My name is Vanessa Blais, and I have the most convoluted child support story I think anyone is ever going to hear. I was married to a good man for nine years. We had a very nice life and we were good friends. But no matter how hard we tried, we just were not in love. And so, we split up. It was very amicable and we were in no rush to get divorced.
Along came the love of my life. He wanted a baby. He insisted. When our son was 18 months, Dear Old Deadbeat Dad joined the military, against my wished. When our son was 22 months old, Dear Old Deadbeat Dad, walked out, leaving us destitute. I was also 2 and half months pregnant with our second child.
Because I was still legally married, the state of Florida considered my husband the children's father. But child support enforcement did not file for a paternity test. Instead, they advised me to get divorced. I did. I brought the divorce papers back to the agency and was told to wait. Four months later, I go back, and I am told that the wording in the divorce papers is not good enough. It only excludes my ex husband as the 'biological' father, and not the 'legal father'.
So, six months later, when my ex husbands lawyer FINALLY gets the papers done RIGHT...
The boys father is ACTIVE DUTY in the US Army National Guard.
HE is protected from a paternity suit under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1949. Now there are exceptions to this, but Child Support Enforcement is just going to use it as another reason to stall taking any action.
If I want any real action, I need to find the loopholes and file the suit. I had a couple of 'free consultations' with attorneys, but they don't actually tell you what the plan is to get over the hurdles, they sell you on providing a retainer fee to them. So I had to start digging. One attorney even told me that we could 'fast track' the case by asking to go before the General Magistrate. Turns out, he was either wrong or lying. Thank God I DIDN'T have the $4,000 this guy wanted for the retainer fee.
I even went so far as to post on the lawyers.com message board. What a disgusting joke that board is. The first lawyer who responded to my question replied with santctimonious disdain for me because I didn't get divorced before I had my son. The second lawyer to reply replied with 'you have a lot to overcome, I suggest you get the retainer fee together.' And finally, a third lawyer told me that I had to 'reopen the lawsuit.' He was referring to my divorce and finally said it had to be 'modified.' I guess he meant, change the wording. That would have ended the 'legal father issue' but I still didn't know what to do about the 'Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act" that the children's dad was using to shield his responsibilites to us.
Finally, yesterday, April 24, 2009, I called the General Magistrate and asked them what to do. It took the "20 Questions Game" but I did finally get the answers. So, here is 18 months of research struggle compressed into EXACTLY what you need to do get that child support.
1.) Make a list of the problems
2.) Call every single family law attorney in town, and set an appointment with every single one of them. Take your list of questions, and ask every question of every attorney. Write every answer down.
3.) Visit your local law library. Ask the law librarian for help researching cases with problems like yours.
4.) Call The General Magistrate
5.) File the papers yourself. Don't depend on Child Support Agencies or DCF. They do not have your best interests at heart. They have their own job security at heart. The longer your file sits on someone's desk, the more demand there is for their jobs.
6.) Use the power of the pen. Write to your local newspaper about any legal barriers that are getting in your way of collecting child support. Write to your legislators and your state representatives.
Mom's need to get proactive about child support. Lawyers wrote laws to make it so that enforcing something so basic as 'parental responsibility' will costs thousands of dollars in reatainer fees, something a single mom rarely has.