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I know they're supposed to be illegal, but society has found some ways around that. The bottom line here is that I may be going to prison not because I've done anything wrong or deliberately committed a crime, but because I've been poor and very, very unlucky... and I know I'm not the only one. I know what kind of scrutiny and harassment writing this may invite, but there is a terrible meme in the nation right now that must be dissected and expunged if we are to move more toward being a more fair and civilized society.

That meme is that 'poverty is a choice'.  

After I explain, I know how easy it will be to tell me I 'could have made better choices'. Believe me, I know that. But the choices I made at the time were reasonable choices. Many people have made many of the same choices I have made and managed to do well by them. So the choices I made were reasonable, but things just didn't work out. In retrospect, I could have done things differently of course, but I did not have the luxury of foresight at the time.

As with many forms of injustice, the path to the simple truth is complex. My life has been anything but simple these past few years, so please bear with me.
My wife of 7 years left in late 2008. If I had known why she was leaving, I would never have let her take the children with her. I'd just landed a great job doing home performance auditing. The days were often 12 hours long, so it made sense to let her take the kids with her 'to her parents'. I figured she'd get over whatever it was, we'd talk, and she'd be back on the inside of a month. But she wouldn't talk at all about why she was leaving. I suggested counseling, she refused. I tried to get it out of her, told her there was nothing we couldn't work on or fix. Nothing. I found out the truth later: she met a guy who inherited a VERY lucrative manufacturing business from his famous industrialist father. He promised her everything, and she took him up on it. Right when it looked like I'd finally be able to take care of everything, the floor dropped out from under me. It wasn't the first time, it wouldn't be the last. It might not have been so bad if it weren't for horrible sense of betrayal. The anguish of finding out that every promise to weather hardship, to love forever, and every card and letter iterating devotion and support was a lie was unbearable. The agony was like a scarlet flow of magma filling my head and washing away all comfort and respite from the realization I had been deceived so profoundly and personally and for so many years. I didn't sleep, my job performance suffered, and I lost the job. It was my responsibility to distance myself from my anguish and not let it affect my work, and I failed. In truth, I hadn't been doing that badly on the job, but I think the owner of the business saw my internal conflict and it colored his impression of me for the worse. It's hard to blame him, it was a difficult time. I had been with someone who worked very hard at pretending to be someone they weren't. The real her gladly abandoned the commitment and responsibility of her marriage in order to live without the inconvenience such commitment carried. She couldn't very well tell her new boyfriend it was his money she found most attractive, so the role of scapegoat/bogeyman/deadbeat was superimposed upon me in order to quell reservations he may have had about her motives. Twelve months, one disinterested attorney, and a generous helping of perjury   against me later, I was on the bad end of a divorce. I tried to get the kids back, but even though I had a (different) decent job, I also had a penis. In family court in Erie county New York, such a thing counts as two strikes against with no balls. I know that men are partially to blame for the generally anti-male sentiment in family court, and it makes me furious when I hear about men who skip out on their kids and deliberately withhold support. But given my experiences, and there are some stunning examples among them, it's not a far stretch to imagine that the court tends to vent its frustration with them on men who are trying very hard to do the right thing. Which brings me to why I may be going to jail without actually or deliberately having committed any crime other than being broke.

I fell behind. I was ordered to pay child support. I was fine with doing so. Sure, she and the children lived on a half-million dollar piece of property the boyfriend 'bought' from his father (drove a hard bargain, I'm sure), she had a late model Cadillac at her disposal, and a brand new $2000 cat. Yes, that's “two-thousand dollar 'C'-'A'-'T'”, as in fur, claws, nasty temperament and the litter-box scent as delightful as having rancid corn-dogs jammed up your nasal passages by a skilled proctologist (Don't get me wrong, I like cats enough, but the kids tell me this one is a pissant). I also had and continue to have severe reservations about the sorts of activities that she might spend the money on. If the reputation of the boyfriend indicates anything, my reservations are valid. So even though she and the children had everything they needed and then some more, I signed the papers for my job to deduct money out of my pay every week to the tune of $150.

Over the last few years, things have not been very peachy. While working, I found myself going deeper into debt and poverty. One job I lost through an amazing piece of bad luck where I was let go in such a way I could have sued the bejeebus out of the company but did not realize it until the company ceased to exist. I bounced through a few sales jobs where some weeks would be great while others saw the entirety of my pay going to my ex. I sought stability: the one thing I have striven for over the last several years, and the one thing that has been cruelly snatched from my fingertips time and again by events beyond my control far more often than my own blundering. The events often were of the sort you'd expect to see happening to some tragically unlucky fictional character, but happen they did. I take some small comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in that regard. I'm certain I'm not the only one with aspirations and the desire to improve the lives of others. I have book projects I haven't the stability or guarantee of income to finish, inventions I haven't the money to patent, and business models I haven't the resources to realize. I have very little doubt that escaping the 'broke trap' will give me the opportunity to bring about at least a modicum of prosperity to more people or help improve the disintegrating national discourse, but such stability is being held by a pernicious brunette in a blue dress, and no matter how many times I fall flat on my back, I can't help but get up and take another run at it.

