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Do parents accused of owing child support get a fair shake?

A pair of critics say that the child support laws, as well as the way they are adjudicated, are unfair in Florida. They recently demonstrated outside the Highlands County Courthouse to make their case.

Among their objections is a component of the law that allows the court to suspend the driver's license of a non-custodial parent who has fallen behind on child support payments. They contend that depriving parents of their driving privileges makes it difficult for them to get to work, or find a job, to earn money so they can pay the back support.

Beyond the law itself, the pair, an activist and a father, say that the system does not give parents accused of owing child support a fair hearing. The father owes more than $56,000 to a teenage daughter in another state.

He has been to several hearings on the matter, and said that the hearing officers who have presided over his case have treated him rudely. He said they have asked intrusive questions and routinely interrupt him when he tries to answer.

Such treatment is not uncommon, according to his ally, a local advocate. She said she has attended many such hearings, and has witnessed hearing officers that seemed to be prejudiced against the non-custodial parent.

Falling behind on child support can be difficult -- especially for the child and custodial parent, but for the non-custodial parent as well. He or she may intend to keep up on the payments, but cannot because of a job loss or other financial reversal. Sometimes, a level of child support that made sense at the time is no longer appropriate. Parents may be able to get the court to make an adjustment up or down.

Source: Highlands Today, “Protests held to highlight child support laws, hearing abuses, organizers say,” Pallavi Agarwal, April 11, 2014

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