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<v Narrator>The following program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation <v Narrator>for Public Broadcasting. <v Speaker 1>Just have several other expenses. <v Speaker 1>I've just tried to pay everybody something. <v Speaker 1>Just did not - <v Curtis Person>Everybody but your child. <v Speaker 1>Yeah. <v Curtis Person>Put your child last. <v Speaker 1>Not -. <v Curtis Person>In effect. <v Speaker 1>In effect, yes, sir. <v Curtis Person>Well, how you are you barely making it? Where are you getting the money to barely make <v Curtis Person>it? <v Mr. Greer>Right now, I'm just living with my mother. <v Curtis Person>Mothers are wonderful institutions, they support little children and grown men. <v Lawyer 1>This is like got a long history. I've been down here time and time again,
<v Lawyer 1>each time supposed to get some money for this lady's child. <v Lawyer 1>He doesn't do anything. The only thing we have is promises. <v Lawyer 1>We never seem to get any money out of it. <v Speaker 3>?inaudible? <v Speaker 3>keep your ?inaudible? <v Speaker 4>Hey, hey! <v Speaker 3>Just don't put your hand on me no more. <v Narrator>Easy divorce, set loose in the 60s, has soared to new heights <v Narrator>and left millions of the nation's children in limbo. <v Narrator>They're usually confused, frequently uprooted and too often short on financial <v Narrator>support. Government figures now put taxpayer support for other <v Narrator>people's children at about $9.4 billion.
<v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>I think unquestionably that the willful failure to be bad for children and <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>the interstate flight to avoid supporting children <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>is one of the greatest social problems of our of our times. <v Narrator>It was the taxpayer burden that prompted the 1975 legislation <v Narrator>that required all states to crack down on absent parents, mostly fathers <v Narrator>who were behind in their court ordered child support for welfare and private cases <v Narrator>and for children born in and out of wedlock. <v Narrator>The states responded by making it easy. <v Speaker 5>Good morning. I'd like to pay my child support. <v Speaker 5>My visa, please. <v Narrator>In Westchester County, New York, you can charge child support to a credit card. <v Narrator>And, by making it hard, more and more delinquent fathers end up in jail. <v Speaker 6>As far as I know, he didn't pay. <v Narrator>A stepped up system seemed to generate as much hostility as money, and both men and women <v Narrator>are organizing to fight the system - <v Speaker 7>With the men that you caught, then they can't do anything.
<v Narrator>The women to insist on still stronger enforcement, and men to claim discrimination <v Narrator>by the courts. <v Speaker 8>The judge characterizes himself as a male chauvinist, and he says he puts women up on <v Speaker 8>pedestals. <v Narrator>Success in collection varies, and most experts say that finally it's <v Narrator>the judge who makes the difference. In Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court in <v Narrator>Tennessee, Kenneth Turner makes a difference. <v Narrator>He's nationally known as a judge who takes child support very seriously. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>I've never been opposed for reelection. I've just re-elected to an eight year term. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>I don't know what the future will bring. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>But I intend to serve out that eight years doing just what I've said I would <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>do when I was first elected ?inaudible? years ago, and that is enforce parents <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>responsibilities. <v Speaker 9>Does he have any unusual features, or anything about him we could use to indentify him? <v Speaker 9> <v Speaker 10>What's going to happen is if you don't show up in court down there, they're gonna issue a <v Speaker 10>warrant for you. <v Narrator>In Memphis, the child support agency is in the juvenile courthouse, and from parent
<v Narrator>location to court appearance, Turner can stay in touch. <v Narrator>In court, six referees preside for him, as he puts it, in his image. <v Narrator>Chief referee, Curtis Person. <v Curtis Person>I think if any one of us got out of tune with that policy that's been established, which <v Curtis Person>is a tough policy for strict enforcement of child <v Curtis Person>support, then I think we would have to go someplace else. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Page, you've been in the courtroom now for almost an hour. <v Curtis Person>You've heard what I've said to the other defendants. It all applies to you. <v Curtis Person>You have an equal obligation where this child's concerned. <v Curtis Person>You're going to have to keep your payments up to date and stop coming down here. <v Curtis Person>You built a bad record, you've already had four complaints. <v Curtis Person>Nothing is more important than taking care of your minor child. <v Mr. Page>Yes. I mean, I paid it the best I could. <v Mr. Page>As far as the amount that's due, I didn't think it was that much. <v Mr. Page>By my records, I thought it was $125. <v Mr. Page>And I've gotten two different amounts, and according to <v Mr. Page>-. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Page, just pay it monthly like you're supposed to and you won't have to worry about
<v Curtis Person>all that. <v Curtis Person>You're in contempt of court and will be confined to the Shelby County jail until you've <v Curtis Person>paid the total arrears of $285. <v Curtis Person>Note, the payment will be due between now and the end of the month. <v Narrator>Investigators call these the cases that never <v Narrator>close. <v Curtis Person>And you do it all by yourself without any help from the father. <v Curtis Person>But if she can work, Mr. Greer, you can work and help the child, too. <v Mr. Greer>If I I can find a job. <v Curtis Person>Would you like to go to jail, Mr. Greer, would you rather go to jail in place of work? <v Mr. Greer>No, sir. <v Curtis Person>When you go out and do part time work and you get money to barely make it on your own, <v Curtis Person>then you've got to share some of that with your child. <v Curtis Person>And you don't ever seem to want to do that. <v Curtis Person>I know you've heard all these things before, Mr. Greer, because you have really been down <v Curtis Person>here a lot. Far too many times. <v Narrator>Chief referee, Curtis Person. <v Curtis Person>The only time they seem to close is when the children finally reach the age of majority.
<v Curtis Person>Because these parents, these have been back to the court for <v Curtis Person>8, 10, 12 and 20 and even sometimes 30 times. <v Curtis Person>These people are just going to do everything they can to avoid their responsibility where <v Curtis Person>their children are concerned. <v Curtis Person>This is a $50 weekly support order for two minor children. <v Curtis Person>It's been in this court since 1980. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Clemens has apparently never paid anything through the court for the past year. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Clemens, you're twenty six hundred dollars behind. <v Curtis Person>Where do you work? <v Mr. Clemens>I work for Hart's manufacturing. <v Mr. Clemens>I've been there about four or five months, I was out of work for three months this <v Mr. Clemens>spring, I was out of work for over three months last fall. <v Mr. Clemens>I don't have the money. <v Curtis Person>Are you working now? <v Mr. Clemens>Yes. And I haven't had -. <v Curtis Person>Full time? <v Mr. Clemens>Yes. <v Curtis Person>How much money did you bring today? <v Mr. Clemens>How much money did I bring today? <v Curtis Person>How much do you have in your pocket? <v Mr. Clemens>I got a little over a hundred dollars. I just gave her 30. <v Mr. Clemens>I gave her 60 two weeks ago. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Clemens, the court is going to let you pay $100 today as a purge payment.
<v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>But the only way that we can get at some of these people is simply by <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>sending them to jail and saying, look, you you can get out of jail if you pay this amount <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>of money. The court is determined that you could have payed this. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>You should have paid it. You haven't. You're in contempt of court. <v Curtis Person>- $300 ?inaudible? your payments increase from 50 to 70 dollars <v Curtis Person>?inaudible? Monthly on a catch up plan until you pay off the balance. <v Speaker 2>So that's ?inaudible? police? <v Curtis Person>Yes. <v Speaker 2>How long would I stay in jail for $300? <v Curtis Person>You have the keys to the jailhouse door in your pocket. <v Curtis Person>You'll stay there until you pay $300. <v Speaker 2>All right ?inaudible? <v Narrator>Child support is not child's play here in Memphis. <v Narrator>Judge Turner believes in jail. <v Narrator>The jails are called Turner's tanks and a litany of hard luck and hurt feelings <v Narrator>won't stay the sentence. However, these are not common criminals. <v Narrator>And the judge says most don't stay locked up for long. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>Ninety eight percent will pay within a matter of hours. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>They get on the phone and call their friends or rake up the money somewhere. <v Police officer>Brown shoes, blue jeans, light blue shirt.
