Some things just go on and on and on…

Like this posting to my Blog…

Below is what I sent off to the OCSE(Office of Child Support Enforcement). Admittedly, it does seem like it goes on forever at times. It could be worse. You could be reading the actual OCSE documents. That is some snoozy reading.

Please feel free to go to the OCSE website and offer your on comments on this issue. Every comment matters

Take Care

DougO

1/14/2015

Before I begin my comments on the proposed changes of the child
support laws, I would like to sincerely thank the OCSE for the
opportunity to do so. It is my hope that the volume of documents that
I am presenting to you is not overwhelming. I am including these
documents on an enclosed CD, as they are too voluminous to print. Much
of what I am sending you are the court documents pertaining to my case
as well as the accumulated postings to my blog. The postings relate to
my dealings with the Family Court system, and as such, relate to what
I am going to commenting on today. I am including a short introduction
of where my case is currently and where the most recent conflicts
arose. I only mention this as it serves as a context for the comments
that I will be making on the various sections of the law under review.
I certainly apologize for the lateness of this submission. I believe
that you will understand the reasons for the lateness after you read
the introduction.
I will endeavor to keep my tone civil and respectful. As you read
through my various court documents and blog postings, you will see
that often the only tone and tenor that I can muster is one of disdain
and disgust. Please realize and understand that these words are born
out of 14 years of deep and profound frustration with the California
Family Court System.
My own situation is currently stable, yet tenuous. While I am in
complete compliance with all of my Child Support obligations, I had to
fend off two unwanted intrusions into my life by the California
Department of Child Support Services(DCSS). One was an unjustified
attempt in November 2014 to suspend my California driver’s license.
The other was a bank levy that was imposed upon my account that
removed all of the funds from my checking account. Fortunately, I was
able to beat back these illegitimate actions. At the risk of seeming
paranoid, it has been challenging to contend with a bureaucratic
entity that constantly seems bent on “getting me” even though I am in
complete compliance with my financial child support obligations. This
partially explains why it took so long to submit comments to the OCSE.
The fact that I did not hear about the call for comments until just a
few days ago, also had an impact. Honestly, I do believe that a more
robust effort could have been made to let the primarily impacted
parties, namely custodial and non-custodial parents, know about this
comment period.
As you read my blog postings and my court papers, please keep in mind
that these declarations are submitted under oath on pain of perjury. I
take the possibility of committing a felony very seriously. These
declarations are accurate and true.
Before I get into my comments of specific sections, I think that I
should give a bit of background on the nature of the comments
themselves. As you will read, my comments concern the “big picture” of
the section under consideration. I am more concerned with the overall
intent and effect, and not so much the specific word or comma
placement. Also, for the purposes and benefit of those being most
impacted by the actions of the OCSE, I would suggest creating a more
“refined” or “dumbed down” verision of the changes under
consideration. I believe such a document would make this process much
more approachable and open for those being effected. Also, while this
task might be rather cumbersome and overwhelming, I would suggest that
whatever changes the OCSE is contemplating, be explained in the
context of the individual state implementing the changes. I live in
California. I would find it useful to know and understand how the
changes that the OCSE is contemplating effect the legislative statutes
of California.

