Testimonial From A Parent Paying Support – the following letter was sent to the San Joaquin County Department of Child Support Services in August of 2018. The letter has been shortened and edited slightly in the interests of space, but all words are those of the writer.
My name is Emily, I was married for 10 years and the primary breadwinner for our family. After my divorce in 2004, I was the custodial parent and sole financial provider for our two daughters, as my ex-husband was unable to obtain financial stability. We lived in the state of New York.
In February 2010, there was a change in custody and support when our daughters were 12 and 14 years old. I have not seen or heard from my children or their father since that year, despite clearly written orders for visitation and parental involvement in their education, health and medical decisions, and extra-curricular activities.
I was laid off in mid-August of 2010, and lived for nearly four years without any income, moving four times before finding permanent employment. I continued to be held liable for the original New York child support order. As a noncustodial parent living out of state, I was a “revolving door” in the New York Family Court, with various scheduled appearances and trials in the attempt to be granted a downward modification. My ex-husband was a no-show every time, but the same judge always favored the custodial parent. My ex-husband had actually moved out of the area, but our case was always scheduled and heard in the original county of record.
My local Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU) and the state Child Support Office didn’t offer an avenue to speak with and/or easily correspond with an assigned CSEU agent. When I called the county toll-free number, the recorded message instructed the caller to dial the state capital in Albany. Its recorded message instructed the caller to call their local county office phone number, creating a vicious cycle with no answer, no information, no guidance and no help.
In 2018 I retained an attorney in New York to assist me in ending my monthly child support payments, since my oldest daughter is 23 years old and my youngest would turn 21 in October 2018. I experienced complacency, indifference, misinformation and prejudice as a noncustodial parent with an arrears balance, and was hopeless, frustrated, and unable to gain clear answers or receive guidance.
In 2012 when I moved to San Joaquin County, I came to the attention of enforcement agent Linda Lavow as a result of my out-of-state arrears, now over $50,000. Despite her focus on collections, Linda Lavow and I have established an untraditional relationship which I treasure. Linda PICKS UP HER PHONE. Linda RETURNS CALLS. Linda ANSWERS QUESTIONS and KEEPS ME INFORMED. Linda COLLABORATES. Linda has been able to explain my legal rights and my support and medical orders and has gained my hard-earned trust over the years. I have found that where attorneys or the Family Court misinform, Linda always clarifies; I have a clear understanding of where I stand every step of the way. My mistake was to put my faith in the attorneys I thought I had to retain to end my monthly child support.
Linda is wonderful to collaborate with and always provides certainty in the form of clear answers. She demonstrates each time her level of knowledge with items that parents would perceive as difficult to interpret or understand. I appreciate Linda very much for her abilities, her time and her attention to my case.
In New York I never achieved enforcement of any written order for support and/or visitation as a custodial parent. I never achieved timely financial relief as an unemployed noncustodial parent during the down economy and though Linda was able to negotiate a one-time payoff on the arrears balance accrued, it wasn’t cost effective to pursue — in my time to deal with the move of court venue or to incur more attorney fees. I would like to personally thank Linda Lavow and Sharon Covello of the Department of Child Support Services in San Joaquin County. I am a noncustodial – and alienated – parent with an arrears balance, yet they treat me with respect, with understanding and offer their time and talents to address my needs and help. As my assigned agent, Linda continues to be my only lifeline for correct information and guidance. I look forward to sharing the moment with her when I pay my arrears balance in full and we celebrate a zero balance together.
Linda, thank you: for picking up your phone, returning my calls, answering my questions, keeping me informed and collaborating with me.