My misfortune created gaps in payments and the debt accrued. The last blow, however, was by far the most heartbreaking and among so many other unfortunate coincidences, it bore the worst possible timing.
In January of last year, I had a sales job that required providing my own transportation. It was very promising, as so many other opportunities seemed to be. Also, I enjoyed it. I was selling a service I personally loved door-to-door. I know that some salespeople can be obnoxious, but I wasn't the stereotypical salesperson. I was never really pushy and I really wanted people to try out the service because it just kicked butt. I did pretty well the first couple weeks. Then, a disaster hit: the timing belt on my car snapped.
Normally that isn't a big deal, unless you're driving a car with what's called an 'interference engine'... as  I learned my '00 VW Jetta had. In that case, absent proper timing for a few moments, the valves get banged up by the pistons and you might as well replace the head. I didn't have enough to take it to a garage, so I taught myself how to replace the head on a VW Jetta. The extra money I made from those very few weeks of work was just enough to buy a head and a gamut of tools necessary to swap it out. In one sense, I was pretty lucky; my buddy is a mechanic the way TV's “Monk” is a detective. He can look at a running car at 50 paces and tell you the ratio of lefts to rights you've turned that day and how many milliliters of oil are missing from your engine. He happened to be storing many of his own tools in my garage. He promised that he would help me with the repair. What actually happened was that he'd stop by some 3-4 days after I'd call him with a stop-me-in-my-tracks problem, point, laugh, and make me feel stupid about missing something obvious that would otherwise have reduced a monumental obstacle to a bare nuisance. I don't blame him, really. His job was a 24 hour on-call affair and he really didn't have a lot of time. He actually did help quite a bit, but not terribly often. It took me 3 weeks, a fair deal of sweat, a pint of blood that could have gone to better causes, and some of the most foul admonitions of 'Ze Germans' who I had little doubt designed the car while snickering at all the clever ways they could stymie or otherwise injure an amateur mechanic with the audacity to attempt repairs himself.
Did I say 3 weeks? It was... except that I didn't have a torque wrench. When you tighten head bolts, don't guess at the torque pounds. So one puddle of oil and antifreeze in the driveway and 4 more days later, I had a car again. Until the next problem.
I'm not going to account for every single one, so I'll just say that mostly car trouble made my work routine highly inconsistent. I tried using public transportation to reach the field, but it just didn't turn out to be realistic. Again, looking back, I could have done some things differently I'm sure, but even now I can't think of anything that would have seemed reasonable at the time. Not enough money, in this case, meant 'not able to make enough money'. After a final 2 week hiatus from the field at the end of last summer, I called to let my office know I was available again. They had called a week before, there was some phone tag, and then nothing. I just didn't hear back. I figured that they'd just written me off. So I decided to do something very, very difficult: beg my parents for help.
They are not rich. They were hit by the economy like everyone else. But they've had enough good fortune that they were willing to put forward a meager investment to help get a business up and running. They made payment directly to a bank and an insurance company to get us started. Even though things didn't work out, I appreciate that they showed some faith in me, and it crushes me that I failed them.
Again, the short version is that I entered into an agreement with my friend the mechanic to run a roadside operation. There were only a few steps to getting things up and running, and getting coordinated with him was quite a challenge. We had a reasonable expectation that we would be up and running within only a few weeks. I expected obstacles, and there were plenty, but more than any reasonable expectations would account for. Between the difficulties of getting him to stop by and sign this or that form or document, his soon-to-be ex hiding the titles to the vehicles and raiding the bank account he set up, a mysteriously duplicated Dunn and Bradstreet number I had a nightmare getting to the bottom of, and a dozen other issues with his employer, weeks became months. From when we started in November '11 to mid-January, the whole thing became a more massive uphill battle than anticipated. Meanwhile, back in the fall of '11, the ex filed a petition for willful violation of a support order because I simply didn't have the money to pay her. I never tried to have my obligation reduced because I was intent on catching up and making payments. My actual income was comprised of HEAP benefits to help with utilities, $60/week I receive in child support for my son from before my marriage, and help from friends and family to cover bare necessities. I scraped like mad to make sure that when the kids were with me, they had everything they needed. Meeting an obligation of $150/week was simply not possible. In December, I remember holding a $10 bill, looking at an empty fridge, and still sending it to her. I had to starve so she could feed her $2000 cat. I reluctantly applied for food stamps after that. The business was the only thing that was going to get me out of the hole. I looked for other sources of income from short-term work. I even considered the ironic notion of doing something illegal in order to avoid jail, but it's just not in me to be deliberately criminal. Instead, I put my faith in getting up and running.
In January, my friend gave me some of the best news possible. He had left his roadside job due to an intractable relationship with his boss (one of the setbacks we experienced) and started working out of a garage being run by an acquaintance. He'd been there a week and managed to negotiate a deal with the shop owner where we put his assets in and would be given a share of the business. Then, at the behest of his wife, the owner decided that he was going to move to South Carolina and let us run the business.
I went to work at the shop. With the insurance paid on his tow truck, all we had to do was wait for a replacement title to get it on the road. Meanwhile, we were running the shop! My friend had single-handedly improved the reputation of the garage in a very short period so business was picking up. He gave me a brief overview of how things ran and I took to it like breathing. I had enough sales and marketing background to draw on and he had enough shop expertise that we were looking at a very good year. The numbers were excellent. Even at the competitive rates we'd set, the shop would take in between $5000 to $10,000 per week with only two extra part-timers. The expenses came nowhere near that. Not bad. We had plans to invest in new lifts and do lucrative performance work. I was looking forward to the trial set in March that would determine whether my inability to pay was 'willful' or not. I knew that by then I would have been able testify that I'd made higher payments and would be able to eliminate the arrears in a relatively short period of time. I was walking on air. That lasted from Tuesday, January 18, to Friday the 21st at about 3pm.

