Questions For Public Officials Regarding Michigan's Friend of the Court

Doug Dante Tuesday August 25th, 2009 I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. If you believe these are interesting questions based on reasonable information, then please feel free to ask these questions of public officials, including FOC workers, Judges, Public Attorneys, Michigan Congresspeople, Michigan Senators, or any statewide elected official. These officials often appear at public speaking events. If you do, please let me know what they said. Each of these questions intentionally mentions the FRC yahoo group. A couple of these questions are redundant, because they're intended for different public officials acting in different capacities. Please be aware that there is some evidence of racketeering and other possible criminal activities at the FOC. Appearing to criticize the FOC in a public forum, even when asking an honest question, could bring participants in the system consequences for their political speech. According to some members of FRC, they believe that even being associated with parent's rights advocates has caused them unnecessary difficulties with the FOC. Yes, I believe that, if true, these alleged actions on the part of FOC could be violations of citizen's first amendment rights.

Child Support
#1: When a FOC support specialist "runs the numbers" and hands me a filled out form with his/her support calculations, how can I believe that they are accurate, given that a support specialist in a major Michigan county admitted under oath that he/she didn't follow the support manual, used numbers that he/she may have known were wrong, and "... also went on to say a great deal more that proves that FOC is putting their thumb on the scale", according to a message on the online FRC yahoo group which seems to be a legitimate first person account, and other evidence of possible fraud in support calculations? (FOC records are for members only, but the message was ID #23705 if you are a member) FOLLOW UP: Why can't I see a line by line breakdown of the calculations, so that I can confirm for myself, using the manual or independent software, that they are correct? What is the purpose of hiding from me and my child the calculations for parenting time offset, deductions for retirement account contributions, income offsets for other children, etc, etc? #2: FOC's internal "2008 Changes to the Michigan Child Support Formula" says that they have abandoned "automatic imputation", and will impute based on "actual ability and likelihood of earning". This is a great change of policy, but sorely overdue, because from my reading in FRC yahoo group, it looks like the precedent demanding this change was from Ghidotti V Barber, a 1998 Michigan Supreme Court ruling, from ten years prior. If my child and I have been harmed because the FOC previously violated Michigan law over the past ten years by automatically imputing my income, how do I retroactively modify my obligation to reflect the actual application of Michigan law and the best interests of my child? #3: I have read on the FRC yahoo group e-mail list that some Michigan courts may openly ignore their legal obligations under US Code TITLE 15 > CHAPTER 41 > SUBCHAPTER II > § 1673. Restriction on garnishment and MCL 552.608 Limitation on amount of income withheld, and refuse to limit their garnishment orders to aggregate disposable earnings not to exceed 50% for payors with spouses and other family members, 55% for payers without, and 60-65% for payers who are in arrears. Do you recognize that Michigan and federal law limits your garnishment orders? Do you also recognize that state and federal law forbid other mechanisms to collect the remaining income of payers, including demanding monthly checks, when § 1673 says: "No court of the United States or any State, and no State (or officer or agency thereof), may make, execute, or enforce any order or process in violation of this section"?

Parenting Time
#4: I heard about something odd while reading the FRC yahoo group. Does this office force parents who are seeking parenting time enforcement to request a parenting time modification, and then sometimes use that request to reduce the amount of parenting time that they have with their children? If so, why can't parents request enforcement without the risk of losing time with their children? Isn't that kind of like punishing parents who want to have a relationship with their kids?

Child Custody
#5: MCL 552.23 provides the 12 child custody factors. Factor (c) is: "(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs." I understand that this is sometimes interpreted to mean that parents who have low incomes cannot have a court ordered joint custody arrangement, because they don't have the means to provide the child with two bedrooms,