<v Narrator>Turner says his methods are cost effective and collection this year will top $12 <v Narrator>million, with a third of that going back to the state and federal governments to <v Narrator>reimburse them for aid to dependent children. <v Narrator>But aggressive investigators here, as elsewhere, are hard put to locate the culprits <v Narrator>in child support cases. <v Investigator 1>I've got a warrant here on my desk for his arrest. <v Investigator 2>Are you his baby's mother? <v Investigator 2>Oh, I see. <v Investigator 1>He didn't live there. You know, do you know where he stays at? <v Investigator 3>About your child support payments. Evidently what's happened is you've gotten behind on 'em. <v Investigator 1>California. When's the last time you saw him? <v Investigator 3>What's the woman's name on the other case? <v Investigator 1>And you ain't seen him in three years. <v Investigator 1>All right. Thank you. <v Investigator 1>Probably him. <v Narrator>Undaunted, the child support team took out a double page ad in the two daily newspapers <v Narrator>naming the 3,200 worst offenders and asked for information about them. <v Narrator>It got results and they plan to do it again.
<v Speaker 12>If there's -. <v Narrator>Another move that shakes out and shakes up fathers in hiding is the periodic daybreak <v Narrator>raid. <v Speaker 13>Weapons? Remember our code on weapons? <v Speaker 13>The only time we use them is in our own defense or to protect somebody else. <v Speaker 13>We don't have fleeing felons in our particular situation. <v Speaker 13>OK. Assignments are made. <v Speaker 14>When the public is made aware of what we're doing, they are very appreciative. <v Speaker 14>On a TV program the other day and the camera man at one of our local stations asked <v Speaker 14>me about our B-Men. I said, what do you mean, our B-Men? <v Speaker 14>He said, your break-in men. You know, the dudes who come out and knock on your door at <v Speaker 14>4:30, 5 o'clock in the morning, get you out of bed if you had made your child support <v Speaker 14>payments. So it has its humorous side. <v Police Officer 2>Open the door. <v Narrator>The humor may be lost on the unsuspecting offender pulled from his house in the early <v Narrator>morning mass arrest. <v Speaker 14>The best time to catch anyone for service of process, be
<v Speaker 14>it a summons or a warrant, is in the early morning hours before they have a chance to <v Speaker 14>leave their place of residence. <v Police Officer 2>The sheriff's department. Is Anthony here? <v Police Officer 2>Huh? We need to talk to him. All right. Thank you, ma'am. <v Anthony>How you doing, man. <v Police Officer 2>Anthony? We got a warrant for you here on your child support. <v Speaker 14>A great many will turn themselves in. <v Speaker 14>That's just like the results we got when we ran this large ad in <v Speaker 14>the newspapers, when Lord only knows how many are paying child <v Speaker 14>support because I don't see the names in the paper again or <v Speaker 14>who don't want us - our officers back out there on the doorstep at dawn. <v Narrator>The raids reap a courtroom full of offenders. <v Narrator>Election results bear witness to public approval, but critics feel that arrearages should <v Narrator>be dropped and that frequent jailings of the depressed and oppressed constitute one <v Narrator>more blow in these hard times. <v Narrator>Attorney John Donald. <v Attorney John Donald>One of the things that we fail to take note of today is the economy. <v Attorney John Donald>People are looking for jobs, there just aren't any jobs out here.
<v Attorney John Donald>If you look at the socioeconomic level of the parties coming in, <v Attorney John Donald>you consider the fact that most of them are high school dropouts, what have you, without <v Attorney John Donald>skills. In many cases, you know, they gonna have a difficult time finding any kind <v Attorney John Donald>of employment. You will find that people will go out and through relatives <v Attorney John Donald>or somebody will borrow some money to purge themselves. <v Attorney John Donald>The minute they borrowed that money to purge themselves, they're in debt. <v Attorney John Donald>Once they get out, they spend the rest of the time trying to pay that money back and <v Attorney John Donald>they'll come back to court again on a contempt citation and the cycle goes over and over <v Attorney John Donald>and over. So it's not uncommon to see so many people coming for this pool. <v Police Officer 3>?inaudible? <v Narrator>It's true that most of those in Turner's courtroom are black, eratically employed and <v Narrator>without a garnisheeable salary. <v Narrator>But increasingly, more and more middle and upper income couples go to court over <v Narrator>delinquent child support. An estimated 30 percent of fathers in this group <v Narrator>pay no support. <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>A person who is average, middle income or well-to-do
<v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>with assets and roots, they cannot <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>escape unless you just have a lenient court that won't enforce child <v Judge Kenneth A. Turner>support orders. <v Curtis Person>Are you ready for Mr. Keithley to testify? <v Lawyer 2>Yes, your honor. <v Narrator>Carol Keithley said the circuit court that granted her divorce wouldn't or didn't <v Narrator>enforce the child support order. <v Narrator>So she transferred her case to Kenneth Turner's juvenile court. <v Speaker>Is the child in school? She is in kindergarten at Lausanne. <v Speaker>Her tuition is provided as part of the cost of my job. <v Speaker>I, however, have to pay for her lunch cost, an activity <v Speaker>fee, a workbook fee which totaled was approximately $465, $475 per <v Speaker>nine month school year. <v Carol Keithley>I'm compelled to do this. This is something that I have to do for her sake. <v Carol Keithley>Not that the money probably would make that big of a difference. <v Carol Keithley>Of course it will help. <v Carol Keithley>But it's - it's a sense - It's really it's a sense of outrage that here he <v Carol Keithley>has walked away from all the responsibility and seeks none of
<v Carol Keithley>it. Not to see her, not to interact with her, but I <v Carol Keithley>think there is a sense of outrage involved and that you sort of get righteously <v Carol Keithley>indignant. And that helps to put the emotionalism aside <v Carol Keithley>because I don't wish him any ill will. <v Carol Keithley>All I want him to do is to live up to his responsibilities. <v Lawyer 2>If Mr. Keithley were able to pay, do you think it's fair for him to pay half of the <v Lawyer 2>experience of raising this child? <v Carol Keithley>It would be nice. <v Lawyer 2>Your Honor, I think if we were to ask 250 a month subject to Mr. Keithley's <v Lawyer 2>ability to make payments - It is - I understand he is out of work. <v Lawyer 2>However, I think proof will show he hadn't made any payments even when he was working. <v Carol Keithley>We notified him by letter of exactly what our intent was. <v Carol Keithley>And then we gave him 90 days beyond that. <v Carol Keithley>And he - his response to the letter was, it's very hard. <v Carol Keithley>You know, you shouldn't ask me to do this, but I'm going to do <v Carol Keithley>it. And of course, nothing ever materialized. I have received many phone calls.
