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A Simple Apology Would Have Been Enough

Dear Source:

Amazingly enough, when I use to drive past the Division of Paternity and Child Support in Estate Glynn, I would feel a sense of pride; pride knowing that I was one of those non-custodial parents who attended to their obligations.
Even those ladies in the Post Office where I obtained the Postal Money Orders and Express Mailed my obligations stated that they wished that more parents acted the way that I did–this went on for years. I would more often than not feel proud although I was somewhat saddened that I did not often see my child. Now, I am afraid that resentment and disdain will occupy the sphere of my realm whenever I drive by, or am somehow reminded of the above entity. All when a simple apology, maybe even a retraction would have prevented these unfortunate feelings.
Recently, I was contacted by telephone by a representative from Paternity and Child Support on St. Thomas and told that my ex-spouse had requested back child support which was in dispute because she did not have custody of our daughter at that time. The representative stated more than once that she didn't understand why there wasn't an order attached to all this, that it was merely a request. I politely and willingly furnished this representative all of the information that I had, and also that I had supporting documents in writing. The representative explained that a request for a hearing would be sent within days, and to contact the numbers on the request. The amount was relatively small, and I looked forward to clearing the matter up.
What came next dissolved whatever understanding I had of this unfortunate incident…Two letters came in, one describing that I was nearly $50,000 in arrears in Child Support the other describing that unless certain steps were taken, that within ten days Credit Bureaus would be notified of my supposed arrears. All this without due process, without court order, without even a hint of what my rights are. My feeling went from one of polite cooperation to one of bewilderment and then anger.
I called the representative on St. Thomas–they chuckled that a mistake had been made. No explanations, No apology. "Oh, and by the way–I forgot to mention that your ex-spouse states also that your child is in school until 2009 and wants an additional year of child support past the age of eighteen." (My daughter graduates on this June 17th by the way).
By now, traumatized, bewildered and very apprehensive, I call the Glynn Office of Paternity and Child Support to try and get in there to rectify an already out of control incorrect process–the phone doesn't work. I get to the office (after spending a long time copying every one of those Postal Money Orders) and am informed that I am very close to garnishment because of my supposed arrears. Oh and yes– the amount is clearly wrong–again no explanations, no apologies, no hearings, no due process- no court orders–just go to collections. Further calls to the Case Worker who originated the request in CT confirmed that it was merely a request and that the amount was inflated by more than ten times the amount requested and that collections were not in order. I can just imagine what the CT Case Worker felt when I faxed the documents I received…I really believe, that in at least my case, this type of behavior is wrong and unwarranted.
How many other non-custodial parents (ones that have met their obligations) have felt the brunt of this heavy-handedness? Don't make any mistake–those who do not pay their obligations are dead-beats and should be afforded their due, but not all of us who have disputes are wrong, and we should be treated with dignity and respect. A simple apology would have sufficed.
Make no mistake, those dependents who are denied their do instruments of support need a zealous defender who brings forth remediation in a swift manner–after due process and order has been applied. I take great exception to the grievous error which has clouded my mailbox even after I did my best to cooperate. Our children would be better served by saving the over-zealous, forced-fed and heavy-handed remedies until after due process has sowed its proper course.

Joseph P. Stropole

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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