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Sat Apr 14, 2012, 11:35 AM

Charles Bruce and debtors prison

The video without the commentary.





Mr Bruce was sent to prison by his attorney wife for debts that exceeded 100% of his income. It happens all the time, but sadly it usually happens without video cameras in attendance.

Thanks to Dokkie to bringing up the issue.

31 replies, 10044 views

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Arrow 31 replies Author Time Post
Reply Charles Bruce and debtors prison (Original post)
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 OP
noamnety Apr 2012 #1
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #2
noamnety Apr 2012 #3
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #4
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #5
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #6
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #7
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #8
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #9
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #14
stevenleser Apr 2012 #21
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #24
stevenleser Apr 2012 #25
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #26
stevenleser Apr 2012 #27
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #28
Mammone Apr 2012 #12
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #13
Mammone Apr 2012 #15
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #16
Mammone Apr 2012 #17
Warren DeMontague Apr 2012 #18
Mammone Apr 2012 #19
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #20
stevenleser Apr 2012 #22
tech_smythe Apr 2012 #10
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #11
grasswire May 2012 #30
tech_smythe May 2012 #31
stevenleser Apr 2012 #23
lumberjack_jeff Apr 2012 #29

Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Sat Apr 14, 2012, 01:32 PM

1. What was his income when he was accruing the debt?

If I understand it right, he was earning a living as a lawyer but not paying the amount ordered.

Then he lost his right to practice because of nonpayment, so his income stopped, so any debt (even $5) at THAT point would exceed his income. But what was his income and his ordered payment before they revoked his license for nonpayment?

I've done the friend's of the court thing, and having a court ordered payment that exceeds the person's income wasn't an option (except in impuded income caseswhen the parent was refusing to work, walked off the job, etc.). It was entirely possible for a parent to accrue an accumulated DEBT after months or years of nonpayment that exceeds their income of course, but that's a whole other issue that they bring on themselves.

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Response to noamnety (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 14, 2012, 02:18 PM

2. Imputed income is a fascinating topic.

The original definition of imputed income is, essentially, the money that you get by doing it yourself. For instance, if you buy a house instead of renting, the money you would have paid in rent is a form of imputed income. The same is true of doing your own taxes or sweeping your own floors. You have an imputed income from the money you saved in maid and accountant fees.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imputed_income

As it pertains to child support, it is the calculation of how much money you *could* make. So, if you worked 70 hours a week as a breadwinner for the family, or your employer paid occasional bonus, or your income was skewed by a big court win or hot real estate commissions, your child support is predicated on that "demonstrated" income generating potential. If you want to retrain for a job which isn't so dangerous, or require so much overtime, that's not an option.

Two questions:
Has any parent ever been jailed for failing to realize his or her imputed income potential unless he or she was a non-custodial parent?
How does this not constitute involuntary servitude?

In my opinion, Mr Bruce is for all logical purposes runaway slave. Worse, actually because he didn't run away, he just didn't work hard enough.

The entire tragic episode could have been avoided if the court had awarded shared custody. Both (attorney) parents could have been free to earn the money required to support the kids within their respective households and not be responsible for the other.

Shared custody should be the default setting unless one parent rejects the idea, moves away or is demonstrably unfit.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 14, 2012, 02:23 PM

3. I can talk some about impuded income as it applied to us.

The ex quit his job as a coffee slinger, and didn't look for a new job. He was ordered to pay $20 a week support at that point. He did whine some that he was unable to come up with the stupid $20 - but I noticed he was able to pay more than that each week to support his smoking habit, and it was hard to be overly sympathetic when he was prioritizing his smoking over buying food for our kid. My experience hasn't been that the impuded income has been excessive, it's not like they said "you aren't working but we think you could pay a few hundred a week."

Were you able to find any information about how much this guy was earning when he was a lawyer, and what his ordered payments were when he fell behind? I thought it was weird that it wasn't blasted all over the video or other support sites - seems like they'd want to make the point of how outrageous his payments were compared to his income. I know I would if I had an unreasonable amount ordered.