<v Carol Keithley>You know, there's a check for so-and-so in the mail and so on. <v Carol Keithley>And so I ignore all of that. I anticipate nothing. <v Curtis Person>State your name. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Gary Wayne Keithley. <v Curtis Person>Mr. Keithley, are you working? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Not presently, no sir. <v Curtis Person>Are you going to work any time soon? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Yes, sir, as soon as I can. <v Curtis Person>Where? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>I don't know at this point. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>I'm not gonna say that it was not fair. I am going to say that the type of notification <v Gary Wayne Keithley>they give you does not really tell you what you're in for when you get there. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>If I'd had an attorney and we'd had some time to prepare for this, I think it might have <v Gary Wayne Keithley>been a little different. <v Curtis Person>But yet you didn't contribute anything. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>No sir, I did not, I contributed the first six months of the year. <v Curtis Person>So why not? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>I had many other expenses that - of course, I'm not making an excuse. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>I have been in and out of other court rooms other than this one for other reasons. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Right now, I'm fighting a federal tax indictment and - Just
<v Gary Wayne Keithley>have several other expenses. I've just tried to pay everybody something and just did not - <v Curtis Person>Everybody but your child. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Yeah. <v Curtis Person>Put your child last. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Not g-. <v Curtis Person>In effect. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>In effect, yes, sir. <v Narrator>Do you think you might end up in jail? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>No. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>No, not at all. Well, I <v Gary Wayne Keithley>suppose I would've found an attorney regardless of the fee, to have prevented <v Gary Wayne Keithley>that. Oh. <v Curtis Person>How do you get around? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Well, presently I have to rely on somebody else, but before I broke my <v Gary Wayne Keithley>leg, I just didn't get around - ?inaudible? <v Curtis Person>Well, your parents are supporting you at the present. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Basically, right now. Yes. <v Curtis Person>And when you say basically right now, what does that mean? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>It means the rent on my apartment's paid as well as the utilities -. <v Curtis Person>And what about your food? <v Gary Wayne Keithley>The food is provided. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>This is miserable. At 36 years old, this is horrible to sponge off mama and papa. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>It's ridiculous. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>To me, they are now paying child support. <v Curtis Person>We're going to set your support at $250 a month.
<v Curtis Person>You're going to start the first support payment in the month of November. <v Curtis Person>That means that that'll give you the rest of this month, <v Curtis Person>that will give you the month of October to make arrangements so that you can start paying <v Curtis Person>that amount of support. <v Curtis Person>You make those payments by money order to the clerk of this court. <v Curtis Person>Do not pay her directly. <v Carol Keithley>I fully expect that in light of yesterday's decision by Senator Person in the <v Carol Keithley>courtroom that he's eventually going to leave the state of Tennessee. <v Carol Keithley>I expect this to happen. I do not expect to see the money that <v Carol Keithley>was awarded. <v Carol Keithley>It was, in my mind a moral victory, if nothing else. <v Carol Keithley>I'm very fortunate in being a pretty strong woman, very independent, enjoy <v Carol Keithley>being able to try to control my life so far as I'm able. <v Carol Keithley>Good afternoon. How are y'all, what are you all doing here so late in the day? <v Carol Keithley>I'm the administrator of a Montessori school, which is the elementary division at
<v Carol Keithley>Lausanne and a couple of afternoons a week, I teach piano. <v Carol Keithley>And now watch out for your rhythm patterns when you get right down here. <v Carol Keithley>Okay. <v Carol Keithley>Everything changes and circumstances change and people change. <v Carol Keithley>You just gotta be flexible enough to sort of roll with the punches. <v Carol Keithley>?inaudible? <v Carol Keithley>Now let's see what we've got. What's that? Lookit there, now there's some good pictures of your daddy. And there's your Uncle Daryl, your Aunt Susan - <v Carol Keithley>I was at home with her and didn't have the responsibility of knowing that I was the one <v Carol Keithley>that had to keep a roof over our heads every month. <v Carol Keithley>And when all of a sudden that is your responsibility, you undergo a rather major <v Carol Keithley>upheaval. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Carol said she never really wanted anything economically that she didn't get. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>I bought her a house before we got married. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Fully furnished. We always drove new cars, there were anywhere from
<v Gary Wayne Keithley>two to four of them in the driveway all the time. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>She always had plenty of clothes. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Of course I had the income to pay for all that. <v Gary Wayne Keithley>Now Rebecca had everything that she could possibly have wanted. <v Carol Keithley>It was very difficult to go down the end of July and to <v Carol Keithley>swear out - basically, I'd say that's not a warrant, but to swear out <v Carol Keithley>this information against him, because I knew that he was unemployed. <v Carol Keithley>I knew that he had recently either quit or lost his job, and I'm not sure <v Carol Keithley>of which, I don't believe I'll ever know. <v Carol Keithley>But it was a very difficult thing to do. <v Carol Keithley>But yes, I think I'd do it again. <v Carol Keithley>Mm hmm. Look at your daddy, all dressed up. <v Carol Keithley>He has on a tuxedo. <v Carol Keithley>He fails to pay because we ordered him to pay through the court. <v Carol Keithley>The court is the one that takes the next step. <v Carol Keithley>And so he basically lifted that burden from my back. <v Narrator>Director of the Family Institute of Westchester in New York, Elizabeth Carter,
<v Narrator>says research shows that children of divorce do precisely as well as their mothers <v Narrator>do. <v Elizabeth Carter>So that if you have a depressed mother who <v Elizabeth Carter>doesn't accept the divorce and is devastated by it and can't get the reins <v Elizabeth Carter>of her life in her own hands, you have - you have children with trouble. <v Elizabeth Carter>If mother's able to recover, put - gets get it in <v Elizabeth Carter>perspective and get on with her life, then the children do very well, and in fact, <v Elizabeth Carter>do better than children in an intact family where the parents are bickering. <v Jackie Leick>With the house and being on AFDC, I feel that <v Jackie Leick>he has control in my life and really the government does, too. <v Jackie Leick>You know, they're they're supporting my children. <v Jackie Leick>They call all the shots. <v Speaker 15>I teach. So, I mean, I do have an income, but we live in genteel poverty. <v Speaker 15>I mean, I have five children. And it became an issue with me that <v Speaker 15>I had to make an attempt because with three sons, I don't want <v Speaker 15>them to grow up and think that they can do the same thing their dad did.
<v Narrator>The poverty picture in America is the image of women, single heads of household, <v Narrator>sole support of minor children. <v Narrator>The court-ordered child support may have been modest and inadequate to begin with, <v Narrator>but now half these women get only part of that support due them, and over 1.2 <v Narrator>million received none at all. <v Jackie Leick>I was working under the Displaced Homemaker program, which was a federally funded <v Jackie Leick>program. <v Narrator>In Wisconsin one month after her divorce, <v Narrator>32-year-old Jackie Leick went on welfare. <v Narrator>She has custody of three minor children. <v Jackie Leick>But I felt I have to have a little self-respect. <v Jackie Leick>I had to go on AFDC because there was no support. <v Jackie Leick>And now because I've worked for four months, they <v Jackie Leick>cut my grant by $100 dollars a month. <v Jackie Leick>Plus my hours are up the first of March, so I had to cut my hours so I would still have <v Jackie Leick>some type of income coming in. <v Jackie Leick>So. <v Jackie Leick>It's like if he would just pay us support, whatever I did would cover
<v Jackie Leick>the difference. You know. <v Jackie Leick>And I haven't really quite figured out for February <v Jackie Leick>and March how we're gonna make it. <v Jackie Leick>[laughs] Financially. <v Narrator>Six months after the divorce was final, Jackie is still surprised that payments to <v Narrator>the court are so sparse and sporadic. <v Jackie Leick>I think I went through the hurt stage. <v Jackie Leick>And then the stage where you just don't comprehend it. <v Jackie Leick>You don't understand it. <v Jackie Leick>And then mad and then bitter. And I don't like the bitter stage. <v Jackie Leick>That's the part I don't like, being bitter. But you do get bitter. <v Jackie Leick>And I think they get bitter, too. <v Jackie Leick>But they don't have to deal with those kids and worry <v Jackie Leick>about feeding them and keeping them warm in the winter time and <v Jackie Leick>keeping a roof over their head and school, clothes. <v Jackie Leick>So, you know, how can they walk away from a situation and say, well, <v Jackie Leick>we're not married anymore, so too bad, kids.
