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Its official. America is now a police state!

By GuruOfDos ·
Summarising the background as quickly as possible for those who don't know: Me Brit. Wife American. Live in UK. Have 4 month old baby.

Wife has two children from her 'previous' life, 14 and 15, both have been resident (adopted, even) by wife's parents since birth. As wife's parents have needed help from the state (NY) with benefits, NY state decided to take wife to court last year for back support.

No issue with this....a parent is obliged to support her children. I do with my children from my former marriage.

But....the judge decreed $50 a month and backdated the support to 19** and the arrears instantly total $7500 odd.

The court order states payments from now on of $50 a month ongoing, plus $25 a month towards the arrears. Not much, but it's based on my wifes income which is precicely zero. The law states that the minimum support is $50 a month, whether you have $50 a month or not!

Here's the deal. At arrears of $450, they revoke your recreation and drivers permits. No problem there...she had her NY licence revoked years ago and now has a full UK drivers Licence which they can't touch. Above $500, the account is handed over to the IRS so that they can intercept Federal and State tax returns and refunds. No problem there...she doesn't pay taxes in the US or live there anymore! They also report to credit agencies....fine, but US and UK agencies do not have common files or share information. Her credit is good here at 'home'.

Now, should the arrears exceed $5000, which they do (did I mention they slapped her with $7500 instantly?!!), they then automatically notify the US State Department and prevent renewal of or application for a passport. Not only that but if you attempt to enter or leave the USA, your passport will be taken from you there and then. The idea being, to prevent you skipping the country if you owe support.

So....we want to visit family in NY. I'm a Brit and can come or go as I please for 90 days on an IA-94 visa waiver...I have a machine readable UK passport. Our daughter is also British and the same rules apply. The wife however, will have her passport revoked the minute she sets foot off the plane. She has nowhere to live over there (the parents don't have room), no job, no belongings other than what she can carry on a plane, and no money to speak of. I'd then have to return to the UK with my daughter.

Now the US government's idea is that by detaining her in the country and preventing her from leaving, she will somehow 'magically' be able to pay off her support. Meanwhile I have to return to the UK, minus one wife and mother. The fact that I'm paying off the arrears...stipulated by the court at $25 a month some $75 a month (I'm not made of money...I have to pay my own support and support 'my' family!) is neither here nor there. If she was 'detained' (trapped would be a better term), I'd then have to come back, and funnel what I'm paying towards HER support obligation, AND SOME, into childcare for my daugther while her mother is unable to return to the UK.

Does it not make logical sense that someone residing abroad, and who IS complying with (and bettering) the court order should be allowed to travel freely and return to their home, rather than prevent her returning and actually LESSEN her ability to have her support paid by me??!!!

I have tried EVERY source I can find and even telephoned the CSE agency and State Department in the US, and no one can find any rule or law that covers this scenario.

It seems we have two options....either wait to travel until the arrears are cleared (5-6 years maybe?!!) OR she has to apply for British Citizenship (which she is eligible for as she is married to a Brit and has been resident here for over three years). That takes time and costs about ?214 (US$350)...perhaps 8-10 months for naturalisation then another month for a British Passport.

When she does finally get a British Passport, because it will not be biometric (the UK won't introduce those until at least 2006) she will have to apply to the US Embassy in London for a visa, costing ?64 ($110).

In the mean time, the parents can't get to see their daughter, son-in-law or new baby grand-dauhter, and we can't visit family who we haven't seen for over a year.

I know the US polices it's own citizens to death (that is the purpose of the Social Security Number!), but isn't this going a little 'too far'?!!!

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Clarify the premise

by maxwell edison In reply to Its official. America is ...

Early on you said that your wife's parents adopted her children, their grandchildren. Adopted is the key word here, and you said that they were adopted since birth. (There's a difference between "being adopted" and "having custody".)

I'm no lawyer, but I would think that any person who gave up their children for adoption would be free from any support obligation, past, present or future. I suppose I could be wrong, but I don't think so. How can the state of New York, or any other state, for that matter, hold a person financially responsible for a child given up for adoption? It just doesn't make sense.