I'm not telepathic, but I wish I was. If I were, I would have known that the lease for the shop was coming up on February 1st. I would have known that the owner had not informed the landlord that we were taking over. I would have been all over that... if I had known sooner than Friday. Apparently, the landlord agreed to lease the shop to another business. I found this out just after I ended a conversation with my mother about how well everything was going and how we planned to come by The Cape in the spring to visit. My friend told me. The owner didn't even try to undo the deal or anything. I don't have many kind things to say about the man, so I won't say anything here.

'Crestfallen' carries barely a shadow of the meaning and volume of what I felt. I couldn't cry, I couldn't even laugh as I've become accustomed to at such turns of events. I focused. He and I talked about another garage that was being leased. It was a good one, but we didn't have the money. I put my poor Jetta up on Craigslist in the hope that we could get the money together. I had many calls, but no offers close to what we needed. For two weeks, I tried to light a fire under him to pool what limited resources we had and get that space. But he was dealing with his own divorce and his soon-to-be ex was taking the advice of her mother to be as unreasonable as possible no matter how much harm it caused everyone, including herself and their children. Then, in early February, he gave up. He did partly on the advice of his attorney not to 'create' new assets to name in the divorce, but also because he became daunted by the risk a new location carried. It didn't help that another buddy of his was closing a shop due to losses either.

Another dream curb-stomped.

In the few weeks before the trial, I put out resumes and applications to a couple dozen places, attended a job fair, and tried to find work. The phone only rang once. Interestingly, it was during the trial. I didn't answer, but when I called back I found that out of the many businesses I submitted to for work, the only one to call me was a fast-food chain restaurant. I went to an interview, I liked them and they liked me, and now I work the graveyard shift for minimum wage. Given my background and experience, I'm pretty sure they got a bargain. There are many bright people there and everyone is very friendly. I really didn't expect to be working in such a place while looking toward my 41st birthday, but I can say that the bad rap these places get tends to be misplaced.

After working there for a couple of weeks and starting to send higher payments, I received the court's decision in the mail. I was found in 'willful violation' of the court order of support with a recommendation of 6 months incarceration. Sentencing will be on May 8, this Tuesday.
When she received the same letter I did on the same day, she posted to her Facebook page that she “Just got the best news ever in the mail!”
Not because it will get her the money, not because I 'deserve' it, but because it will help support the false narrative she has had to propagate in order to hide her true motives. The 'he's a bad man' theme is bolstered by my going to jail, why wouldn't she be happy? I'll never make a claim to be perfect, and I've made bad decisions like anyone, but the lies I've suffered reflect someone so very different than who and what I really am that I almost feel physical pain because of it.

There is a very bright point, however. My kids. They really shocked me.

Through all of the perjury she committed (you can bet your life I can prove it), I never decided to have it brought up. In NY, perjury in a written instrument is a class 'E' felony. That means possible jail time. I could not bring myself to put up a fight against the sometimes insane accusations and claims she made against me because under no circumstances did I want our children to know their mother went to jail. That would not be good for them at all, and I put them first.
She has no such compunction. I was livid when I found out that she was all too happy to tell the children I was going to go to jail. My little dolly, 9 years old, told me 'mom gave us the news'. So, the gate was opened and they had questions. I didn't want them to know about ANY of this until they were much older, at least in their teens. But she just couldn't help herself. So they asked me why, and I asked them, “Do you know why your mom left?”
I was dreading this. I was ready to do my best to 'nerf' my explanation as best as I could and tell them that she loved them and wasn't trying to hurt them and all my strategies for satisfying their questions were going through my head when my 10 year-old said matter-of-factly, “Because (He) has nice things.”
It was like a glass of warm water was tossed in my face, shocking, but not entirely unpleasant. So we talked for a while, and it dawned on me that they knew almost everything. They told me they knew I was trying very hard and that they didn't want me to go to jail. It was all I could do not to turn into a sobbing mess. I had to turn away and wipe my eyes several times. I told them that so long as they knew I wasn't a criminal and that I cared about them and would always do my very best to take care of them, then it didn't matter if everyone else in the world thought I was a bad person so long as they knew the truth. Despite everything I've had to deal with and the crazy bad luck I've had, those kids make me one of the luckiest dads alive.

And now I sit here, examining the implications of the court's decision to recommend jail. There was no proof or even evidence of earnings or income beyond the subsistence that came nowhere near the obligation to pay. Yet I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that my failure to have sufficient income to pay is 'deliberate'. Worse, I have been told that because I earned a higher income in the past, I therefore have an obligation to make that same income. The exact wording is: “Child support is based on a parent's ability to earn, not what their actual income may be.”. In other words, 'if you're not making what you can earn then you are failing deliberately'. Hardship, and even reality itself have no bearing on the court's opinion. Because I did not document my efforts thoroughly enough, it doesn't matter to the court how hard and earnestly I tried. It doesn't help that I've been without a medication that helps me stay organized for the last several months either. When you're drowning, you're not necessarily concerned with documenting just how you're trying to save yourself. You just try to stay above water. That's the position I have been put in, and it's now very likely to get much worse. I have been desperately trying to hold a life and home together for my children and myself. Jail would mean losing the only job I could find and having to find another while likely living out of my car. That's if New York doesn't take the car to make a dent in my arrears.
It is maddening, and can only be described as insane that the state will punish a person struggling to make payments by taking away or otherwise diminishing their ability to earn. But that is exactly the approach the state uses. 'Broken' would be another way to describe a system meant for deliberate deadbeats but wielded more often against well-meaning, struggling dads and moms who want to do right by their children.