<v Narrator>In an unusual move, the aggressive Racine, Wisconsin, support team took Richard Leick's <v Narrator>sportscar to hold it for auction against his delinquent child support. <v Jackie Leick>They'd felt, you know, this was an asset and that when you have children <v Jackie Leick>to support, you have an asset like that, you sell it and continue to pay your <v Jackie Leick>support. And I didn't want him to lose his car rights, it wasn't <v Jackie Leick>the point. I was trying to get across to him. <v Narrator>Tell me about your car. <v Richard Leick>Which one? <v Narrator>Well, the Corvette. <v Richard Leick>The Corvette? What's there to tell? <v Richard Leick>They took the car away from me to cover back support <v Richard Leick>payments. <v Narrator>How do you feel about that? <v Richard Leick>Well, I guess there's - Like anybody would feel if they - if <v Richard Leick>one of their prized possessions gets taken away from them. <v Richard Leick>Nothing I could do about it. Courts say you got to take it away from me and that's it. <v Narrator>It was a prized possession? <v Richard Leick>Well, it was a 1978 silver anniversary Corvette.
<v Narrator>What do you think's gonna happen when your husband remarries? <v Jackie Leick>I don't think I'll see a dime. <v Jackie Leick>And I'm just looking at the other woman's view. <v Jackie Leick>You know, there - if he's not going to be working. <v Jackie Leick>I don't think she's going to say, hey, well, here, we have to pay your support this week, <v Jackie Leick>because she has children too to feed, and that goes right back to being a mother. <v Jackie Leick>You know, your own kids come first. <v Narrator>Now, how are you going to manage the second family when you're still so in debt to the <v Narrator>first family? <v Richard Leick>Well, in debt for the first family, probably it should be covered once they sell the <v Richard Leick>car. <v Richard Leick>And then there the courts are going to take the money and hold it. <v Richard Leick>As far as I know, they're going to keep a percentage of the sale in a car <v Richard Leick>and hold it for in case I do ever get behind in my support payments. <v Narrator>Richard Leick says his construction business had gone downhill at the same time that
<v Narrator>Jackie filed for divorce and their property was divided. <v Narrator>He says now that he lives from day to day. <v Richard Leick>I cover all aspects of construction. <v Richard Leick>I'm a mason by trade, but I do carpentry work. <v Richard Leick>Friend might call up and we have some work for me to do. <v Richard Leick>We'll put in a couple hours with him for cash pay, ten, <v Richard Leick>seven, eight dollars an hour or whatever. <v Narrator>Richard Leick tried to have his payments reduced, but the court has said no. <v Richard Leick>They felt that I was hiding money, that I was working, getting all this money <v Richard Leick>for cash jobs and more or less hiding the money. <v Richard Leick>But that isn't true. <v Narrator>It's not? <v Richard Leick>No. <v Narrator>When you went to jail - you went to jail, briefly. Right? <v Richard Leick>Yes. <v Narrator>And you did come up with whatever it was, $825, to get out right away. <v Narrator>Where did that money come from? <v Richard Leick>I had to sell my motor home. I had a motorhome I bought. <v Richard Leick>We had it 50/50, myself and my ex-wife, and I bought out her half
<v Richard Leick>of it that I had to sell real quick to come up with some money <v Richard Leick>to get out of jail because believe me, I don't like sitting in jail. <v Narrator>Wouldn't it have been easy to - easier to sell your motor home and your car and to stay <v Narrator>current with your payments, than go through the contempt of court charges and go to jail <v Narrator>and have them attach the car and all that? <v Richard Leick>Well, if you sell everything you have just to keep current on <v Richard Leick>your support, then what is there left for you? <v Richard Leick>This was a rough time for me. The divorce itself. <v Richard Leick>And to give away all my activities, <v Richard Leick>a motor home, which, I enjoy camping very much, you know, that's <v Richard Leick>- what would I have left? <v Narrator>Where do the children fit into this? <v Narrator>Are they number one before motorhomes and cars? <v Richard Leick>Yes, my children are number one. <v Narrator>The Leick's jointly owned house is up for sale. <v Narrator>Jackie doesn't have plans beyond to move from her longtime neighborhood.
<v Narrator>But more immediately, she worries about the time when her federally-funded job will be <v Narrator>cut. <v Jackie Leick>I said, I really know what it means now to be a woman out in that world alone. <v Jackie Leick>I mean, I have my friends and I have people who support me, but it's - it's <v Jackie Leick>rough out there. <v Narrator>Is there any answer? <v Jackie Leick>No. I wish there was. <v Jackie Leick>Yeah. Just keep plugging along. <v Jackie Leick>Just tell myself, put your feet in the ground and be like a rabbit. <v Jackie Leick>Put your haunches down and just stand your ground. <v Jackie Leick>It's all you can do. <v Speaker 16>We will - we will soon - <v Narrator>Despite the numbing certainty that the fight to collect support will be frustrating and <v Narrator>probably futile, women keep trying. <v Narrator>Around the country, unpaid child support has spawned support groups ready to challenge
<v Narrator>the legal system, which they say is wanting. <v Narrator>And some judges agree. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert B. <v Narrator>Watts? <v Judge Robert B. Watts>The system isn't working. We know it. We recognize it on this bench. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>It's so overwhelming, really. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>And every time we try to make reforms, it requires more manpower, which we can't get, the <v Judge Robert B. Watts>use of more courts and more personnel, which we don't have the money for. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>So what we're really doing is the best we can under bad circumstances. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>And for instance, I try nonsupport cases three mornings a week. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>We call it sort of the squirrel court. My courtroom is packed. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>I don't have the time to listen to a father who said, Judge, I don't wanna support my <v Judge Robert B. Watts>family, but I can't see my children or she's not spending the money right. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>I don't have time for that. I got a courtroom full of people. <v Speaker 17>But it would seem to me in this day and age with the computers that somewhere somebody <v Speaker 17>should know who he is and where he is. And why can't somebody find him? <v Speaker 18>Good question. <v Narrator>In Maryland, calling that state too lenient on child support <v Narrator>matters, the Organization for the Enforcement of Child Support was formed to educate
<v Narrator>the public and to put pressure on judges and politicians. <v Ruby Williams>I have been fighting for nonsupport from '78. <v Ruby Williams>Since '78 I have been in a courtroom 23 times, and two lawyers later, and I'm not <v Ruby Williams>receiving anything. <v Narrator>Their political clout is still in doubt, but they do ask hard questions about <v Narrator>the parent locator computer, which tracks fathers who've taken off for other places <v Narrator>and about Project Intercept. <v Narrator>This is the new federal program that allows the IRS to withhold tax refunds <v Narrator>if the recipient is behind in child support payments. <v Narrator>Right now, that applies only to welfare cases. <v Narrator>These mothers question the entire system. <v Ruby Williams>What do you do when you ?inaudible? You feel like you can't win, you know to say a man is <v Ruby Williams>sitting up there, saying, send it back to criminal court. <v Ruby Williams>And then I got back to criminal court, the same judge was sitting right up there, sending <v Ruby Williams>it back to ?Equitable? <v Ruby Williams>Court. <v Speaker 19>That's disgusting. <v Speaker 20>Okay. Because you're probably in one of your arrearages or something. <v Ruby Williams>Yes. I - <v Speaker 20>And what I'm saying to you is if you're willing to forgive the back money, because you're
<v Speaker 20>probably - what's the difference if you call something - if he owes you, say -. <v Ruby Williams>$7000. <v Speaker 20>Thousands of dollars. Okay. And he's - and the present order would say, say, $30 a week. <v Speaker 20>Okay. Let's say he gives you $30 week. <v Speaker 20>What's the difference if you're going to say - he's going to make him pay another $30 <v Speaker 20>a week on a back money or have him pay $60 a week present support? <v Narrator>Group member Ruby Williams works in a bakery to support five minor children <v Narrator>and to stay off welfare. Her ex-husband is a longshoreman. <v Narrator>She receives no support. <v Ruby Williams>Nobody goes to ?get him.? Since - <v Ruby Williams>Sometimes I feel very lonesome and just like life has passed <v Ruby Williams>me by. But I know I have to take care of these children. <v Ruby Williams>So it's always pulled me together. And I think I'm <v Ruby Williams>doing half a decent job trying to take care of them. <v Ruby Williams>It's sort of nice to see something that you created, <v Ruby Williams>growing up and up into men and women.
