Write government officials; change child support law

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Bradley Amendment or 42, U.S.C. 666(a)(9)(c) reads, "that once a child-support obligation has been established, it cannot be retroactively reduced or forgiven by a judge." This is causing a grave manifest injustice for many families across the country.

By federal law (the Bradley Amendment), no obligor can have their child support arrears modified or eliminated for any time in which it was impossible for them to have made the payments.

If a child support obligor becomes disabled, imprisoned, unemployed or even slips into a coma, unless they have the wherewithal or presence of mind to file for a suspension or reduction, their debt will continue to accumulate and cannot be modified for any reason.

Many fishermen and loggers in Southeast Alaska were given child support obligations in the "heyday" of those industries. Many of them did not know their rights, had no understanding of the legal system and/or were unable to retain legal help. Consequently, support obligations were and still are set under incomes that are no longer valid.

As a result, many non-custodial parents have accrued high arrearages which are financially impossible to recover from.

However unjust, the courts cannot go back to make adjustments, and most custodial parents would not voluntarily agree to one. This situation has chased poor men into unlawful acts, created an underground economy, and left others in a financial hole of which there is no legal escape, or hope of recovery.

I am asking you to write your government officials and ask for them to sponsor legislation that would repeal 42, U.S.C. 666(a)(9)(c) and substitute language that would allow retroactive modification of child support arrears in the interest of justice and when determined to be in the best interest of the child.

This would allow rational judges to do what is right in order to eliminate the injustice being placed on thousands of child support obligors.

Alison Benitz


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