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Lobbyist Money Help  

Visitation Rights Lost Under Bill

February 24, 1998
By: Natalie Myers
MDN Columbia Bureau

The Missouri Social Services Department recently began enforcing the law that takes away the drivers licenses of parents whose child support payments are behind.

State Representative Carson Ross is introducing a bill that would toughen the penalties.

The Blue Springs Republican says, "If passed into law, my bill would allow one parent to withhold visitation rights from the other parent if they weren't current with their payments."

A St. Louis resident is skeptical of the reform. David Usher says that when he fell behind in payments that the state did not want to know why, but was more concerned with whether or not he had paid.

"I feel like the state's message to me is 'You are not a father-just give us some money."

Usher believes the absence of fathers is one of the great social problems in American society.

He says, "When you destroy a child's relationship with a parent, you also destroy the child."

Melanie Evans, a counselor with Youth Services of Tulsa, says that it is important for children to have regular contact with their non-custodial parent. Youth Services is a branch of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Evans says, "Not only does it punish the parent when you restrict visitation, it punishes the child. Although the intentions of the state are to help the children, the children become the victims in this situation.

Usher agrees with state legislators that there must be some consequences for deadbeat parents, but he does not agree with recent reform measures. He believes the courts have latitude regarding child support issues and there is no need for the government to formalize solutions.

The Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement handles more than 300-hundred-thousand cases each year. Out of the one-billion dollars the court orders in annual child support, only 300-million dollars is actually paid.

Teresa Kaiser is the director of the Missouri Division of Child Support Enforcement. She says only one-fourth of child support payments are collected regularly and reforms help the state collect more money.

Kaiser says,"We don't want to punish the individuals who aren't making payments. We just want to give them an incentive to work out some type of agreement. However, I don't know that restricting a child's relationship with a parent is the best way to achieve this."

A state House committee is reviewing the bill.