I can hardly describe the angst, agony, and sickness I feel at being told that I've chosen to live in poverty. So many people put barely half the effort into finding gainful work that I have and are doing just fine. There's no way to describe how awful this feels. Yet, in this country, we are afflicted with that poisonous meme that tells us people are poor because they somehow deserve it, and that the rich deserve to be richer. It is not just a meme, it is a sickness that pervades and infects the minds of people who might otherwise have been kinder and more understanding of their neighbor's plights, but instead visit scorn upon those who might have so much more to offer if not for their struggle. Sure, not everyone in poverty is fighting so hard to get out, but after so many efforts prove utterly futile is it any wonder that people might just give up?
I have considered doing just that in a number of different ways. But I made a promise that I would never stop trying to win... so I cannot quit. Ever.

I've written this knowing that nothing may come of it at all, but I'd like people to know that the people struggling around them, the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless are not necessarily bad people. I understand that once we realize that their circumstances are not the result of some character flaw or deliberate ignorance (if it were, then Bill O'Reilly would be living under a bridge), then we might start to feel responsible for one another and make more of an effort to help lift others up who want to do and be more in their lives. Goodness... can you imagine if everyone believed in helping even people they didn't know? But as a society, we shield ourselves from that sort of social responsibility by stigmatizing poverty. We do this because we are afraid of what it might 'cost' us without ever actually taking the extra steps to consider just how much we would get back if we lifted as many people who could do more to a platform from which they could do it. Instead, with bad credit, no resources, and any meaningful assistance out of reach, millions of Americans have no choice but to rely on the disintegrating 'social safety net'. We are, right now, the nation that holds the ignominious distinction of incarcerating the highest percentage of its population than any other on Earth. That's right, Iran, N. Korea, Russia, every other nation on Earth has a lower percentage of its population in jail than the USA. That is in part because we have gone so far in stigmatizing poverty as to make it a criminal offense. There are many other ways than my unfortunate circumstances through which we as a nation have done so, but what is happening to me is exactly that. The message to me from the state is very, very clear: “You must be in poverty because you have chosen to be in poverty.”, and nothing, not a single fact, piece of logic, or chain of reason can change that one utter truth that has been dropped on me like a million golf-ball sized ball bearings.

I do not 'choose' to be in poverty. Which is why no matter what happens, whether the sentencing judge understands the issue and gives me probation, or whether the judge chooses to see a deliberate deadbeat standing in my place and gives me 6 months, I will try again, and again, and again. I will not ever stop trying to make a better life for my children and to help improve the world around me. They won't be living at the boyfriend's forever. For their sake, and for the sake of helping others in what is looking ever more like an uncertain and dismal future, I will Never Give Up.

Wish me luck, and may you be Blessed for having made it through this piece of my story.

G. Croft
Tonawanda, NY

Originally posted to NGUinBuffalo on Mon May 07, 2012 at 01:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos and Personal Storytellers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Best of luck to you. (11+ / 0-)

    Sorry I don't have any suggestions.  Hopefully someone here will.  Just keep trying. Do not give up!

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Mon May 07, 2012 at 01:25:17 PM PDT

  •  My prayers are with you (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leftcandid, sb, weck, DvCM, FarWestGirl, chimene

    "Stupid is as stupid does" - The republican motto you can believe in as they live it daily!

    by Mannie on Mon May 07, 2012 at 01:29:29 PM PDT

  •  Is there free legal counsel (11+ / 0-)

    anywhere in your area? Seems like you need an advocate.

    Best wishes to you. I'm sorry your ex seems to have taken such delight in your misery. Stay strong for your kids, whatever happens.

    •  Yes, I had a court-appointed attorney. (10+ / 0-)

      For the most part, I did what she asked. I was so focused on getting the business running that I didn't apply elsewhere. I would have had to lie to a potential employer or just not mention that I would be 'up and leaving' as soon as the business was up, but I didn't want to build bridges just to burn them down.

      In retrospect, and knowing how things turned out, I should have tried to find work sooner.

      I just felt the business was my best bet because I was sick of only working my way deeper into poverty.

      Thanks so much. It would be different if I really were some kind of a bastard, but being characterized as one when you're really not is very disconcerting. She's nasty to me because she has to believe I'm the bad guy so she doesn't have to reflect on her own selfishness.

      But really, this is about going to jail merely for committing the 'crime' of being destitute.

      Cheers to you.

  •  this is so wrong on so many levels. (11+ / 0-)

    is there an appeal process?

    my heart goes out to you - i am so sorry this is happening.

  •  I am so very sorry (8+ / 0-)

    It's hard hearing your story how anyone in this day and age can think that people choose to be poor and to not understand that as happened to you, a car repair can derail a life.

    I pray that the judge has compassion. Do we really need to fill our prisons with people who are only unfortunate as opposed to criminal?

    I hope you and your friend are able to reconstitute your car business. I believe that you can write. Can you live with your parents and help to improve their lives as well as your own? Improved luck to you.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Mon May 07, 2012 at 01:45:14 PM PDT

  •  Caveat -- while I am a lawyer (14+ / 0-)

    I am not familiar with the laws of your state, so I cannot really give you legal advice.  And I am not acting as your lawyer.

    With that caveat, I have one area to ask about:  You mentioned a "trial."  And it seems like there had to be some kind of trial for the judge to recommend that you spend time in jail.  What happened at the trial?  Did you go?  And if you did not go, why not?  Did you get notice?  