There seems to be something missing here. I'd consult an attorney who specializes in American adoptions.

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by jkaras In reply to Clarify the premise

I'm not sure Max but, she wasnt orphaned, but her parents were given legal custody like a ward. The attempt to adopt was internal and merly paperwork due to being of the same family rather than some other family. It's far easier to adopt within rather than the typical way most people go through adoption. I think because of this the parent is still connected to the child rather than sealed records and ordered to stay away. This relationship remains connected so I believe there is still proper care responsibility in it's mumbo jumbo. I could be wrong cause I'm only guessing but I have had friends who had adopted family members as well as just adopted who later find out where they come from.

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by GuruOfDos In reply to Clarify the premise

The parents effectively have court-awarded custody....the kida are not actually LEGALLY adopted. It makes a succinct difference and I apologise for the confusing intro.

The issue is not one of child support avoidance, far from it! Willful failure to pay support is a criminal offence and as such, if she 'willfully' avoided payment, this would be the outcome. We are (I am) paying the monthly due amount from the date of the judgement AND paying off more than the arrears obligation of $25 a month.

The issue is one of falling neatly into a gap in the statutes! I can understand why detaining a citizen within the US borders by revoking their passport could be used as a tool to prevent a person skipping the country and thereby avoiding support payments. Au contraire, my wife has attended hearings (by telephone from the UK), accepted the lawful judgement and with my assistance has complied as best as she can with said judgement.

If a person lives and works in the USA, then by all means keep them in the country if skipping abroad may be an issue. It may also be assumed that if a person is in arrears in excess of $5000 and manages to find the money for a plane ticket or a holiday, then perhaps that money would more properly be used for paying off some of the arrears.

My wife however does NOT live or work in the US, and has no plans to return there to live. She is happily settled here in the UK and this is our home. But, she still has family there and it is only right that she should be able to visit her children, parents and family from time to time.

The court have acknowledged that ours are not normal circumstances, but the law is there to prevent Americans leaving...effectively restricting them to where the government can keep their eye on them.

Although my wife is American, and acknowledges juristiction of the US Family court in awarding a support order (a process known as long-arm) because the children reside in NY State, she was a former resident AND the children were born there, what she fails to understand is that the law takes no account of non US residents, and insists that if they return to the US for a family visit they are 'detained' by the revocation of their passports.

This is effectively TELLING my wife that she WILL leave her home, daughter, husband, friends and life behind should she wish to visit her family and effectively become a 'prisoner' in the US until the support is paid off.

Like I said, as it stands this could take a few years! In the meantime we cannot visit!

We were told that if we did visit, so long as we only dealt with airline staff and didn't bump into any State Department officials, we would probably be alright as an airline worker has no power to confiscate a passport.

Yeah, right!

Every plane leaving any country in the world bound for America has a complete passenger list and details of passport numbers etc., forwarded to the US State Department and has to be approved before the plane can even take off....just look at BA 223 from London to Washington DC last was delayed four times because the State Department wasn't happy about passengers passports.

Like I mentioned in my original post...US citizens are 'imprisoned' at birth by their Social Security doesn't matter that you marry, change your name or whatever. That SSN is inextricably linked to absolutely EVERYTHING that an American does in life. You can't even get a phone service or electricity supplied to your home without it, so no matter where you go or what you do, the Government have their eye on you!

The support computers notify the State Department automatically of arrears in excess of $5000. That data which includes the SSN is flaged up on a Passport Name Watch List...but names have NOTHING to do with it. It's all done by SSN! When you apply for a passport, you have to supply your SSN. An American cannot apply for ANYTHING without one. As soon as the MR passport is swiped at Heathrow, that data marries up with the data at the State Department, and then the 'men in black' are waiting at the airport. End of story!!!

So, in 10 or 12 months time, my wife will have a British passport. This doesn't have any SSN or anything 'encoded' into the machine readable data...we Europeans don't have such things!

