Arthur Dennis’ Views on Weah’s Child Support Allegation

arthur_dennisChild support in the United States is enforced by Federal and State Laws. The major Federal Child Support legislation was enacted on January 4, 1975.

In 1992, the Child Recovery Act was enacted to make a Federal Crime for people who willfully failed to pay a past-due child support obligation exceeding $5,000 for more than one year. A violation of this 1992 Act is a criminal misdemeanor, bearing a penalty of 6 months in Prison and a monetary fine, depending on the circumstances. If Senator Weah did not pay child support for over a year and the amount owed is $5,000 or more, Senator Weah can only be held for child arrears, not Child abandonment.

In 1998, U.S. Congress passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act to punish child support for longer than two years, exceeding $10,000. The penalty is two years in prison and a monetary fine depending on the circumstances. In the United States, if the child is in the care of the mother, the father is required by law to pay monthly child support; but if the child is in the care of the father, the mother is required to pay monthly child support.

Under the 1998 Act, the term “Deadbeat” refers to a father or a mother who failed to pay child support for two or more years. Deadbeat dad or Deadbeat Mom can also be labeled as AWOL dad or AWOL Mom. Meanwhile if Senator Weah has made some payment within the two-year period, he is not a Deadbeat Father as far as the Federal Deadbeat Law is concerned.

Another important issue that can be raised in this matter is Senator Weah is a Liberian, not a U.S. Citizen, and lives in Liberia. Deadbeat Laws apply only to U.S. Citizens, not foreign citizens residing outside the U.S.

On November 23, 2007, the United States and 26 countries signed a Multilateral Child Support Treaty called “Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and other Forms of Family Maintenance.” The primary purpose is to extradite deadbeat parents who owe child support in member states, including the United States. To be a Member, the state must have an enforceable child support law. But as we speak, Liberia is not a member to the Hague Convention.

Therefore, we do not know the international enforcement protocol used to back the warrant for Senator Weah to appear in the United States for hearing. However, this question can be addressed by Senator Weah’s Attorney.

In contrast, the 50-state Child Support laws in the United States vary in contents and enforcement. In Georgia, for example, failure of the father or mother to provide food, clothing, money, and medical insurance or extend visitation to the child for 30 day period constitutes a criminal offense of “Child Abandonment.”

However, the good news is, the new child support guidelines in Georgia empower the court to reduce the monthly child support of people whose monthly income is $1,850 or less. Georgia also has family mediation programs statewide to address child support issues and other family matters.

Meanwhile, in the United States, every child who is in the custody of a low-income mother or father receives full welfare support such as rent subsidy; cash income; monthly food stamp; medical care; free education up to certain levels, depending on the state. The custodial parent can also use the child to claim income tax; for example, Weah 10-year old child worth is $4,000 or $5,000 in yearly income tax. Besides the State and Federal welfare benefits, this is the cash money Senator Weah’s child mother is supposed to receive yearly in child income tax.

Therefore, some of us really do not know the motive behind the child support allegation and noise publicized in the press. However, over past decades, Child Right Advocates have succeeded in forcing State and Federal and courts to decriminalize child support and utilize their family mediation programs to keep families together, not break them apart.

Therefore, if by any means Senator Weah is required to appear for hearing, he can use the Mediation Programs in Georgia to settle the matter. There are also free legal service providers in Georgia to represent people in need.

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About Cholo Brooks 13510 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.