Court Battle Royale: Part 3

The Problem with the System

Our court systems have flaws, and while our government does it’s best to fix those flaws, or at least we hope it does, nothing is perfect. In this spirit, I thought I would address one of the most significant flaws I’ve encountered in family court. While I am speaking about Missouri, where I live and have had all my legal battles, it may apply to other states. I have a sinking feeling it does.

The biggest problem I’ve found is access to the legal system. Here’s what I mean. If a parent is entitled to a change in child support, you have to go through the courts, and a judge has to decide your case or approve what lawyers have worked out for you. This takes months. Then a judge gets to determine whether the requesting parent is entitled to back child support. All the while, both parents have to pay lawyers and court fees.

I’m sure most think that it seems logical that a judge or lawyer is needed to determine what amount is fair. In Missouri, however, the amount of support is granted based on a standardized form. It’s literally fill in the blank. There is a little wiggle room on numbers here and there, but if each party is required proof of income, those problems can be mitigated.

Sure many people navigate this route. They hire lawyers, settle or go to court, but what about those parents who can’t afford it? What do individuals who can’t afford to hire lawyers to do? If I didn’t have a massive credit line, I wouldn’t have been able to fight my ex. I would have had to settle for whatever he offered as far as visitation so that I could get the increase in support I’m owed. Yes owed. He makes three times what I do and got a $250k pay raise when he finished residency. I haven’t seen one penny extra in almost 1.5 years because I’ve been in court.

My case isn’t abnormal. I know someone who’s been in court for two going on three years now. It’s not necessary. If the required increase in pay is met to warrant the support, it should be a simple process. In this age of webforms and e-filing, it seems reasonable that these forms can be submitted online with proof of income and any other supporting documents. They pay a small court fee and get the new order.

With a streamlined process, parents with the lowest incomes that need an increase in support the most would be able to get it. Many parents go without for years at a time, if not their child’s whole life, because they can’t afford the lawyers to go to court for what they are entitled to.

To me, it seems like a simple solution to a major problem.

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