<v Ruby Williams>And you just hope for the best. <v Ruby Williams>You do the best you can and hope for the best. <v Ruby Williams>You know, you put your long - this is the short vowel sound, and this your long <v Ruby Williams>vowel sound. That's your sound. <v Ruby Williams>This right - You put this here. That's <v Ruby Williams>your long. <v Ruby Williams>I manage because they help <v Ruby Williams>out a lot. <v Speaker 21>Since our dad walked out on us, you know, I think it is my responsibility to make <v Speaker 21>sure these children grow up right and <v Speaker 21>proper. And that's why I my mom in any way I can. <v Narrator>What do you want to do for yourself. <v Speaker 21>I want to travel and get to see the world and help people. <v Speaker 21>But before that, I've got to make sure that my family are well taken care of, <v Speaker 21>especially the little ones. <v Speaker 21>I think she's great. I'm happy to have my mother because she <v Speaker 21>gave up her life for us and I do ?inaudible? <v Speaker 21>a lot.
<v Ruby Williams>All the things that we discussed here tonight, I have been through it and I know <v Ruby Williams>it doesn't work because first of all, when you go into a courtroom, <v Ruby Williams>they are not as courteous to you as they are at a meeting. <v Ruby Williams>They aren't. They don't take a nonsupport court seriously. <v Ruby Williams>When a child doesn't have enough food to eat, warm clothing to wear, that's criminal. <v Ruby Williams>That's child abuse. <v Narrator>We wrote to Nathaniel Williams to ask for an interview, but we received no response. <v Linda Seward>My name is Linda Seward. Eight years ago, I was awarded in <v Linda Seward>Hartford County and I see there are no representatives from Hartford County. <v Linda Seward>And that doesn't surprise me. <v Speaker 20>I don't know that they were invited. <v Linda Seward>Uh, yes they were. I've been a member of this organization for two years. <v Narrator>Linda Seward wants to go back to court to collect the thousands of dollars in child <v Narrator>support she says is long overdue from her ex-husband. <v Linda Seward>When we were married, my husband was an excellent father. <v Linda Seward>He was the best father that I ever saw.
<v Linda Seward>When we were first separated for the first year, on <v Linda Seward>his days off, he came over and watched the boys for me while I <v Linda Seward>was working and on occasion even had dinner ready when I came home. <v Linda Seward>We got along fine and, you know, he was coming around <v Linda Seward>every week. He was seeing the boys, he was taking and doing things with them, and <v Linda Seward>he was voluntarily giving me at that time $50 a week for the <v Linda Seward>boys. I'd say the last eight months <v Linda Seward>before the divorce, I noticed he was coming less. <v Linda Seward>He was paying less. <v Speaker 22>Good girl. <v Linda Seward>My children were babies, 3 and 5 years old, and I didn't want to take <v Linda Seward>their father away from them. I just wanted the separation from him. <v Linda Seward>But I didn't anticipate this long separation from
<v Linda Seward>him and the boys. And at that time, you would have never convinced me <v Linda Seward>that he would have taken off and just <v Linda Seward>dismissed them off of the earth. <v Linda Seward>Which is more or less what he has done. <v Linda Seward>I don't want to go on welfare. I don't want to go on public assistance. <v Linda Seward>I would like to have the money right now that I've paid out an attorney fees. <v Linda Seward>And since I discovered this Organization for Child <v Linda Seward>Support Enforcement, knowing what I know now and knowing what they know, <v Linda Seward>how to tell me to go about things, I will never hire an attorney again <v Linda Seward>to collect child support. <v Linda Seward>Why is it so hard to transfer probation? <v Linda Seward>From what? Why should I live in Baltimore County? <v Linda Seward>My divorce took place in Hartford County. <v Linda Seward>Why should I have to lose a day's wages every so many months <v Linda Seward>to get travel to Hartford County to go through all these proceedings, to <v Linda Seward>get a summons served on him, to appear to court - in court and for him to disappear?
<v Speaker 23>I can't answer you as to the problems between the probation departments. <v Speaker 23>?inaudible? I have no idea <v Linda Seward>?inaudible? You don't have any idea. <v Linda Seward>All we want is what rightfully belongs to our children. <v Narrator>We couldn't locate Gary Seward to invite him to respond. <v Narrator>According to Linda Seward, he's moved several times to other states. <v Narrator>Baltimore Judge Robert Watts. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>They come down with their husband, doesn't show. We issue a warrant. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>We pick him up. We post bail. We send it to him again. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>They come down. Then he claims, I don't have any money. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>So I said, well, you got to support your family. I'm gonna give you 30 days to get a job. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>So then she's got to come back. And this is why the women complain. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>Meantime, she gets nothing. <v Dana O'Neal>This was this was the summer we spent so much time at the beach. <v Dana O'Neal>This is great ?pans.? <v Narrator>Sophisticated knowledge of the law among professionals and upper income ex-spouses may <v Narrator>make collection even harder than usual. <v Dana O'Neal>It's been six years. And we - it wasn't until very recently that anything's really done.
<v Dana O'Neal>But I think it's unfortunate. <v Narrator>Group member Dana O'Neal says the court finally garnisheed her attorney ex-husband's <v Narrator>salary after arrearages mounted. <v Dana O'Neal>Well, I think so, for the most part. <v Dana O'Neal>Maybe the man who kind of lower on the scale feels that he's supposed to do what <v Dana O'Neal>the court says. Court says you get a pay it, you got to pay it. <v Dana O'Neal>So he pays it. And somebody who's who's a little more with it, particularly <v Dana O'Neal>somebody who's in the legal game, realizes, as the court says something, it doesn't <v Dana O'Neal>necessarily mean that you have to go ahead and do it. <v Dana O'Neal>I mean, you can - you can drag it out or you can just do whatever <v Dana O'Neal>games and strings that need to be pulled and you can really avoid the whole <v Dana O'Neal>thing. <v Dana O'Neal>Eventually, kids are gonna get to the point where they're 18 years old. <v Dana O'Neal>After a while, the courts don't wanna hear about anymore anyway. <v Dana O'Neal>If something hasn't been done, they tend to say, well, wow, that's a lot of money. <v Dana O'Neal>Where is he going to come up with that much money? <v Dana O'Neal>We'll just erase that thing. And you better start paying from this time on, buddy. <v Dana O'Neal>And then it doesn't get paid. This is - God, it had to cost him a fortune, this <v Dana O'Neal>legal maneuvering. It hasn't been cheap for him.
<v Dana O'Neal>I mean, he has to pay attorneys and all of that. <v Narrator>Was it very embarrassing for him as a professional to have his <v Narrator>salary garnisheed? <v Dana O'Neal>Yeah. Yeah, he was really upset. He was really worried about that, that it wasn't going <v Dana O'Neal>to look good for the company. <v Narrator>We asked Robert O'Neal to participate, but he declined. <v Narrator>Over the years, a sense of outrage seems to shift to a sense of defeat. <v Narrator>And yet these women keep trying to collect child support because to stop, they <v Narrator>say, is to deny paternal responsibility. <v Speaker 24>[Sings] The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow... <v Narrator>Elizabeth Carter.