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Response to noamnety (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 14, 2012, 09:56 PM

4. I'd like to see some unbiased, real data on this case, too.

I have trouble buying the "poor oppressed guy who is being made to pay too much to the ex and for the kids" line. Sorry, I do. I'm a man, and I'm also a child of divorce. And the fact is, if you have kids, you need to pay for them. Not with qualifications, not with demands about access, not with conditions. They are your responsibility, and if this guy went to jail, I have to believe he was seriously thumbing his nose at the idea of paying for his own kids, or offering a whole list of "not unless..." -es.

I think custody is a thorny question, and certainly in some cases the man may be the better suited parent, but I also grok why courts err towards mothers. It's complex.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 15, 2012, 12:50 PM

5. Kids aren't a consumer good. One doesn't need "to pay for them", one needs to "parent" them.

If one's only value to their kids is the income they bring in, it's unfortunate that they became parents.

"Who is better suited as a parent" is a gordian knot that no court has the time, inclination or wisdom to fully sort out. A parent who lives in-state, who doesn't have a relevant criminal conviction and who agrees to it, should be obliged to shared custody.

Courts "err toward mothers" = bias. Any rationalizations for why are irrelevant to that basic point.

If a woman is more valuable in the home and should be awarded custody/child support accordingly, then a man is more valuable in the workplace, and should be paid and promoted accordingly.

Family court is not only biased, it is corrupt and incestuous. Child support is a profit center for cash strapped states. For instance, for five years the State of Ohio knowingly double-collected the $1330.78 monthly child support that they ordered from Matthew Dunlop, skimmed 2% off the top for "administrative expenses" and refused to refund the $84,000 that they stole from him.

Family court orders arbitrarily large child support awards that the non custodial parent can't afford then collects a commission on the "deal". The parent then is unable to afford housing or basic needs to be a parent during (generally his) visitation.

The rarity of shared custody orders are partially the result of this conflict of interest. If the judge doesn't give custody to someone, they'll be unable to extract "administrative expenses" from the other one, nor will they get the federal incentive match from the federal government for collecting the debt. Ohio made $223 million in 2005 off this arrangement, and used some of the proceeds to purchase ad and billboard space villifiying deadbeat dads. It's self interest masquerading as public interest, and it is harming kids by contributing to alienation from their parents.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #5)

Sun Apr 15, 2012, 05:11 PM

6. Here's my point. Going by the "traditional", Mitt Romney style family arrangement

which is, by no means, the only or best means of arranging work/home life, mind you;

but, in the cases where mom has been the primary caregiver and the dad has been the primary breadwinner, it makes SENSE for the mom to continue to be the primary caregiver and for the dad to continue to provide financially.

Of course, if the genders are reversed with a SAHD and a working mom, I would think that the same would apply in that direction.

But I sense that the "objections" of many of these "Dads" (and no, kids aren't a consumer good, but they are a RESPONSIBILITY and a big part of that responsibility is financial, absolutely) is that all of a sudden they feel like they're paying but not getting the same return. They're financing (in their mind) an ex who they're no longer involved with, and they're entirely possibly not as directly involved in their kids lives, given that they're not living with them.

And I agree that custody is a thorny issue- but again, does it make sense to mandate full 50% custody between a previously stay at home parent and one who is working out of the house 40+ hrs a week? How is that supposed to work, exactly?

Like I said, I'm also a child of divorce. I came from a generation where in the space of about 10 years many of my peers experienced the same. It sucks, and there are no easy answers. It's one reason why I was always determined not to get married & have kids until I was damn sure I was prepared to fully commit to making it work.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 15, 2012, 08:29 PM

7. The court can't mandate anything.

If only one parent wants custody, the judge can't force the other to play along with a shared custody judgment; undoubtedly some douchebags will prefer to be absent. They'll pay child support to the custodial parent instead. What it does is prevent a situation where a parent wants to remain tangibly involved in their child's life and cannot because the judge feels empowered to pick, choose and punish.

