Skip to comments.It's Pay Or Punish
Posted on 01/26/2006 7:00:29 PM PST by buccaneer81
Luzerne County Child Support Its pay or punish Conahans crackdown questioned By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER email@example.com
I got to the point that I just basically gave up. Stephen Galchefski Jailed in support case
JENKINS TWP. Seven months ago Stephen Galchefski had an apartment, a truck and a job working in a tire store that paid $10 an hour.
It wasnt much, he said, but somehow he managed to scrape by, despite an $880-a-month child support order that most months left him $400 a month to live on.
Then a bout with depression and an alcohol problem landed him in a mental hospital and rehab. He lost his job. His child support continued to rack up. In October he found himself before a judge, facing a contempt charge.
Galchefski, 30, said it was the first time hed been called into court for falling behind on support, and he expected President Judge Michael Conahan would give him a chance to make good on the payments, especially because he had a new job waiting for him.
That had always been the policy of Judge Chester Muroski, who had handled contempt hearings for 23 years before Conahan took over in September. Galchefski was stunned when he was sentenced to two months and immediately jailed.
I wasnt even given a chance to speak to explain myself, Galchefski said. I said your honor, I just started a job. He said do you have the money? I said, No, and he said 60 days.
Its a rude awakening that has been experienced by dozens of defendants who have appeared at contempt hearings before Conahan.
Records from the Domestic Relations department show Conahan jailed 183 defendants from the 10 contempt hearings he held from Sept. 9, 2005, up to Jan. 13, for an average of 18 per hearing. That compares to 129 defendants who were jailed by Muroski during the 17 hearings he held from January to August 2005, for an average of eight per hearing.
The stricter stance has left Galchefski disillusioned with the court system. Its also drawn the concern of some social service providers and clergy, who question whether its doing more harm than good.
The way Judge Conahan is working, it gets addressed more quickly, but it also gets addressed in one way, which is incarceration, said Tom Winiarczyk, chaplain at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
Winiarczyk, of Providing Hope Ministries, said hes disappointed by the new stance because its essentially scuttled a program begun in 2005 that sought to help people facing child support contempt obtain jobs.
Under Muroskis tenure, defendants who owed back support were brought in for a first hearing. If they showed they were making a good faith effort to pay theyd be given two to four weeks to catch up. If they failed to make good on the promise, they were brought in for a second hearing and typically sentenced to six months.
We were able to contact persons at the initial contempt hearing and give them job leads. That opportunity has disappeared, Winiarczyk said.
The higher incarceration rates also have put a strain on the county prison, which is severely overcrowded. In 2005, prison officials spent $564,000 as of November on housing inmates at other institutions because of the overcrowding, according to Warden Gene Fischi.
Conahan declined to comment on his reasoning, saying he does not comment on court procedures.
Jim Davis, director of the Luzerne County Domestic Relations department, said the new stance has aided his department in that support officers now only have to go to court once instead of twice. Its also getting non-payers into court more quickly. Whether its increasing compliance hasnt been determined yet.
We thought wed wait until after the first year to compare and see, Davis said.
In Galchefskis case, hes said his incarceration accomplished nothing except to cause him to lose his job, his residence and his truck and fall even further behind in his support payments. When he went before the judge he owed about $3,000 in back support. That has swelled to $4,778.
And he now has another bill to worry about: He owes the prison $600 for his two-month stay.
Im guilty of not paying, but in no way did that decision rectify the situation at all, he said. If I wasnt locked up, I would have had half my (back support) paid. Now theres no way.
Released from prison last month, hes living with friends. He just obtained a job that will pay him $10 an hour and that, after taxes, will leave him with about $1,280 a month. But hes still required to pay $880 to his ex-girlfriend for their 2-year-old son.
That figure includes $600 in basic support, plus another $220 he has to pay for his share of the boys child-care expenses while the mother is at work. He also has to provide medical coverage for the boy, which will cost him an additional $60 per month, for a grand total of $940.
Galchefski said he cant understand why hes paying so much when other people he knows who have an income similar to his are paying $75 a week for one child. His ex-girlfriend was working when the support order was entered and earned slightly more than he did.
She gets to have custody and I get to pay everything. It makes me feel like Im being punished for creating a child.
Galchefski said he did not intend to fall behind on support. Part of his problem stemmed from the fact he was hit with a bill for $1,800 in back support as soon as the support order was entered. Thats because support is calculated from the date the custodial parent first files and continues to accumulate while the parties are waiting for a hearing. In his case that took three months, at $600 a month.
Even with that, Galchefski said he was making payments on time, until personal problems sent him on a downward spiral.