<v Elizabeth Carter>I think that marital conflict is a Ping-Pong game. <v Elizabeth Carter>OK. And very, very often, well, your lawyer only <v Elizabeth Carter>hears the pong or the ping depending on who he's talking to. <v Elizabeth Carter>You know? The judge, well, he's supposed to see <v Elizabeth Carter>the ping pong. <v Elizabeth Carter>But he may or may not, see, 'cause every lawyer will tell you, some judges <v Elizabeth Carter>are very tough and some are very lenient. Well, what does that mean? <v Elizabeth Carter>It means they have an idea of whose side or which cause they're <v Elizabeth Carter>in favor of. And they sort of go that way. <v John Rossler>The rights of the father to be involved with his children is totally ignored. <v John Rossler>He is viewed as one thing, a money machine. <v Narrator>And around the country, fathers are saying that only the ping is heard in the nation's <v Narrator>courts. <v John Rossler>Maybe it's our job and maybe it's our job to convince our legislators that men in <v John Rossler>this country have been discriminated as much as women in this country have also been <v John Rossler>discriminated in the involvement and the nurturing and caring process of our children.
<v John Rossler>And we are more to our children than just money. <v Walter Lippow>The men I know in our organization here, which is Westchester, which is suburban <v Walter Lippow>community. Their life's goal was to get a good job, become responsible citizens, <v Walter Lippow>get a home, bring up a family, not to ever leave it. <v Walter Lippow>They wanted to be in a nest, just as any woman wants to be in a nest, and they feel badly <v Walter Lippow>kicked out of that nest. <v Narrator>Over 135 divorced men's groups have organized under the umbrella <v Narrator>banner of the National Congress for Men. <v Narrator>They legislate for enforcement of visitation rights and push for joint custody <v Narrator>laws. <v Walter Lippow>Joint custody, when it is given to both parents, <v Walter Lippow>they're going back into court to argue about joint custody violations, if there are <v Walter Lippow>any ?inaudible? is one - returning to court is one third less than when one <v Walter Lippow>parent only has custody. And yet there's a constant argument that joint custody <v Walter Lippow>can only be worked if both parties can get along. <v Walter Lippow>Well, both parties wouldn't be getting divorced if they got along. <v Walter Lippow>But if both parties have a contract or joint custody, you live up to the contract. <v Walter Lippow>They way partners live up to it. Partners don't get along but they adhere to the
<v Walter Lippow>contract. ?inaudible? <v Narrator>In New York State, the movement has been growing rapidly and various groups get together <v Narrator>to compare problems and goals. <v Narrator>Compliance with child support orders varies among members. <v Narrator>But unlike fathers who disappear, these men maintain their connection <v Narrator>and stay to fight for what they call unfair treatment of fathers. <v Speaker 25>When child support is meted out by the courts, there is no consideration <v Speaker 25>taken of what the child's needs are, only what they could squeeze out of the father. <v Narrator>Fathers' groups are incensed about Project Intercept, that law that permits the <v Narrator>IRS to seize income tax refunds in AFDC cases. <v Narrator>The President of Equal Rights for Fathers of New York State, John Rossler, has filed <v Narrator>a class action suit in protest and is encouraging other groups to do the same. <v John Rossler>Ability - punitive measures at best are going to be only mediocre in resolving <v John Rossler>the problem. I think what we've gotta do is we've got to look at the reasons of why <v John Rossler>ex-spouses and ex-parents who are mainly fathers don't pay.
<v Speaker 26>You're a visitor, you make your payments, go away and just pay. <v Speaker 27>You know this work - <v Speaker 26>And eventually they just give up because their visitation, if they have a visitation <v Speaker 26>order from the courts, is not enforced either by the local police or by the courts <v Speaker 26>themselves. They don't want to go to the trouble, but they see themselves there as <v Speaker 26>making sure that she's provided with child support first. <v Speaker 26>And that's that's their prime function. <v Phil Newhouse>When we first hit the system, we're told we don't have a chance for custody. <v Phil Newhouse>We don't have a chance for joint custody unless we make a deal. <v Phil Newhouse>So what we do is we negotiate. If we have the wherewithal to pay more money than the <v Phil Newhouse>court would automatically award, then we buy custody, if our <v Phil Newhouse>ex-wife or current wife allows us to. <v Narrator>Phil Newhouse has daughter Rhonda with him about half the time, which he says works well <v Narrator>for them. His support payments, however, are full time obligations. <v Phil Newhouse>Financially, I am obligated to support my daughter the half <v Phil Newhouse>of the time she is here as well as make support payments, which I am <v Phil Newhouse>at this point not current with to her mother.
<v Phil Newhouse>In addition to the obligations that I have here for this half the time. <v Phil Newhouse>Lucky that I get enough cheese for the sandwich with you around. <v Phil Newhouse>You usually eat it all while I'm making it. [Laughter]. <v Phil Newhouse>To make quality time incorporates time as well as quality. <v Phil Newhouse>And to visit your daughter half a day a week or one day a week or some <v Phil Newhouse>such situation to me represented not really being able to be a parent, <v Phil Newhouse>and to me parenting was spending those good moments as well as the bad moments <v Phil Newhouse>with the child and viewing values, spending real time, not <v Phil Newhouse>just entertaining time, not just a Disney World kind of time, <v Phil Newhouse>kind of time that the child sees you cleaning a house or doing dishes or <v Phil Newhouse>cooking or just being yourself, <v Phil Newhouse>reading. <v Phil Newhouse>I don't know what this is. What is that? <v Speaker 28>It's a lilypad. <v Phil Newhouse>Playing games together - <v Speaker 28>What frogs sit on! <v Phil Newhouse>Watching TV together - <v Speaker 28>That's what frogs sit on! <v Phil Newhouse>Ribbit, ribbit. <v Phil Newhouse>And the kinds of things, the kinds of conversations
<v Phil Newhouse>that come up as a result of being together on a casual basis as opposed to <v Phil Newhouse>kinds of forced conversations that come up. <v Phil Newhouse>Well, here we are. This now our five hours to be together. <v Phil Newhouse>What do we do now? How do we catch up with the week's progress? <v Phil Newhouse>What's in your heart? What's on your mind? <v Speaker 28>Dad, do you know what? At my mommy's house, I made all the invitations already. <v Phil Newhouse>Oh, you did? <v Speaker 28>I made the whole list and I made all the invitations. <v Phil Newhouse>Oh, my goodness. <v Phil Newhouse>What day are you having your party then? <v Speaker 28>December 11th. <v Phil Newhouse>At this point, I am considerably behind. <v Phil Newhouse>And the reason I'm considerably behind is because I'm barely making payments on my own <v Phil Newhouse>rent. I assumed all of the marital debts in full, <v Phil Newhouse>which I'm paying off. <v Phil Newhouse>I am literally having difficulty keeping a roof over our heads at this point. <v Phil Newhouse>And I can only assume that that's the reason why my ex-wife has not come after me <v Phil Newhouse>for support payments. She actually did once, but in many, many months she has not.