Breadwinning isn't in our genes. Each parenting couple is a team. We do what we need to do for the best interest of the family. When that family dissolves, the respective partners shouldn't be forced into the preexisting roles. Not every breadwinner wants that role and certainly would not choose it except as an expression of love for the other partner. Absent that love, it's slavery.

I'm a child of divorce too, and I fully admit that my childhood story affects my grownup attitudes. Suffice to say, my experience shows that mom's aren't always the better suited.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #7)

Sun Apr 15, 2012, 08:43 PM

8. You and I agree on much, but I think we part ways on a couple parts too.

What it does is prevent a situation where a parent wants to remain tangibly involved in their child's life and cannot because the judge feels empowered to pick, choose and punish.

I think that parents who want to be part of their kids' lives should be able to, as much as is logistically feasible and barring any obvious examples of not being fit for the job.

Breadwinning isn't in our genes

True dat. But it may be in some of our resumes, and not so much in others. Those are facts, too. Parenting couples are teams but not every member of every team is suited exactly the same for every role. The best teams have members who are strong in different areas. It's not reasonable to expect that a stay at home parent who has spent a decade changing diapers suddenly be the one to go out and land the 70K a year job or whatever.

When that family dissolves, the respective partners shouldn't be forced into the preexisting roles.

Again, that depends. Like I said, if one partner has been the one nurturing the career and money making opportunities while the other has been fielding the considerable home duties, it's not reasonable to expect that those roles are going to suddenly reverse. Not in our current job reality.

Not every breadwinner wants that role and certainly would not choose it except as an expression of love for the other partner. Absent that love, it's slavery.

Here's where we diverge, I think. Again, when you make the commitment to not just get married but have children, you are committing to something above and beyond the mere personal gratification or fulfillment that a loving family relationship entails. You are becoming responsible for someone else's life. Parenthood, as Louis CK says, is the only job you can't quit- at least, it should be. If you don't want to be a "slave", don't have kids.





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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #8)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 11:17 AM

9. Responsibility for ones kids? Absolutely.

But the only people who don't have a choice about how to fulfill that responsibility are non custodial parents. You are expected to not meddle in parenting, you are allowed visitation, at the real parent's suffrage.

The parent who works 70 hours a week to support the family isn't necessarily worse-suited to caregiving in event of divorce, and there are a lot of good reasons to give the kids the benefit of spending half their time in his or her household.

In fact, that binding responsibility for one's kids is the core of my problem with this.

I've been criticized in the past for respect for my dad which admittedly borders on idolatry. I need to explain. When I was about 4 mom and dad divorced. My mom's drug and alcohol problems, financed with child support, led us to California where we lived with her sisters for awhile, and then to a string of live-in housekeeping jobs. By age 5, I regularly cooked my own meals (hamburgers, generally). I never attended kindergarten, and attended 6 or 7 schools in first grade. At age 6 and 7, I was very streetwise about which apartment blocks in the projects to avoid. Redheaded and blue eyed, I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was very unsafe and there was no parental supervision.

Mom's brother-in-law called dad in Washington. "You have to come get Jeffy". He arrived with my uncle one afternoon a couple of days later. As my uncle led me out to the car, dad woke mom, told her what he was doing, gathered my things and left. That week he was charged with kidnapping. Life would have turned out very differently for me had mom not shown up for court drunk and wearing a fur coat.

Dad was a former golden gloves boxer, a depression-era kid who ran away at age 10, and a battle of the bulge veteran with a metal plate in his skull, a purple heart and a bronze star to show for it. He could work all day carrying 100# sacks of cement on each shoulder. He was not the archetype of a primary caregiver parent, but he knew what his responsibilities REALLY are, and not necessarily the ones the court decided.

Shared custody encourages better parenting because both parents are involved and have some degree of oversight of the other.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 04:37 PM

14. I hear you, Jeff. In my family it was my dad who was the alcoholic. I do suspect that both our

Situations might have shaken out differently had they happened now.