    Again, while I am not familiar with the laws of your state, it would surprise me if you showed up at trial with proof of your financial situation and, despite that, the judge then sentenced you to 6 months for willful refusal to comply with the child support order.  That would seem pretty unusual to me. This kind of sentencing normally happens if the judge feels like you are ignoring directives from the court, like directives to show up or directives to supply the court with proof of your finances.  Or if the judge believes you can pay, but simply refuse to do so.  That's what the 'willful" part usually means.

    If you didn't get notice of the trial, and this was done without giving you a chance to show up and give the judge your side of the story, then you probably should try to go to some legal aid organization to get legal help,.    

    •  Oh, I was there. (12+ / 0-)

      I qualified for food stamps and assigned counsel. One would think that's enough of an indication of indigence. Proving the negative of not having money also seems like an undue burden. I'm not an attorney, but here were my objections:


      6. States: The Court finds that the Responded has failed to meet his burden of proof. There was no proof presendted that he has an inability to pay the support ordered. He has the ability to work and has failed to maintain employment. His job search since he lost his job with 20/20 has been minimal. Based upon his testimony he was operating his own business from Auguist 2011 until February 2012. This testimony establishes that he was working during periods of time that child support was not being paid pusuant to the divorce decree.

      Objection: The burden of proof is undue as a burden to prove a negative. There was no evidence     before     the court that demonstrated the Respondent had sufficient income to meet the obligation     of support. At no point in time did Respondent testify that he was operating a business, but     rather stated that he was attempting earnestly to establish a business so that operations could     commence. At no time did Respondent testify that he was being paid from said business.     Therefore the finding that Respondent was drawing income from his efforts is unsupported.

      7. States: The Court has also considered that his expenses are minimal. He testified that he lives in a home that he has not made a mortgage payment on in over 1 year, his parent are helping with the bills and he receives food stamps for his food expense. Therefore, The Court finds he has other resources available to him.

      Objection: At no point in time did the Petitioner show, or testimony provide evidence that any     financial assistance exceeded the stated minimal expenses sufficiently to meet the support     obligation. The finding that the Respondent had sufficient resources beyond maintaining little     more than a subsistance is therefore unsupported.

      8. States: The Court finds the Resondent has willfully violated the order of support and the matter is referred to the Family Court Judge with a recommendation of six months incarceration.

      Objection: This finding is based on findings made absent of evidence or testimony supporting them.     Furthermore, given the Respondent's history of making over payments in order to reduce arrears     owed, Respondent's attempts to make some payment while earning little or no income and well     below  the poverty level, Respondent's earnest attempts to improve his income in order to meet     support as well as any other obligations through the establishment of a potentially lucrative     business, and     Respondent's resumption, upon having found employment, of making payments     per the support obligation despite those payments exceeding 50% of Respondent's income, the     finding of willful violation is without merit..

    •  My guess is that though he did show up, the judge (4+ / 0-)

      simply ignored everything he said because he didn't show up with a fancy lawyer.  Apparently that kind of thing is fairly common among judges.

      There is no saving throw against stupid.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Mon May 07, 2012 at 02:49:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The person with the most clout/money wins (9+ / 0-)
      if you showed up at trial with proof of your financial situation and, despite that, the judge then sentenced you to 6 months for willful refusal to comply with the child support order.  That would seem pretty unusual to me.
      Actually, nothing that takes place in a divorce court makes any sense.  I have seen it firsthand, saw nothing fair transpire.  I watched two attorneys go into judge's chambers, stay for 30 minutes and come out with an "agreement".  And that was called the "trial".  My friend was ordered by the judge to sign the agreement.  She refused, so her husband's atty signed my friend's name.  Court honored the signature, and refused to punish the atty.

      Never, ever, trust anyone in divorce court.  Including you own atty.

      Good luck to the diarist.  

      If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

      by tacklelady on Mon May 07, 2012 at 02:58:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hideous. Revolting. I feel so bad that this (11+ / 0-)

    is happening to you. The Justice system in this country is a fucking joke. The laws written by the so called "great men" who run this country are a fucking joke. This country is like a bad parody of itself sometimes. And people wonder why I want so badly to move somewhere else. Best of luck to you.

    Avui o demà seré millor, avui ho tinc clar…avui o demà seré millor; ho he de provar, avui o demà...

    by bozepravde15 on Mon May 07, 2012 at 02:13:42 PM PDT

  •  Wow! Best of luck to you sir. This should be the.. (7+ / 0-)

    real Series of Unfortunate Events. Sadly this is how a lot of people fall into poverty.

    But life should not be this way. I firmly believe everyone deserves a second chance...a shot at redemption, a fresh start.

    I just feel terrible reading this diary. Life is already too short, it needs to be lived and enjoyed, yet the poor spend most of their days and years dwelling in misery, persisting in decay.

    If I could offer some words of encouragement, just remember: After every storm, the sun also rises

  •  Your story makes me sick to my stomach. (9+ / 0-)

    A lawyer once told me 'justice isn't always just' but this is a travesty on a Dickensian level. I have no doubt that if you had money for a high-powered lawyer you would have gotten off without a problem. Instead, you have hustled and tried and in the end the system failed you.

    As you mentioned I'm sure the attitude towards you is partially based on what other men have done. That is hardly fair or just. It's good to have laws to protect the care of children and make fathers responsible for them. It is obscene to say that you are responsible for maintaining a certain income level no matter what the conditions in the current economy or in your life (car problems, etc.).

    My heart goes out to you. I am glad that you had that conversation with your children, and that you now know that they are aware of what is going on.

    As to your ex-wife--I hope she gets hers. Maybe rich guy will dump her, and with his high-priced lawyers she may not get a thing.

    Good luck to you.