<v Phil Newhouse>At this point, because I suspect she understands that I just don't have it. <v Phil Newhouse>What was your favorite thing at the circus? <v Speaker 28>The clowns! Clowns. <v Phil Newhouse>What did the clowns do? <v Speaker 28>Sang and did tricks. And the clown was smiling. <v Speaker 28>It's all because of you, the clown told Rhonda. <v Phil Newhouse>The facts as I see them, are that I'm a loving, <v Phil Newhouse>nurturing father of my daughter, that I have her physically half of the time and I'm <v Phil Newhouse>supporting her, I think, in a very comfortable way, not materially comfortable, <v Phil Newhouse>but certainly well above the necessity level in terms of the time I have her. <v Phil Newhouse>I know the perfect place to have the circus, she cried. <v Phil Newhouse>Follow me! Where did she go? <v Speaker 28>The school! <v Phil Newhouse>I mean, I'm caught in a double bind. The double bind is that if I were to turn the clock <v Phil Newhouse>back and perhaps go out and try to earn a great deal more money than I'm currently <v Phil Newhouse>earning, I may not have the amount of time I have with my daughter. <v Phil Newhouse>So in order for me not to be a potentially bad guy in terms of paying
<v Phil Newhouse>or catching up with my ex-wife's payments, it would require us at this <v Phil Newhouse>point taking away time that I would ordinarily be with my daughter. <v Phil Newhouse>The priorities in my life are being Rhonda's daddy number <v Phil Newhouse>one and being a breadwinner, number two. <v Phil Newhouse>All right, Tweety Bird. <v Phil Newhouse>And we're not defending those who want no responsibility. <v Phil Newhouse>What we are saying is you can't separate financial support from physical <v Phil Newhouse>and emotional support. When a parent ceases to be a parent, it follows <v Phil Newhouse>that they will not want to be financially involved. <v Phil Newhouse>What we're talking about is developing and maintaining a system that maintains parental <v Phil Newhouse>support, which includes financial support. <v Phil Newhouse>But stop defining men's parenting roles or fatherhood as <v Phil Newhouse>how much you write out of the checkbook. <v John Rossler>For a year after our separation, we get sole custody because we didn't know anything <v John Rossler>else. And my ex-wife in no way attempted to thwart, deny or frustrate <v John Rossler>visitation. And I can tell you the feeling of second class status of a nothing of a <v John Rossler>parent for now - when I was totally involved in my children, I'm picking them up on a
<v John Rossler>Saturday morning and knowing that Saturday night or Sunday sometime, I had to bring them <v John Rossler>back and I would not see them again. <v John Rossler>I was not involved in the decision of where they're going to school, what they're going <v John Rossler>to take in school. Are they going to go into ice skating this year? <v John Rossler>Is my daughter going to be a cheerleader this year? But of all this stuff, I mean, it got <v John Rossler>to the point, I used to take them - pick them up on a Saturday and a couple of times, I <v John Rossler>brought them back in tears. And it wasn't - it wasn't my ex-wife that did it. <v John Rossler>The system did it. It completely excluded me from any involvement, any decision <v John Rossler>making, any importance in my child's life. <v Walter Lippow>The problem is that two decades ago, it would be settled by a, well, an uncle <v Walter Lippow>on the back porch and take an afternoon to solve. <v Walter Lippow>Now it'll take two years of litigation and two appeals and cost over $40,000. <v Walter Lippow>Whereas we no longer leave ourselves in the hands of our family, in our caring relatives. <v Walter Lippow>But we give it to strangers who have vested interest in their own financial gain to <v Walter Lippow>achieve. <v Narrator>Periodontist Walter ?Lippow? has given up his practice for health reasons and now <v Narrator>lectures part time. With joint custody, his two children live one week with their mother
<v Narrator>and one week with him, second wife, Giselle, and their child. <v Walter Lippow>My financial obligation to my ex-wife <v Walter Lippow>is the same as it would be as if she had the children all the time. <v Walter Lippow>I have to pay support even when the children with me <v Walter Lippow>and I pay the support when the children are with me, which seems strange to be giving her <v Walter Lippow>money while they're living with me, especially since they live with me half the time. <v Giselle Lippow>His children are part of this household now, and therefore my income as well as his <v Giselle Lippow>go for the support of the children. <v Giselle Lippow>I've accepted it. I never really gave it too much thought because if I did, <v Giselle Lippow>then I would just have very deep resentment of the whole situation and <v Giselle Lippow>for the children. And in order to avoid that, I try not to think about it. <v Giselle Lippow>Yeah. <v Walter Lippow>OK. John, you go across. <v Walter Lippow>I'm in arrears at this particular time because I can't possibly
<v Walter Lippow>make the payments that I'm called upon to make. <v Walter Lippow>They were made in a very almost rubber stamp fashion based without <v Walter Lippow>any testimony, just innuendoes that my ex-wife's lawyer said. <v Walter Lippow>And the court just seemed to believe it. <v Walter Lippow>And so I have to show that it isn't the truth. <v Walter Lippow>So it's not a question of even using a strategy of nonpayment. <v Walter Lippow>I can't afford to do it. <v Walter Lippow>And in order to show the court that I can't afford to do it, I have to use Giselle's <v Walter Lippow>salary or parts of it to pay for lawyers to try to show the court. <v Giselle Lippow>I don't like living with these pressures on me. <v Giselle Lippow>It's it's a constant awareness that we have this situation <v Giselle Lippow>to deal with. <v Walter Lippow>I feel helpless in this situation because <v Walter Lippow>there's always the threat of jail. <v Narrator>The court has threatened jail, calling Lippow's nonpayment a blatant disregard <v Narrator>of the law. Support payments were reduced, but litigation continues
<v Narrator>and it doesn't come cheap. <v Walter Lippow>If you think a lawyer is not doing well or a judge is not doing well, all you can do is <v Walter Lippow>appeal it. And the appeals are horrendously expensive. <v Walter Lippow>You're talking about five, six, seven, eight thousand dollars. <v Walter Lippow>We've spent incredible sums of money. I'm embarrassed to say how many tens of thousands <v Walter Lippow>we've spent not to avoid anything, just to create the truth. <v Walter Lippow>And no one seems to want to listen. <v Walter Lippow>I'm not talking about a father who willfully doesn't try to support his children, one who <v Walter Lippow>runs away, we have no sympathy for that kind of person. <v Walter Lippow>But the one who stays as I've stayed, make sure that I'm in the children's life, <v Walter Lippow>to feel in any way that I am not a good father when I'm bringing up <v Walter Lippow>my children, that disturbs me when the court's not recognizing that. <v Phil Newhouse>Well in fact, in reality, some of it is unrealistic at best.