That being said…

SECTION 302.32: COLLECTION AND DISBURSEMENT OF SUPPORT PAYMENTS BY THE
IV-D AGENCY

As a noncustodial parent(NCP), I have never known the state of
California to have a problem collecting money. Whether it is through
wage garnishment or simply using their bureaucratic overreach to seize
funds in my personal checking account, they’ve always been very good
at collecting the money. There is one slight exception: when I make
the electronic payment to the CA SDU through my bank, it can take 10
to 14 for that payment to post. That is unacceptable in this day and
age. I have gotten around this deficiency by making the payments
directly through the SDU website. I have no idea how well they
disburse it. You would have to talk to a custodial parent for that
perspective.
Tracking the funds that I pay and having them credited to my account
balance is another story entirely. I find the CA SDU and CA DCSS to be
utterly incompetent and malfeasant in the execution of their fiduciary
duties. How else could you explain the audit that I endured in the
Spring of 2013. An audit of my Child Support payments account informed
me that I was almost $4500 in arrears. This after almost 5 years of
statements from the DCSS stating that I was either ahead or on time
with my payments. In fact, the DCSS even sent me checks for
overpayment of my account. Please see the court-filed declarations and
exhibits for more detailed explanation this point. Suffice to say, if
an entity in the private sector were executing their fiduciary
responsibilities in such a grossly malfeasant way, I would be suing
them in civil court …and winning. I will touch on this again when I
comment on section 307.11
Finally, I will say this here, but it applies to many of the other
sections that I am commenting on as well. In addition to collecting
funds from the various cources, the DCSS collects data as well. They
know where I work, my bank accounts, my court case number, my social
security number,  driver’s license number, etc., The list goes on and
on. Up to this point, it has been my position that the access the DCSS
has to this information has been used to control and abuse
non-custodial parents. If the OCSE is genuine and sincere in its
intent for the NCP to have at least a basic “subsistence” existence,
then perhaps this information could be used as a red flag to DCSS
caseworkers. These red flags could serve as an indicator to the case
workers that basic subsistence levels are not being met for the NCP
and that action needs to be taken.

SECTION 302.56: GUIDELINES FOR SETTING CHILD SUPPORT AWARDS

From many perspectives, this is the crux of where my comments lie. I
can only speak to the situation in California, as that is where I
reside. The focus of guideline Child Support can be found in Section
4055 of the California family code.  Also, on the DCSS website, there
is a very useful if NOT comforting child support calculator. The
information is there. I had a rather disconcerting experience when I
ran 2 different scenarios through the calculator. I currently earn
approximately $30K per year. I am including printouts of the
calculations that I have made. In this scenario I am paying 20.4% of
my pretax income in Child Support. Please keep in mind and acknowlege
that these Child Support payments are still taxable income and that I
would be paying 5 to 10% more in taxes on top of the child support. I
ran two other scenarios. The first being one where I changed one
variable: income. I raised it to $100k per annum. The amount of
monthly child support due was $1214 per month. This constituted only
14.5 % of income in that scenario. I was appalled. Not only does the
$30K scenario NOT take into consideration basic subsistence needs of
NCPs, it is profoundly regressive when compared to $100k scenario.
Also, I ran the scenario as it was up until January 23, 2014 when Joe
Ricketson, my son, “aged out” of the system. The monthly child support
amount was $816 and it constituted 33% of my pretax income. It boggles
my mind.
At this point, I have to turn my attention to the concept of
subsistence living. Granted, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, one
of the most expensive places in the universe. That being said, I make
a minimal wage for this area. Now having read through the OCSE
proposal, I found nothing but vague references to what a “subsistence”
wage actually is. I do not know. I can tell you this though: based
upon my income level, according to the Affordable Care Act(ACA) I am
entitled to a rather substantial subsidy on my health insurance
because of my low income. FYI: these subsidies begin at approximately
$46K per year or $23 per hour on a 40 hour work week. This is just my
opinion, but I think that the CoveredCA folks have a pretty good
handle on what constitutes lower or lower/middle income in the context
of the SF Bay Area. Maybe to OCSE and the CA DCSS should consider the
CoveredCA analysis in determining what constitutes a “subsistence”
wage.
I would like to conclude the comments on this section with some
perspectives on the concept of subsistence living. It begs the
question: is that really what you want? Don’t you want to create an
environment where NCPs thrive? A rising tide raises all boats.
Shouldn’t the OCSE be creating an environment where NCPs thrive and
grow, not just subsist. Ultimately,… ideally, this scenario will
create a circumstance where the children benefit from an economically
viable and stable Non Custodial parent.