    "It's called the American Dream. Because you have to be asleep to believe it." George Carlin

    by zesty grapher on Mon May 07, 2012 at 02:59:22 PM PDT

  •  same thing happened to a friend of mine (8+ / 0-)

    I don't understand why they throw people in jail rather than giving them time to get back on their feet. It costs the taxpayers and hurts the kids. It has to be blatant refusal to pay when you have the income IMO.

    You could be listening to Netroots Radio. "We are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place" <- Me

    by yuriwho on Mon May 07, 2012 at 03:24:22 PM PDT

    •  Judge put him in that category (5+ / 0-)

      In order to jail someone for child support, the judge has to find "willful" nonpayment, that is, you have the money (or the ability to earn it) and are refusing to pay. The judge obviously reads the situation differently from the diarist's view. Without being there and hearing all the evidence, it's a bit hard to sort out.

      What surprises me is that there has not been a motion to modify the amount based on the upward shift in the custodial parent's resources and the downward shift in the payor's. When I handled these cases that would have been the first move. It also gives credence to the claim of inability to pay the larger amount.

  •  Can you go to your local paper or TV station? (8+ / 0-)

    Suggest that they do a story on you?

    It's worth a try.

    I am so, so very sorry. Keep the faith. Refuse to let them dictate who you are. Never, ever forget that you are a human being, and you matter.

    God bless and keep you. @OOccupied

    by jvantin1 on Mon May 07, 2012 at 03:29:29 PM PDT

    •  Thank you, (0+ / 0-)

      But if there's one way to piss off an entire county justice system it's to do just that. The worse it makes that system look, the more pissed off it becomes.

      It would be nice to believe that judges are truly impartial and utterly in control of their egos and temperament, but in my experience, that is not the case. Pointing out that a judge is wrong, ESPECIALLY in the court of public opinion, will only encourage them to engage in whatever retaliation they can get away with... which can be quite a bit.

      Sure, not all people in such positions are petty, but there are enough to indicate that most of society is run by people with no greater emotional or intellectual development than teenagers.

      Thanks though.

      FWIW, there will be more fact-finding. Actual sentencing will be 7/10.

  •  You can do this (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, Mannie, DvCM, FarWestGirl, Lonely Texan

    Find a good family lawyer and have them work out a
    payment plan and a plea bargain.  I KNOW that takes money but see if you can get about 500.00 to take to the lawyer and if you are in sure it is a county attorney that appears before that judge often.  

    They can cut a deal and work out a payment plan and you may have to forget the council you have.  My advice is 500.00  for staying out of jail is worth it.  If you can get it.   Send 10 bucks by certified mail to your x by money order.  It shows attempt to pay.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Mon May 07, 2012 at 03:38:37 PM PDT

  •  Good luck (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, Mannie, DvCM, Lonely Texan, zesty grapher

    See if you can get better legal services is my vote. If the facts are as you have presented them, you should not be in this boat.

    And conservatives bemoan the falling marriage rate. Stories like this one are a good explanation as to why...

    --Early 30s, not married
    ---All assets you acquire before a marriage are not incorporated in the marriage, so you young and/or unmarried Kosers should save as much as possible

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Mon May 07, 2012 at 03:38:49 PM PDT

  •  Someone in the criminal justice system once told (7+ / 0-)

    us:  "Don't expect justice from the criminal justice sysem."

  •  You Need to Change Your Perspective (5+ / 0-)

    You keep bringing up the fact that you wife is living with a guy with much better income as a reason why it is unreasonable for the Court  to insist you support your own children. But the thing is, these are your children, not his. Just because he is well off does not obligate him to take over your financial obligation to your children. If you are making this argument to the judge, I can certainly understand why are not being seen in a sympathetic light.

    You need to stop fixating on your wife's new life style and figure out how you are going to honor your obligation to your own kids. Your entire screed is all about your rotten luck and how you don't deserve this. What would you be doing now, if the kids were actually in your home and depended on financially for their survival? You did not spare one word about concern for your children's well-being or expressed any desire to be part of their lives. In fact, I still have no idea how may kids you have or if you are still married.  I expect that this attitude is why the Judge felt you needed a wake-up call.

    •  I second this comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weck, Angie in WA State, dfe

      Child support is a sacred obligation. If your circumstances merit a reduction in payment, apply to the court for that and substantiate your arguments.

      Your comments about your ex's lifestyle are offensive and will turn the court and public opinion against you.

    •  Hey, Paul Ryan, is that you? (9+ / 0-)

      Sorry to be a snot, but did you even read the whole thing? Your condescending screed makes me angry.
      Can you not understand that shit sometimes happens to people, and that sometimes the sky falls all at once? Do you not know that he with the most money almost always wins in the "justice system"? He acknowledges that he made some bad choices, and in one of the last paragraphs he talks about his conversation with his children. He paid more than required to catch up when he had fallen behind. He tried to keep their mother's efforts to undermine him from the children. (She is clearly being vindictive just for spite, as she certainly knows what financial shape he is in.) He was keeping their best interests at heart. Have you no compassion? Geez.

      America is a COUNTRY, not a CORPORATION. She doesn't need a CEO. Vote Obama.

      by manneckdesign on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:23:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, m/d! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lonely Texan, zesty grapher

        It is obvious that dfe and skywriter didn't read the diary, but perhaps skimmed it quickly, getting erroneous impressions.

        Too soon old, too late smart.....

        by DvCM on Mon May 07, 2012 at 07:27:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I read it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is a long-winded piece on how his life totally sucks. It is long on blame and short on personal responsibility. I am totally sympathetic to the basic idea that a parent's financial obligation to his or her offspring should be tempered by an understanding of their current financial state and if they are making an honest effort then a jail cell is not the place for them. Actually I am not big on jail for anybody who is not a violent criminal.