Parental custody should hang on fitness, not gender. For sure.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #14)

Tue Apr 24, 2012, 09:57 PM

21. Fitness based on what though? Whose criteria. There really only is one acceptable one

If one of the parents is a danger to the child, they shouldnt get custody. If child services, or whatever it is called in your state would take the child away if two married parents were exhibiting the behavior, then that parent should not have custody, otherwise it should be fully and equally shared.

Anything else is subjective. What is a more 'fit' parent to you is not the same as more fit to someone else. A middle class progressive person is a more fit parent to me than a rich evangelical one. To someone on the Christian right the reverse is true.

I've played this out with dozens of people, lumberjack is right, the current system is biased, unfair and unconstitutional and it is unnecessarily so. There is an obvious better way.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #21)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 02:39 AM

24. I'd start with who has been providing the majority of care, and then see how the kids feel.

That would be the first two criteria that spring to my mind.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #24)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 11:14 AM

25. And I think that since the marital union is not an issue any longer, any arrangements made are not

reasonable criteria for determining custody. I also think that minor children do not necessarily understand what makes a better parent.

That's just the disagreement between you and I. I am sure tons of other people also have valid reasoning on this. That is why I say it is subjective and cannot be used.

There is one acceptable criteria, would you take custody away from a marital couple in the same situation.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #25)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 03:44 PM

26. You don't think, for instance, that the fact that one parent has spent 10 yrs in the workforce

and one parent has spent the lion's share at home providing childcare, might have a bearing on who is more qualified to perform those tasks into the future?

I mean, I get that we may not agree 100% on all of this, but that's reality.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #26)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 03:52 PM

27. No.Let's turn that around. Since one that one parent has spent 10 years in the workforce should they

get all the money and assets in the divorce? No, that wouldnt be fair, right? The reason that person earned the money and the assets is because a marital division of labor arranged things that way. They may in fact be the better parent, but because the other parent couldnt earn as much money, that other parent stayed home.

Does that mean that the workforce parent should be penalized?

We can continue this conversation Warren, but I can tell you, I have had it many times with dozens of people. It never works out that the current system is fair and right.

It's much more simple and fair to say, if neither parent is a danger to the child, they both share custody equally and no one pays child support to anybody, they each pay for the child when the child stays with them.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #27)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 04:40 PM

28. You think I'm advocating for a particular position. I'm not. Nt

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #4)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 01:32 PM

12. Dennis Rodman and Dave Foley

 

Are very seriously behind on CS based on their career high incomes. Dave Foley will be arrested for $500k arrears if he goes back to Canada. On appeal Dave Foley lost his case for modification. Dennis Rodman will never get another NBA contract. The courts are callous and don't care what man they destroy.

It really has become too risky for men to marry and have children in the US. Charles Bruce is not an isolated case.

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Response to Mammone (Reply #12)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 04:33 PM

13. Technically, Dave foley owes money in Canada, not the us.

And there seems to be some disagreement as to how "broke" Dennis Rodman actually is.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #13)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 04:45 PM

15. So they should go to jail?

 

Dave's story could just have well been American. Short but sensational career typical of an entertainer. Wife and child entitled to that lifestyle while he is not.

Dennis probably broke or near broke if he follows the usual superstar lifestyle. Spend it as you make it.

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Response to Mammone (Reply #15)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 04:58 PM

16. I'm sorry, but I'm not buying the narrative of "greedy ex... and !kids!"

If you don't want to be "stuck" supporting your kids, DON'T HAVE KIDS.

I like Dave foley - he seems like a decent chap... And I'm not familiar with the canadian system other than their misguided censorship laws, penned by c. McKinnon. For all I know, she wrote their divorce law as well, so it very well could be a fucked up nightmare up there...

But as a broad principle, parents still have a financial responsibility for their kids, even after divorce.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #16)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 05:19 PM

17. The courts are the greedy ones

 

The more they order in CS and spousal support the more money they make and the more the judges personally make. It is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. There is no accountability if they make outrageous and unfair support orders. I do think fathers should support their children. But it has to be FAIR.