SECTION 303.3: LOCATION OF NONCUSTODIAL PARENTS IN IV-D CASES

In a way, I consider this section to be a big joke. Not to be
disrespectful, but as I explained in an earlier section, the DCSS
knows everything about me. You should be able to find me pretty
easily…or any other NCP that wants to live a “legitimate life.”  I
define this “legitimate life” as one where I use my actual SSN, I have
a bank account in my name, I can and do file taxes. You get the
picture.  I am not a problem to find. Who you are really looking for
are the individuals who operate in the underground economy. I don’t
have any real suggestions for you on this front. I am surprised that
this is an issue of much consequence for the local child support
agencies given their penchant of utilizing very invasive method of
enforcement available to them. Anyone is findable, given the resources
that are at the disposal of the local child support agencies. It would
seem to me that the OCSE and DCSS should focus on the monitoring of
individuals off the economic grid, not “legitimate” NCPs who are
simply trying to make their Child Support payments.

SECTION 303.6: ENFORCEMENT OF SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS

My comments and my sworn to experiences attest that the DCSS has more
than enough means or tools to enforce payment for NCPs. What the DCSS
need is more discretion, perspective, and restraint in how they use
these tools. My experiences are documented proof that the CA DCSS acts
in an overzealous manner in how they use the enforcement tools
available to them. There has to be some consequence for these
unjustified and excessive acts.

IV. SECTION 303.8: REVIEW AND ADJUSTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS

The included court documents go into great detail about my efforts to
adjust my child support obligations and the length of time that it
took to accomplish this. I am asking that you review the chronology of
my case as validation for this point. it bears repeating considering
that it took me almost 4 years to accomplish a simple modification to
my child support obligations.
In fact, I was only able to finally get this situation considered when
I appealed to my elected representatives at the time and they
intervened on my behalf.
It should not be this difficult to get modifications on child support
amounts. This needs to be addressed and streamlined.

V. SECTION 304.20: AVAILABILITY AND RATE OF FEDERAL FINANCIAL PARTICIPATION

For this section, I am including a copy of the California State budget
that spans from the 2013-2014 fiscal year to what is projected for the
2015 – 2016 fiscal year. I fully acknowledge that this document is not
the perview of the OCSE, it rests with the California state
legislature. That being said, this is a Billion dollar budget. Perhaps
it is my ignorance of the process, but I find much of what is laid out
in it, oblique and indecipherable. There are, however, 2 areas that
are very readily apparent to me: 1) there is quite a bit of federal
money going to this agency…easily ½ to 2/3 of the budget comes from
federal sources and 2) that this agency is going through an
unprecedented and unjustified personnel expansion which will make this
agency even more expensive in the long term
Admittedly, I understand that I need to be asking these questions of
accountability and transparency for this agency to my state
assemblymember and state senator, but it begs the question: as the
DCSS’ largest funder, aren’t you interested in where exactly this
money is going? I am hoping to get a more detailed accounting of where
exactly these tax dollars are going. Of course, as I said above, I am
going to need contact my local representatives to pin this down.

VI. SECTION 307.11: FUNCTIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR COMPUTERIZED SUPPORT
ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS IN OPERATION BY OCTOBER 1, 2000

Based upon my experiences in my 2013 audit, my personal opinion is
that the accounting systems are woefully deficient. Please see the
.pdf of my blog posting for full details of what I experienced during
2013. It could just be me. I could just be an aberrant, outlying
anecdote that is reflective of nothing.
I don’t think so.
The article below by Lisa Vorderbrueggen details some of this problems
that have been happening in Contra Costa county. Unfortunately, this
was a statewide phenomenon as well.

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   12/22/2011 07:01:10 PM PST0 Comments | Updated:   3 years ago

Hundreds of parents in Contra Costa County who owe child support could
have a nasty surprise waiting for them.
The county’s Child Support Services Department has switched computer
systems four times in 10 years, and in the transitions, some parents
were never charged interest.

Until now.

The county is cleaning up old cases, and where audits reveal late
child support payments to which no interest was applied, the county
will add it to the parent’s bill.

It could add up to thousands of dollars.
Just ask James Coe of Antioch.

In July, he owed $1,842.
After the audit, he owed $55,806.

“I’m 63 years old and on Social Security disability,” Coe said. “I’ll
be dead before this is ever paid off.”
His July bill does contain an asterisk next to the $1,842, which
referred to a footnote: “May not include accrued interest.”

