The other day I mentioned a phone hearing I’d had regarding a child support modification. I called today to see if a decision had been made, and apparently this question was a cause for humor.
It seems as though it takes, I kid you not, 8-12 WEEKS for a hearing officer to make a decision. Let’s hope these guys are never appointed as actual courtroom judges, because surely the courts would be even more backlogged than they are now.
In the state of Missouri, it takes at least one full year to get a child support modification. A year. Twelve months. I applied last June. In October, I received a notice for the hearing, set for February.
So when the girl who answered the phone told me not to expect to hear anything for 2-3 months, I simply asked, “Why?”
She seemed rather flustered. Apparently, no one ever asks this question; I thought for a moment that she was going to put me on hold to find someone who had more experience with this tricky query.
Then she remembered! Every officer has four or five phone hearings daily, which can each take up to an hour. Of course, I was wondering what they do the other three hours of the workday, but I didn’t bring that up because the poor girl sounded as though she was all tapped out.
This could also explain why, when I called last July, they told me they had indeed received my paperwork, and it was on the table. This was not a metaphor, but they assured me that the paperwork was actually SITTING ON A TABLE, and this was the first step. Gosh, I have a table, several actually; I could have left it sit there for awhile if I’d known that was an important part of the process.
I called in August to see where my paperwork was being held, and this time – wait for it – it was ON THE SHELF. Again, no metaphor; you see, papers must be allowed to season properly, and the shelf is the best location for that to occur.
In September, the papers were actually residing with a caseworker, and by October they’d moved to the hearing division. It took three tries for someone (the phone girl?) to actually mail the notice to me, which I received in December.
Dare we presume that the cause of all this delay is related to those missing hours? Take a look, for a moment, at a typical divorce court:
Two people, with their attorneys, enter a courtroom; the group is called to order, each side presents his or her case, and the judge issues a ruling. If not that day, within the week. People’s lives, or lifestyles, are at stake, and decisions must be made. What would happen if the judge said: sorry, folks, I’ve worked my allotted five hours today, so I’ll get back to you on whether or not you’re still married, where the kids are going to live, and who gets the family silver; expect to hear from me no later than, oh, six months.
With a modification, true, things are a bit different. But typically a hearing officer orders support to be retroactive – which, in this case, would be last June. So, if he rules in my favor, the other party must make up the difference for the past year, plus pay the new amount. If he rules against me, I must make do with much less, until the difference is “repaid”.
Back to those missing three hours a day: the phone girl told me that the hearing officers also spend time making decisions and finalizing paperwork (I wonder if they keep it on a shelf or a table? Perhaps a bookcase?). Is there a problem with doing this right after a hearing? You know, when it’s all fresh in their minds?
But seriously – has there ever been a government agency, anywhere, at any time in history, which agreed that they did indeed have enough staff and resources? Nope.
DFS, the Highway Patrol, police departments, fire departments, city and county councils, state legislatures, US and Federal entities, and so forth – to hear them tell the story, they are all grossly overworked and underpaid. Right.
If any of these employees took umpteen breaks, stood around and shot the bull, brought in birthday cakes three times a month, came in late and left early or, my favorite, worked a mere six months out of the year, they be fired from every position – except a government job.
Do you realize how much could actually be accomplished if every government employee clocked in at 8:00 and out at 5:00? If they worked five days a week, fifty weeks of the year? If they actually sat down at their desks and did something besides play solitaire on the computer?
Amazing. But I’m afraid the world as we know it would come to a screeching halt. Nothing kills bureaucracy faster than efficiency.