        All I know about the situation isis what I got from this Diary. It does not show the Diarist in a sympathetic light.

      •  When you have kids, you feed them first (0+ / 0-)

        -- even when your relationship with the other parent of your children ends. If you're in a fix and can't pay, you go to the court and explain why. The diary writer is coming to the Dkos community asking for our sympathy. At the same time, he is attacking his ex. He'll get that sympathy from some but not all. Stop the attacks on his ex and he'll make out better in this pity party.  

        •  Sometimes a series of events occurs that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          makes what you should do, fulfilling your sacred obligations, impossible under any circumstances.  For someone who wants to fulfill those, WHICH THE DIARIST WANTED TO DO, it is more painful than anything in the world to fail.

          Not to give up or not to care, but to FAIL when you are doing everything you possibly can to get it right.

          Get some compassion and stop hurling insults at the diarist without even reading the whole piece.

        •  It's not an attack, and I really don't care (0+ / 0-)

          About 'sympathy'. It's nice, but this is about facing jail for being broke in the US.

          As for the background, if I left out her motivations and the reasons for them, it would only create confusion and many questions. I've been through attempts to explain my very complicated circumstances before and found that by the time I answered all the "why" questions, I might as well have explained the background first.
          As for taking care of the kids, they want for nothing when they are with her or me. I scrape to make sure that happens on my end, to heck with pride.
          Even at jobs where I made a steady $400/wk before taxes, I was simply working my way deeper into poverty. After taxes and support, that's less than $200/wk. The choice to attempt to start a decent business is the only sane choice to ensure that their future is secure as well as taking care of the debt.

    •  I'd like to know where I said that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zesty grapher

      Because I didn't.

      Where did I suggest it was unreasonable for the court to 'insist I support my own children'?

      I didn't.

      Not only did I not say that, but I stated that I had no problem paying (when I had the money) despite her life of luxury.

      Please, if you want to 'help', do not superimpose your own words or meanings upon what is actually written on the page. If you were sitting in my place listening to self-righteous people who are not only clueless about the insanity of your circumstances but also all too willing to edit and change your own words in order to go 'holier-than-thou' on you, I guarantee you would not think very highly of those people either.

      As for 'figuring out how I would "honor" my obligation', if you had read the entry, you would see that it was all about my attempts to do just that.

      Again, please, if you can't be bothered to pay attention to the substance and details of an entry, please don't bother to get on your high horse for the sake of admonishing someone you obviously haven't attempted to learn anything about.

      •  At DU, you say the entry didn't make sense... (0+ / 0-)

        until you added more background by answering questions here.

        Form your post above:

        "Again, please, if you can't be bothered to pay attention to the substance and details of an entry, please don't bother to get on your high horse for the sake of admonishing someone you obviously haven't attempted to learn anything about."

        Here's what you said at DU:

        "So I tried to run it through my head without the backstory, and sure enough, none of it made sense until the questions, most of them beginning with "Why", were answered. "


  •  Your story is very sad. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lonely Texan, NGUinBuffalo

    Very unusual, too, probably.  If you are poor and doing your best, the court should take it into account. Have you requested representation for your kids?  The judge can appoint a guardian ad litem or make a CASA referral (which incurs no cost for either parent).  That would bring about a more careful assessment of the situation, with real attention paid to the children's POV.  

    Can you get your lawyer to make that request before the judge passes sentence tomorrow?  Maybe you can get some kind of postponement while the interests of the children are addressed. It won't benefit them if either parent goes to jail.

    (Some parents do impoverish themselves for the express purpose of weasling out of support obligations, and the courts should look very carefully at claims of reduced circumstances, even in a shaky economy.)

  •  Thanks so much for all the kind words. (0+ / 0-)

    As for the  cynics and skeptics, I understand how much easier it might be to presume that such circumstances are more easily avoidable than I have found. Indeed, as I said, I'm sure I could have done things differently. I did not take the course I did without thorough consideration of my methods. Others have made far, far worse decisions than I could have and live comfortably. Every word of the above is absolutely true, and you can feel free to ask me anything.
    This is about a pervasive attitude in the US that manifests itself in many ways. In my case, the criminality of being poor has manifested itself as a directive that 'if I CAN make 'x' money, then I MUST make 'x' money' and if I don't, it's deliberate.

    It's not.

    Despite not having done any and everything that others might have, I've tried so very hard nonetheless. Until you've experienced the sheer, and mostly invisible horrible luck I have, you cannot possibly understand. If you've ever felt like committing suicide because you couldn't catch a break, then you have an idea.

    I WANT to go to jail right now. A break from this struggle to slow the descent into ever worse poverty would be very welcome. The only thing that will keep me from asking the court to put me there today is that it would hurt the kids, and possibly their relationship with their mother.

    Again, thank you all. Take care of each-other.


  •  Were you arrested in 2009 for a DWI & speeding? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "DWI: Garth S. Croft, 38, 1306 Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda, was arrested Tuesday for DWI, speeding and refusal to take a breath test. He was held for court."

    •  Yes, indeed I was. (0+ / 0-)

      There was no finding of BAC, and the officer stated in court that my driving was not at all erratic, but because I admitted I was dehydrated, hadn't slept in days, and had a single drink, I wound up with a DWAI.

      I'm not proud of it. It was irresponsible for me not to take my condition into account before having a drink.