They weren’t kidding.

Coe had stopped paying for his two children in mid-1991 when he says
he suffered from bipolar disease and couldn’t work.

He applied for disability, but it took years to secure it. He didn’t
start paying again until late 1999, when the county began taking $216
a month out of his $1,200-a-month disability check.

Coe didn’t know it, but the interest clock started ticking in 1991 at
a rate of $150 to $250 a month. A parent owes interest only on late
child support payments, and there is no time limit when it can be
collected.

Coe’s two children are in their 30s. His ex-wife receives the money.
“I know I owe the money, but to get a bill like this is a heck of a
final note to your life,” he said.

The glitch started with the county’s original 1983 computerized child
support collection system. It was the state’s first such system, but
it couldn’t calculate interest.

The county’s second system, installed in 1998, included the feature,
but the law required staffers to audit every individual case before
flipping the interest calculation switch, said Peggy Hawkins, chief
assistant deputy director of the Child Support Services Department.

“At the time, we had 70,000 cases, and there was no way we could
perform a financial audit on every case,” Hawkins said.
All California counties in 2008 moved to a centralized child support
payment computer system.

The interest glitch has surfaced elsewhere, but Contra Costa has had
more trouble because it had to import data from the old computer
system, said a spokeswoman for the California Department of Child
Support Services.

In the meantime, Hawkins’ staff has been chipping away at the audits.

Hawkins has about 1,000 remaining cases that date back to the pre-1998
computer system.
She estimates it will take about six months to finish the audits.

She doesn’t know how many parents will find themselves in Coe’s
position. The details of each case vary, and privacy laws preclude
releasing information about individuals.

“It is unfortunate that we didn’t have the ability to turn on the
interest in the past,” Hawkins said. “The new system is doing it
automatically. But we really want to work with parents. If they find
themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay their child
support, we urge them to contact us.”

I took a look at the OCSE website in search of documentation on how
well the state of California implemented their payment automation
system. I was not able to find what I was looking for. I do recall
that the state of California had many problems implementing their
automated payment systems. As the above article illustrates, the DCSS
is still having them, and NCPs are paying the price.

CONCLUSIONS

I really need to draw these comments to a conclusion as time is
running short to get this in the mail for submission. Let me
reiterate, I am very appreciative of this opportunity to submit
comments on the problems that I am experiencing with the DCSS in the
state of California.
The OCSE holds a unique position in that it is one of the few
entities that can actually hold any sway over this out of control
agency. The OCSE holds this position because much of the funding for
the DCSS comes from federal sources.
I applaud the perspective of the OCSE that there needs to be a basic
level of subsistence for noncustodial parents. These efforts and
perspectives need to go further and recognize that as NCPs grow and
prosper, so do their children.
As I write these words, the irony is not lost on me that none of what
is under consideration will affect me. I will be done with this system
by the time any of these reforms even hope to be implemented. I make
these comments because it is the proper thing to do, and I sincerely
hope that change can occur where change is so strongly needed.
While these comments are intended for a federal body, the OSCE, the
oversight of the recipient agency, the DCSS, falls to both houses of
the legislature and the executive branch of the state of California.
In every district in this state there are individuals who are being
abused by DCSS. The legislators have an obligation and responsibility
to represent the interests of their constituents by reigning in this
out of control agency.
As I live in California, I can only speak to my experiences with the
DCSS here. This state agency is the empirical example of the problems
with over reaching, over expanding bureaucracy. Truly, if they were
performing their function in accordance with societal needs, their
effectiveness would be growing and their size would be shrinking. In
fact, the opposite is true. This is a bureaucracy, like so many others
in government, where they have become an end unto themselves. Their
original purpose, while needed by society, has become secondary to
their own self-promulgation.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my comments on this
critical issue. Please feel free to contact me at any of the contact
points below

Douglas O. Ricketson
ricketsondouglas@gmail.com
510•417•0923
751 Smith Ave.
Pinole, CA 94564

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