How does taking Charles Bruce's ability to earn but still demanding he earn it not demented?

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Response to Mammone (Reply #17)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 05:22 PM

18. Judges get a cut of child support that they order?

...really?

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #18)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 06:09 PM

19. yes states get kickbacks and do pass on bonuses to judges

 

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Response to Mammone (Reply #19)

Tue Apr 17, 2012, 11:01 AM

20. excellent link. Bookmarking. nt

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #16)

Tue Apr 24, 2012, 09:58 PM

22. When your kids live with you half of the time, you are supporting them. Period. nt

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #2)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 12:35 PM

10. I think denial of custodial rights should = no child support

 

I'm sorry but unless the parents is demonstrably rich, and there's a GOOD reason to deny him seeing his kids, he should not be required to pay one thin dime.

Men who don't get to be with their kids in ANY capacity, are being denied parenting. Thus, they should not be required FOR said parenting.

That includes women who, after being told they need to share custody, run off with their kids, further denying the man his right to see his kids! In that case as well, I see no reason for the man to have to pay a thin dime UNTIL he is allowed to see his kids again.

This is out a sense of justice not personal experience.

My parents divorced amicably, and I spent a great deal of time with my dad while living with my mom, and vice verse.

I don't have kids. My exwife and I are baron as a couple. I'm sure that contributed to things going down hill =
SO I don't have a dog in this fight.

I also feel that WOMEN should pay child support as well - something that almost NEVER happens - in the rare reverse situation (where the man gets majority, shared custody).

And the same, if the guy takes off with the kids, the woman isnt financially obligated, etc.
I believe in the laws being applied equally and fairly, which never seems to happen.
The laws in this regard, as skewed heavily towards women even when the rare tie the man wins custody.

But what do I know?

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Response to tech_smythe (Reply #10)

Mon Apr 16, 2012, 12:57 PM

11. I think it should trigger revisiting the custody decision

Last edited Mon Apr 16, 2012, 02:01 PM - Edit history (1)

A parent who knowingly prevents the other parent from court ordered visitation is both in contempt of court and is also harming the kids.

Now that urban women go into marriage with higher incomes, get most of the education, control most of the wealth and are less likely to be unemployed, we'll see more of the shoe being worn on the other foot. Like men of the previous generation, logically the best interest of the kids is served by forcing her to continue working 60 hours a week while dad raises the kids with the help of her child support.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #11)

Mon May 7, 2012, 10:31 PM

30. a parent who prevents visitations...

....is engaging in parental alienation, and is also likely to be doing other things to deliberately damage the relationship between non-custodial parent and child. Parental alienation is child abuse, and is increasingly being recognized as such.

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Response to grasswire (Reply #30)

Wed May 9, 2012, 12:32 AM

31. Unless it's the mother alienating the father... then it's ok

 

at least, that seems to usually be the case.

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Response to tech_smythe (Reply #10)

Tue Apr 24, 2012, 10:03 PM

23. The whole non-custodial parent is an invented and discriminatory state that is unnecessary

You are either a parent or you aren't. People in non-custodial status are no longer parents but they have to pay as if they are. State legislatures have created a state where people have had their children taken away but are still responsible for them. It's the most bizarre thing. When we finally progress to fully shared and equal custody which is the trend, ten years afterwards, people are going to look back at this and wonder how people could have permitted something so obviously discriminatory and unfair to go on.

If childrens services takes a married couple's kids away permanently and puts them in foster care/adoption, that married couple doesn't pay for them any longer.

If you have kids living with you, you are obviously paying for them and taking care of them.

This isnt that hard. Shared and Equal custody makes it all pretty simple and is the only fair solution.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #23)

Thu Apr 26, 2012, 12:36 AM

29. Progress is slow when there's a strong financial incentive to keep it the way it is.

Large segments of court infrastructure are financed by child support.

Child welfare is to child support as healthcare is to health insurance.

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