      But here's the real question: How is this relevant?

      I know the answer. You see, many, many people do not like the message that sometimes being poor is not about a character flaw or deliberate choices. It's easier, as I said, to avoid the feeling of social responsibility for others (not that I'm asking for anything, just making a point) if we can link their circumstances to their being a 'bad person' in some way... which is exactly why you brought this up.

      The answer to my question is: It's not relevant, glass houses being what they are and all.

      I must say I'm impressed that you took both my first and last name as well as location from different parts of this page, put them together, used teh Google, and found one piece of publicly available piece of information about me. You must be very resourceful.


      •  Why did you refuse the breathalyzer test? (0+ / 0-)

        It appears to me that NY state law mandates a minimum of a $300.00 fine and a 90 suspended license for a DWAI conviction. There's also a maximum of 15 days in jail which I guess you didn't get. Also, for refusing to take a breathalyzer, there is a $500.00 fee to get your license back.
         What fines and penalties did you get and how did that impact your ability to pay child support?

        •  There was no finding of refusal. (0+ / 0-)

          Nor was there a fine or suspension related to such refusal. There was also no child support ordered at the time as custody had not been decided.

          Is there a reason you're so interested in an event that has nothing to do with the entry here?

          It's okay, I know why. I seem to have pegged your sort in the entry.

          If you can find a character flaw or pattern of otherwise bad choices, you somehow think that those will override the reasonable choices and bad luck and therefore explain my circumstances.

          You have to make me a 'bad person' in order to continue to believe that poverty is some kind of choice or character flaw.

          Are you a member of the Tea Party? Will you give up your anonymity so we can pick apart your life for bad decisions? Your efforts here are very transparent.

    •  Also, I hope I don't wind up having to sue KOS (0+ / 0-)

      because someone decided to do some digging and post my home address.

      Isn't there a rule about that here?

      •  Your ex may sue you for what you wrote. (0+ / 0-)

        What I wrote is in the public domain. It's right there in the Tonawanda website for all to see. Besides, you made yourself a public figure by giving out your own name and hometown.

        •  That would be fine. (0+ / 0-)

          'Defamation' (which is what I believe you are referring to) can only be arrived at under certain circumstances. I never named her, nor did I care to make this about her because it is not. In fact, I deliberately left every name but parts of my own out. I invite scrutiny upon myself, not others. Should you wish to visit such scrutiny on to others through this site because you were able to learn my identity, I can't stop you now that you've done the work of finding out who I am.

          Also, in order for a defamation suit to come off, any accusations have to be false and demonstrated to have caused harm.

          I mentioned the perjury due to it's direct relevance to the background dynamic without which I'd have been answering "Why would she do "X/Y/Z?" questions until it came out anyway. I have given that very bare minimum background because I knew that no background would detract from my genuine relating of my circumstances.

          Otherwise, the people, like yourself, who I described in the entry would be chasing down those other details instead of trying to impugn my character.

          She is more than welcome to sue if it means the lies she's told the courts would be exposed. I'm perfectly fine with that. But to the point:

          Why are you so convinced that poverty is a choice?

          •  I didn't impunge your character. (0+ / 0-)

            You acknowledged that you were arrested which was the simple question I asked. Do a yahoo search on "croft  Tonawanda" and you'll see the report of your arrest.

             You accuse me of chasing  down info on you and I had done no such thing. That info was posted on another forum where I hang out. Somebody started a discussion about your article here and provided a link back to it. Another person had done a search on your name and town, saw the arrest report and provided a link to it. I said in that forum that I'd come here and  post a question asking you about it. Which is what I did and all I did here.

            At the end of your recent post, you ask:

            "Why are you so convinced that poverty is a choice?"

            Please provide a qoute  of mine or a link to a post where I've said that.

            •  You insult the intelligence of us both. (0+ / 0-)

              Mine for thinking I'll believe you weren't and yours for thinking it. I can use 'the google' too:


              It doesn't 'explain' anything at all. There was also no finding of refusal. I never drank before or during any job, it's never been an issue. I even had an evaluation where they very easily determined I had no substance abuse issues.

              Yet you've taken that one incident and insinuated that it 'explains' my 'work history'.

              You didn't ask me about, you went on some other site where some jerk posted this so loads of you invent reasons to disparage me.

              I couldn't ask for more perfect proof of the sickness which was the very reason I posted what I did. You don't believe in bad luck, you don't believe in reasonable choices going wrong, so you had to throw the insinuation that an alcohol problem was the issue on the table.

              Thank you for being exactly the sort of person I was talking about.

              •  well, you saw I wasn't the one who googled you (0+ / 0-)

                You seem to be dancing around the questions. You say there was no finding of BAC. You also say there was no finding of refusing to take a breathalyzer test.  Did you refuse?
                 If you read all of my comments at DU, you'll see that I think it's quite possible everything you say is true. You'll also see that I have no wish for you to be in jail as that won't do anyone any good. I have nothing personal against you and I do hope the best for you.
                 But I think you ought to be open to the idea that there are many, such as myself, who have questions about some of what you said. I mean, you brought the subject up and you ought to expect that not everyone is going to agree with you and accept, without question, all that you say.
                 Again, nothing personal.

  •  I have no time to read all of the comments so (0+ / 0-)

    if someone else said this, forgive me.

    GIVE THIS DIARY TO THE JUDGE in the form of a letter. You will have to shorten it but include the most important parts, especially about your kids. It is very powerful and effective and might just change his/her mind.

    Best of luck to you. Blessed be.  

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun May 13, 2012 at 08:14:36 AM PDT

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