Thursday, December 08, 2011

Deadbeat Dads Take Notice: Nonsupport Equals Abandonment

There's an interesting recent opinion from the Court of Appeals this morning, Interest of C.T.A.O., no. 11-0925 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 7, 2011). It appears that wilful nonsupport may well be sufficient to support a petition to terminate parental rights.

A couple, both clergy persons was divorced in 2006 with one child, and the mother retained physical custody while the father was required to provide a modest amount of child support. A pattern developed of the father being cited for a rule to show cause, whereupon he paid up his arrears. In 2008, the father became a missionary in Barbados and has not returned to the U.S. to serve a 30 day sentence for contempt although he has maintained contact with the child through letters, email, phone calls and Skype.

In 2010 the mother filed to terminate the father's parental rights under Iowa Code chapter 600A, alleging abandonment and nonsupport, and the case went to hearing with the father appearing telephonically. The district court denied the mother's petition to terminate the father's parental rights and this appeal followed.

The mother claimed there was sufficient evidence to terminate the father's parental rights for nonsupport. The court agreed, finding that the key determining factor is whether the nonsupporting parent has the ability to pay the court ordered support and wilfully refuses to pay.

In this case, it was undisputed that the father only made child support payments when faced with the possibility of jail time, had significant arrearage, and was always able to come up with the requisite funds when faced with jail time.

The wilful nonsupport issue was dispositive of the case and it was not necessary to address the issue of abandonment or other issues that the mother raised.

For a nice display of deadbeat parent mugshots you can always look here.


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