I had house bills, an electric bill, a car payment, insurance. If I missed a day of work, I got $80 and $90 paychecks, he said. I got to the point that I just basically gave up. I went crazy and wound up at First Hospital.
Even though he was out of work and in rehab, his support obligation did not change. He said he was out of the hospital two weeks when he got the notice he had to appear at the contempt hearing.
Life happens. People lose jobs, he said. I owed what I owed, but I should have at least been given a chance before being locked up for 60 days, before losing everything I own, to explain myself and be heard. They give people who drive and smash up cars a chance. Why cant they give someone a chance for child support? I felt I was the same as someone who killed someone.
Davis said he could not comment on Galchefskis case. Speaking generally, he said defendants are given opportunities to catch up on support before theyre brought before the judge. Theyll first be sent two notices. If they ignore those, an enforcement conference will be held. Its only after that conference that a defendant will be listed for contempt court.
Its not like you miss a payment today and we haul you into court next week, Davis said.
Galchefski insists he never received any notice before being called in for contempt.
Regardless of the past, Galchefski said hes trying to comply with his order. Hes hopeful that should he fall behind again, Conahan will be more willing to listen.
I dont mean to be down on Mr. Conahan or insult his decisions. I just think he should at least look at what hes doing.
For a more detailed chart on what non-custodial parents will pay under the new guidelines, go to www.timesleader.com
For an online calculator that allows users to calculate exact amount of support that will be due under the new guidelines go to .html Terrie Morgan-Besecker, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7179
Feminazis and apologist "men", flame away.
Then you hear about how a woman is murdered by her ex. Push anyone too far and they strike back or crack. Cracking puts them on the street somewhere and striking back puts them in prison. Either way society pays for it.
It's amazing it doesn't happen more often. Shows you how decent most guys are.
""Then you hear about how a woman is murdered by her ex.
It's amazing it doesn't happen more often. Shows you how decent most guys are""
Wow, that's irrelevent if there ever was irrelevent.
Explain, little girl.
It's entirely relevant.
He was pointing out how men are essentially made slaves by their ex wives and girlfriends, and yet just take it -- well, like men.
Some crack, though, like the guy in the other story.
This guys support is insane. I think he should be paying some percentage of his income, but 2/3 is blatantly unfair. If he's making 10 bucks per hour and she's making more than that, AND she has custody, she should be paying the majority of support. He's probably paying all of her rent, all of her utilities, as well as half of the babysitting while SHE is working.
He pays more than my ex-husband who makes 70K a year does for two kids (one of whom is special needs!) My husband works with a guy who makes about $11 an hour and has to pay out $600 a month. I don't know how they figure out child support, but the system is definitely broken!
Don't worry. You'll see plenty on here that agree that he should pay $800 AND MORE even if he made 6 bucks an hour.
I'd become a mercenary or something. Go take out my frustrations overseas :-)
I totally don't understand that. I am afraid to even have my kids over to their dads five minutes late on his days! I also don't understand why lawyers have to be involved in the process. From what I have witnessed, the judges hear what they want to hear and don't feel compelled to follow any laws anyway (in WA state, they aren't even considered laws but "guidelines.") Why do lawyers even have to be there?
""Explain, little girl.""
Maybe you should explain the pretenses under which murder of one's ex is justified.
"This guys support is insane. "
Yes, that's what I was thinking, without even actually doing the math. That's ridiculous. Guy needs a lawyer, Judge needs a chill pill.
I am a girl, to any who don't know, which I mention because I got flamed the last time I got on one of these "men's rights" threads, although at least this time I'm on the "right" side. ; )
Why did he spend this money repeatedly; out of his own pocket?
His ex-wife was living with her parents. Her father is a convicted child molester; yes, that's right...convicted of molesting a little girl. That evidence was presented in court on all occasions..and ignored. Seems the "ex" always suddenly came up with an apartment and a daycare provider prior to the court date.
She lived there for several years before the local media was alerted and the judge suddenly changed his mind.
Can bankruptcy dismiss court fees and chid care payments. If not perhaps he should just refuse to leave jail, as short of winning the lottery he's screwed.
But I also find your remarks inflammatory and uncalled for.
Perhaps you should explain yourself, little boy.
There ae more woman-haters out there than one would imagine.
Whats inflammatory? He never advocated anything. I guess you think its OK for a female to kill her husband while he sleeps because he is abusive. That seems to be fine with many women. He pointed out almost ALL men do not harm their exes when abused by the system, but that once in a blue moon, some weaker guy goes off the deep end and kills his ex. He didn't say it was OK, just stated fact. It happens, but probably not as much as the sleeping husband senario.
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