Picture this: a man commits a crime and is arrested; some time later, he goes to trial. Evidence is produced, the jury is called to give the verdict. The foreman stand up and says, “We’re terribly sorry, Your Honor, but it will take us at least two or three months to make a decision; you see, we’re all very busy people and have lots to do when we aren’t sitting around in a courtroom, and there are only 12 of us…so we’ll let everyone know our answer in a few weeks or so.”

A couple months later, the judge calls the jury back in – still no answer, but they’re “working on it”. Two more months pass, the defendant is still in limbo, and the jury still has not made a decision.

Could this happen? Probably not. It’s ridiculous.

Picture this: a couple enter a courtroom for a divorce hearing. The judge listens to both sides, negotiations are made, and the judge says: “Well, folks, I’ve heard everything and taken notes. I’ll make a decision in 6-8 weeks; meanwhile, just sit tight and stay married…or something.”

Two months later, the judge still hasn’t made a decision – and the clerk tells the couple that it might be longer, the judge is very busy and there aren’t enough judges to hear all the cases and they are all so overworked and underpaid.

Three months after that, the divorcing couple is still waiting – but now they’re told that the papers on “on the judge’s desk” and that he will be making a decision…at some point.

Silly, right?

Let’s look at Missouri Child Support Enforcement: seven years ago, I asked for a modification; cases are supposed to be automatically reviewed every three years, yet my son was nine years old and one had never been done. I applied for a review, and the state lost the paperwork; I applied again, the wheels creaked along slowly, and finally, after three years, I was granted an increase in support. Several months’ worth of delay was due to his father, who opposed the mandated increase.

Notice it took three years, which meant it was then time for another review.

Thirteen months ago, I applied for another review; five months after that, I received a letter stating that a hearing would be held another four months down the road. The reason for the hearing was that my son’s father once again refused to accept the figures on the state’s calculations of child support.

I was told the hearing officer would make a decision within 6-8 weeks; it has now been just over five months.

Sometimes, when you call, they’ll say the papers are on the shelf; or on the table; whatever those things mean – I assume it’s progress, of a sort. And you always get the standard party line: we’re so overworked and underpaid, boohoo, sob, sob. After a few month, they’ll tell you it’s being “worked on” by the hearing officer.

What, exactly, is to “work on”? There is a standard income/expense calculation, there are standards of living, there are costs of raising children, and there are, sometimes, extenuating circumstances. All but the latter are simple facts, and those are black and white: here is the amount to be paid.

Are they telling me that five months after the hearing, the officer will remember the case, let alone the details of those extenuating circumstances? What exactly has the officer been doing for five months? Hearing more cases, that he apparently can’t decide for half a year?

I have dealt with many state agencies over the years, and Child Support Enforcement is, without a doubt, the most inefficient, backward, and slowest bureaucratic mess ever to be created.

And that, my friends, is saying quite a lot; it’s no secret that the Children’s Division runs a very, very close second.


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