The US Immigration Law states categorically that any citizens with dual nationality, as will be her case, MUST enter the US on their American passport. OK, they revoke it...and then she tries to leave on a British Passport, as is her right as a British Citizen. Only, the US State Department have no record of her entering the country on that passport, and there is no IA-94 visa stamp in the passport. So then all **** breaks loose and she will be arrested, detained and held pending investigation. I know this to be a fact as it happened to a co-worker of mine only a month ago who also holds dual nationality!

Whichever way you look at it, there is a big gap in US law which simply does NOT allow for our circumstances. But where there are no gaps, the law is sewn up tighter than a ducks ***!!

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On child support

by maxwell edison In reply to Apology

Even though your wife "owes" child support, whether it be for past or present obligations, the person to whom she "owes" the money could file a motion in the courts releasing her from any and all financial obligations. Even though it appears as though the courts are going after your wife, they never would have started the process in the first place unless another person, her parents, I presume, filed the initial papers seeking financial support. It seems to me that the villain here, if there is one, is her parents, not the courts. (Not to suggest that American courts can't be a "villain".)

As far as the rest of your comments, I agree with some, disagree with others, some to a greater or lesser degree, and I may or may not comment on them. Social security numbers, for example, are indeed abused and misused used as a quasi national identification number, a pet peeve of mine to be sure. (It would take some time to develop my thoughts, and I'm rather busy lately.)

Good luck to both you and your wife.

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Whoa mate

by jkaras In reply to Its official. America is ...

I am really sorry to hear about your dilemma. The law was meant to protect the disadvantaged from the estranged family member that might be hiding money or jewlery in a safety deposit box or anything else that only could be retrieved personally. Also due to be abroad it's the only way to maintain compliance with the order to resolve issue. It cant discriminate whether or not the person responsible has money or not, it has to be treated evenly.
My brother got involved with a lady who had two kids and an absent father that worked overseas because he made an s_load of money for his work.
Being a rather bright guy he saw the writting on the wall that the marriage was about over began to slowly weed out the accounts and open offshore accounts that couldnt be proven. He did this to get a better deal in the divorce forcing her to accept what he gave rather than what she needed to take care of the children leaving her high and dry with little money. The lawyers couldnt do much as it dragged out due to abroad status. Before the final court date my brother ended the relationship so I dont know what the final outcome was, but she definitely got the short stick, all because of the complications of different countries avoiding the responsibility.

It sucks when laws made to protect and help you have that loophole that gets exploited, especailly when there is elections around the corner that prompts people in charge to throw the book rather than use it responsible. To tell you the truth the only issue I can think of to help is contacting the New York Post or the Times with your story. If they are going to play the election game, why not you? Awareness that there is a New Yorker who for the good of her children gave them up to her parents and now trying to help assist with what she can is getting denied the right to see her family. Any politician will most likely want to grandstand for a little press that they care about the little guy since many people have broken marriages and have issues with child privledges. Hopefully this helps and wish the best. Keep us informed on the status.

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About Politions in General

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Whoa mate

When they are running for election they tend to promise you the earth and when elected do bugger all.

Well at least thats been my experience of Politions from both sides of the fence over a 20 year period when election time rolls around they are all helpfull and nice but the moment they get elected they just do not have the time for you to even see them let alone do anything about what you originally approched them about.

A group I was involved with some 10 years ago made some very well thought out suggestions on "Child Protection" to both State and Federal Governments all of whom thought them great ideas and all of whom promised to impeliment these ideas as soon as elected. Well guess what nothing happened until now as there is a Federal Election coming up latter this year I heard the current Government offer the very same suggestions that we gave both them and the other side of Politics all those years ago.

The actuall paper that they released was even the same as the one we presented but naturally enough the organisations name had been removed from the bottom of the page. If only I had of thought to put a watermark through the page at least then they would have to have retyped it instead of just cutting off the bottom two lines and releasing it as their "New Policy."