two sets of toys, etc. Does this court or the FOC have a minimum income that it uses below which it will not generally recommend joint custody? If so, what is it? FOLLOW UP: In the case of two parents of modest incomes, particularly when one is on welfare, who want to have a substantially equal joint custody arrangement, does the court force or discourage them from making their own agreement for substantially equal joint custody? FURTHER FOLLOW UP: What part of the law permits the court to overrule the constitutionally protected fundamental liberty interests of two fit parents who want to make decisions about the best interests of their child, and why do the needs of the state trump the fundamental liberty interests of two fit parents to care for their own child in the manner that they see fit? FURTHER FOLLOW UP: Does it concern you that given the lower incomes of African American families in Michigan, and the fact that more mothers of any race or ethnicity generally get custody more often than fathers, that this rule, for many African American fathers of modest means, essentially means that the court is saying that it is illegal for them to spend significant time with their children in Michigan? Are you aware of the studies that indicate that father involvement improves child outcomes, reduces the chances of criminal activity by children, and are you aware of the many detrimental child outcomes, including high dropout rates and high unemployment rates, are substantially higher in many poor African American communities in Michigan? #6: As you may know, a statistical analysis of the most recently available child custody recommendation data from the Michigan Friend of the Court published on the FRC yahoo group shows vast disparities between the likelihood that a man or woman will get sole custody or joint custody of his/her children in differing counties in Michigan. For instance, of the more than 100 fathers who received custody recommendations in Livingston County, 63% were given recommendations for sole or joint custody. Similarly situated fathers in Wayne county only received such recommendations 12% of the time. How can we believe that the fourteenth amendment due process rights of these fathers and mothers to the care and custody of their children (Troxel V Granville) when we see that a county line appears to make a father more than 5 times more likely to spend a significant amount of time with his kids (And a mother, similarly less likely)? FOLLOW UP: Given the unequal distribution of people by race and ethnicity throughout the various Michigan counties, even if people of different races and ethnicities are treated identically in each county, African American fathers are only about three-fifths as likely as White non-Hispanic fathers to obtain a recommendation for sole father or joint physical custody. Do you think that such significant differences in outcome based on skin color can exist in a system that fully protects the fourteenth amendment due process rights of parents to the care and custody of their children? FURTHER FOLLOW UP: To the best of my knowledge, there are no public, direct, ethnicity or racial comparisons of custody recommendations. Would you support making and publicly releasing such comparisons? Given that the SCAO (State Court Administrative Office) has apparently violated Michigan law by not releasing a new statistical supplement since 2003, would you support laws making the release of such data mandatory, and requiring strict

adherence to Michigan law by the SCAO?

Public Safety
#7 According to the online FRC Yahoo Group, at least one member reported a child support specialist in a major Michigan county who admitted under oath to regularly apparently ignoring Michigan law and apparently manipulating the child support formula, to the detriment of the welfare of the children, and in a manner which benefits the bottom line of the FOC. How can we enhance public safety by protecting parents and children from these ongoing and apparently criminal activities? #8 As you know, many studies have shown that father involvement reduces the chances that a teen will commit a crime. African American teens without involved fathers are at a significant risk of committing crimes. However, their fathers are often restricted from being a part of their lives via a child custody decision. According to a study published online and discussed on the FRC yahoo group, these African American fathers are only 3/5ths as likely as white non-hispanic fathers to receive a recommendation for sole father or joint physical custody. How can we enhance public safety and reduce the teen crime rate by making sure that African American fathers get a fair shake in Michigan's courts?

Here is a follow up question that I might ask, particularly if I know that the public official to whom I'm speaking has been informed of these issues in the past, and has, in my opinion, not acted in an effective manner to serve the public interests and investigate or stop any activities which I may feel are violations of the law, violations of constitutional rights, or inherently wrong based on my religious beliefs or my personal conscience. It is important to understand that the elected official may not share my beliefs, and be respectful and tolerant of his/her differences. #9: Are you affiliated with a political party? Has anyone in the leadership of that party or anyone else, including a lobbyist, urged you not to investigate these matters, including possible criminal activity in the Friend of the Court or possible violations of parent's constitutional rights? If so, who is it and what did they say? #10: Does your employer (e.g. Courts, Prosecuting Attorney's Office ) receive funds via Title IV-D or through contracts with Michigan's Title IV-D "agency", the Friend of the Court? If so, can you describe how much those contracts are worth to your employer? Given your financial conflict of interest, will you work to appoint a reputable and independent individual not affiliated with you or any other Title IV-D organization to review these serious matters? If not, why do you feel that your financial conflicts of interests do not prevent you from impartially acting in the public interests in these matters? (if applicable) Why did you not act since being informed of (whatever it was) on (such and such a date)? Follow up: If the person indicates that they refuse to answer: So if a party member tells you

to look the other way while crimes are being committed, your position is that you will do that, or you may already be doing that but won't tell your constituents?

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