man paying $400 per week would achieve in just three months.

The act also modifies the penalties for any person convicted of criminal nonsupport in a way that is much more coercive than Indiana's. Under current Indiana law, men who are convicted for nonsupport of a dependent are presumed to receive a one and a half year sentence of incarceration. This is the same for each offense unless the value attached to the unprovided support exceeds $15,000.

Under this bill Missouri's sentencing structure would be as follows: (1) A first offense shall result in a suspended imposition of sentence and an appropriate period of probation; (2) A second offense shall result in a suspended execution of sentence and an appropriate period of probation; and (3) A third or subsequent offense shall be punished within the range for the class of offense that the defendant was convicted of as provided by law.

If the defendant is placed on probation or parole, he or she must begin payment of current support as well as satisfying the arrears. If he or she fails to pay then probation or parole shall be revoked and an appropriate sentence shall be imposed.

When considering child support payment arrears in Indiana it is important to keep in mind that Indiana has no criminal penalty. Indiana has a companion neglect charge called non support of a dependent that makes it a crime to not provide food, clothing, shelter or medical care to a dependent even when it does not result in harm to the child. It does not apply to education as the general neglect charge that also requires the element of the support having been necessary.

A hearing was conducted before the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on 26 January 2009.


Houstonlaw said...

nice piece on the custodial rights!

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