I still have the copy here archived on HDD and I draged it out just to compare the two and they are exactly the same if only I knew then that one of my printers would have ended up being used to promote a political party I should have asked for a fee for my efforts.

I suspose it isn't all that hard to see just why I hold politions in such low esteme after all they did promise to impelment these suggestions ASAP and a little over 10 years latter release the very same proposals as their own ideas after a lengthy and costly tax payer funded investigation.

Personally I would not trust a polly as far as I could kick one and that's not far at all.


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Knee-Jerk legislation

by TheChas In reply to Its official. America is ...

I don't think the US is a "police state". (Although the "Patriot Act" brings us closer than ever!)

What we do have is legislators that respond to highly publicized situations and create poorly written laws to address that situation but fail to account for the situation of the average citizen.

As to the Social Security Number;
It is ONLY supposed to be used to track wages and tax compliance. Far too many companies use it as a mandatory identifier which has the consequence of making identity theft much easier.


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And those companies include....

by GuruOfDos In reply to Knee-Jerk legislation

Utilities, DMV, US Passport Issuing Agency and virtually every government department you can think of. On every court paper we have for support, my wifes divorce, and virtually everything, you are REQUIRED to provide the SSN. It's NOT optional!

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Last time I looked

by Oldefar In reply to And those companies inclu ...

It is optional to provide the SSN. Included is a comment about impacts from not providing it, such as delayed processing. Most people choose (key word) to provide to avoid the hassle. This is covered in the Privacy Act going back to 1974 or 1975.

Now regarding your situation, I noticed in your original post that your wife has failed to provide support going back to 19**. This makes the problem self inflicted in my estimation. While I applaud you and your wife for your efforts to correct this now, and I empathize with the impact on your family, I cannot see why the government of New York (which is providing financial assistance for your wife's children through the taxes of New York residents) or the federal government (which also provides funds used by New York to support children through the taxes of US residents) are somehow the bad guys. Had your wife paid to support her children the back support would have been less and the problem might not exist.

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Isn't that a bit Simplistic Oldefar

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Last time I looked

From my reading of the original post it was originaly a "Family Issue" and if the woman wasn't able to offer any child support it appears to me that it was a family decission.

But then some years latter a Law was passed which threw all this into turmoil and threw the baby out with the dish water. The fees that where imposed by the court where mandatory and the minimum allowed. So it appears to me that the Presiding Court Official {Judge or what ever) depending on how this was heard seem to have acknolledged the existing problems but has his/her hands tied in what they could do about the current situation. The person in question oppeted to impose the minimum allowed payment possible but this by the Law had to be backdated to the early 90's. When any form of retrospective legislation is introduced it is only because the current government thinks that it will save them money aqnd has nothing to do with right or wrong only what is politically expident at the time.

Anyway would you care to explain how you get blood out of a stone to me?

If the person has no income they can not pay the imposed bill and if she was living in the USA would be free to visit her children whenever she chose to without paying a single cent to do so. However it is discrimation in preventing a person from returning to a country and here I do mean any country and then refusing to allow them to leave again.

If this was to happen no doubt she would end up recieving Social Security and be a further drain on the US economy and she would recieve a payment as well as an allowence for any children she was legially required to support. Sorry but the whole thing seems self defeting to me and makes absolutely no econimic sence but then again what do you expect from Politicions?

Common Sence certianly isn't one of those requirments to enter into political office.

Something similar happened in the UK several years ago and a British woman who screwed a 16 year old boy as a "Birthday Present" here in Australia and got pregnant returned to the UK and had the child was quite happy until the child turned 14 years old an a new law was passed where the parent was required to support the child and that 16 year old who by then was in his late 20's early 30's who knew absoultly nothing about this child was then ordered to pay all the back child support. Of course being an international rulling he wasn't obliged to pay the money but if he ever visited the UK he could be prevented from leaving there until the money owing was paid although I think if this was ever appealed it would raise some interesting questions and have some interesting legal implications.


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