<v Phil Newhouse>A man who's left with three or four hundred or five hundred dollars a month to live on is <v Phil Newhouse>going to take a ?powder,? he's going to leave, if the quality of his life falls too far <v Phil Newhouse>down, particularly in light of the fact that the quality of his parenting life is not too <v Phil Newhouse>great anyway. <v Narrator>The face-off between spouses, followed by the face-off with the legal system, tends <v Narrator>to obscure the fact that child support is about children. <v Elizabeth Carter>They'd say, I shall now dedicate the rest of my life to getting <v Elizabeth Carter>the so and so. I shall now make a shrine in my bedroom dedicated <v Elizabeth Carter>to my ex-husband, and I'll devote the rest of my life to taking him to court. <v Elizabeth Carter>Isn't that wonderful? <v Narrator>Is there a solution? Divorce mediation, a back porch approach that includes a mutual <v Narrator>parental plan for the children, is in the vanguard. <v Narrator>Judge Wattts. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>I consider that the domestic law of the eighties is mediation and conciliation, <v Judge Robert B. Watts>and we have a lot of lawyers and behavioral scientists are now coming
<v Judge Robert B. Watts>into that field. If I was a young man, I'd go into that field. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>I think now people are recognizing the destructiveness of a divorce court. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>It's been described - I remember my favorite expression - a divorce court is a <v Judge Robert B. Watts>destructive arena for the escalation of anxieties. <v Judge Robert B. Watts>And that's exactly what it does. <v Elizabeth Carter>Now, going to court is not particularly a tactic that works, since <v Elizabeth Carter>there aren't jails that are tall enough or wide enough and it hasn't had any effect <v Elizabeth Carter>whatsoever on the rate of compliance. <v Elizabeth Carter>So going to court does make you feel wonderful. <v Elizabeth Carter>And you - and you vent some of your fury and you conduct - you hope you <v Elizabeth Carter>conduct a reign of terror and you harass them. <v Elizabeth Carter>But if we're thinking about getting money for your children, it may not be <v Elizabeth Carter>effective. The most effective technique may be, God forbid, <v Elizabeth Carter>to sort of be relatively civil and friendly with him and <v Elizabeth Carter>get together on a plan and be cheerful about it and friendly and work
<v Elizabeth Carter>out something. <v Narrator>Mediation has its critics. <v Narrator>Former president of the Matrimonial Lawyers of America, Arthur Balbirer, <v Narrator>says that males, usually more conversant with family finances may, during <v Narrator>divorce take advantage of women who don't have an advocate to advise them. <v Arthur Balbirer>Mediation is, in my way of thinking, a fact of life. <v Arthur Balbirer>It is something which is coming and in which, in my opinion, is not <v Arthur Balbirer>in the interests of the public. <v Arthur Balbirer>I personally believe that both parties that are going through a divorce, <v Arthur Balbirer>no matter how fair they may say they wish to be, are to some extent <v Arthur Balbirer>governed by selfishness. <v Arthur Balbirer>The woman wants as much as she can get, but says she wants to be fair <v Arthur Balbirer>and probably does. And the husband says he wants to support his family in the best <v Arthur Balbirer>way he can, but on the other hand, wants to have as good a life for himself as <v Arthur Balbirer>possible. In going through the process of negotiating a resolution, I
<v Arthur Balbirer>personally feel both of these people are emotionally involved, as well they should be, <v Arthur Balbirer>and are not very good advocates on their own behalf in order to resolve this <v Arthur Balbirer>matter. <v Narrator>A new proposal would treat child support as a tax and collect through the withholding <v Narrator>system. This would take it out of the courts and establish uniformity in the collection <v Narrator>system. <v Speaker 29>Would you sign this for me? <v Speaker 30>Sure, right on the X? <v Speaker 29>Yes. <v Narrator>But incarceration or credit card, through the swirl of rage and rhetoric, <v Narrator>the fact remains. Children must be supported and society has not <v Narrator>said it wants to support other people's children. <v Narrator>In 1981, the government picked up 1.6 billion dollars in child support. <v Narrator>This year, child support is due from approximately 4.2 million absent <v Narrator>parents. The message is clear. <v Narrator>Ignoring that responsibility is not a parental option. <v Speaker 31>We can't verify ?inaudible?
<v Speaker>[Song: "Hush Little Baby, Don't Say a Word"]
Who's Supporting the Kids?
Producing Organization
WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
PBS Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"The crisis of unpaid child support is explored in Who's Supporting the Kids? The hour-long documentary explores this monumental problem that has turned fathers into fugitives and impoverished [thousands] of mothers and children. "The motives for non-support are illuminated by personal stories of former families in litigation, of absent fathers and mothers desperate for money awarded [by the] courts but never received." "Footage of a tough family court judge in action is included, as are several proposed solutions to the child support dilemma. The program also looks at ways the government is beginning to crack down on absent, non-paying parents."--1983 Peabody Awards entry form. This documentary interviews speakers impacted by legislation surrounding child support after divorce. The documentary opens with an exchange between Curtis Person, chief referee of the Memphis Child Support Agency, questioning litigants in court. Narrator Carol Cotter introduces Judge Kenneth A. Turner of the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court in Tennessee, who has trained six referees to preside over cases. Curtis Person is seen administering justice to litigants named Mr. Page, Mr. Greer, and Mr. Clemens, all of whom struggle to meet their child support payments and who are threatened with jail. The narrator describes one tactic by the child support team in Memphis, who took out a double page ad naming the 3,200 'worst offenders.? Another tactic employed were daybreak raids in which fathers were awoken in the early morning, questioned, and often jailed for missing their child support payments. The narrator interviews Attorney John Donald, who criticizes what he deems as predatory legislation that targets fathers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who, undereducated and underemployed, become trapped in cycles of debt as they fall behind their child support payments. The narrator interviews Carol Keithley, ex-wife of Wayne Keithley, who is housed and supported by his parents. Carol Keithley is shown working as an administrator at Lausanne, a Montessori school, and teaching piano lessons. Elizabeth Carter, Director of the Family Institute of Westchester in New York, is interviewed and states that research shows that children's coping ability after divorce is often determined by the mother's ability to cope. Jackie Leick, a single mother working under the Displaced Homemaker program and receiving aid under the AFDC program, describes the difficulty of trying to make ends meet while her ex-husband Richard lapses on his child support payments. The court of Racine, Wisconsin dispossessed Richard Leick of his sportscar, a 1978 Silver Anniversary Corvette, to hold it for auction against his delinquent child support. Judge Robert B. Watts of the Baltimore Circuit Court is interviewed calling for the need to reform the child support collection system, which he describes as lacking manpower and funds in packed courtrooms. The narrator describes Project Intercept, a new federal program that allows the IRS to withhold tax refunds if the recipient is behind in child support payments, which at the time only applied to welfare cases. Ruby Williams, a participant in the Organization for Enforcement of Child Support owed $7,000 by her ex-husband Nathaniel Williams, describes her struggles raising five children alone. One of her children describes his role in supporting their family. Ruby Williams decries the system as not taking nonsupport cases seriously. Linda Seward, another participant in the Organization for Enforcement of Child Support, explains the difficulty of needing to lose a day's wages in her commute from Hartford County to Baltimore County to attend court proceedings. Judge Robert B. Watts criticizes the burden that repetitive court proceedings places on plaintiffs of nonsupport cases. Dana O-Neal, another member of the Organization for Enforcement of Child Support, explains that the court garnisheed her ex-husband Richard O'Neal's salary after several years of nonsupport. Elizabeth Carter notes that judges? bias tends to sway the result of contentious court cases. The narrator interviews members of the National Congress for Men that advocates for enforcement of visitation rights and joint custody laws. John Rossler, president of Equal Rights for Fathers in New York state, describes his role as convincing legislators that men have been discriminated against in divorce cases and filed a class action suit in protest of Project Intercept. In a meeting, organization members complain that visitation rights are contingent on the ability to pay higher child support payments and that these cases heavily favor mothers. Member Phil Newhouse is shown caring for his daughter and describes the difficulty in both having joint custody of her daughter while being expected to pay high child support premiums. He emphasizes his desire to forego a higher paying job in favor of having more time to spend with his daughter. Another organization member, Walter Lippow, and his current wife Giselle Lippow describe the financial burden of having both joint custody and child support payments on top of the costs of litigation and appeal. Elizabeth Carter describes the difficulty of divorced women devoting their lives to taking non-paying ex-husbands to court. Judge Robert B. Watts predicts that the next chapter of domestic law is mediation and conciliation, which he hopes will be an alternative to a divorce court, 'a destructive arena for the escalation of anxieties.? Elizabeth Carter states that, although court is an emotionally satisfactory outlet for many, a more effective technique for actually receiving child support payments is to maintain and cheerful and friendly relationship to one? sex. Former president of the Matrimonial Lawyers of America, Arthur Balbirer, criticizes mediation as not being in the interests of the public, given that both parties going through a divorce are to some extent governed by selfishness, and states that participants in mediation are often not good advocates on their own behalf. The narrator ends the documentary stating that in 1981, the government picked up 1.6 billion dollars in child support, and that in 1983, child support was due from approximately 4.2 million absent parents.
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Producing Organization: WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
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Wisconsin Public Television (WHA-TV)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-db781375737 (Filename)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:57:10
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-9b2663c1ea5 (Filename)
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Chicago: “Who's Supporting the Kids?,” 1983-07-07, PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Who's Supporting the Kids?.” 1983-07-07. PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Who's Supporting the Kids?. Boston, MA: PBS Wisconsin, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from