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Old 08-20-2008, 04:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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letter of modification

The following is a letter I sent to the Domestic Relations Office in this county. I wrote it requesting a modification due to unforeseen and substantial changes in circumstances. I am 52 years old and I have two children who are now in their twenties and married. This case has been going on for over twenty years. Over the years I just went along with the unconscionable order the court handed to me. At the time I was unable to afford an attorney, and I am still unable to afford one. The case is somewhat convoluted, but I have never been able to earn more than three or four thousand dollars a year where I live. My x-wife lives in the city and is able to earn in excess of 60,000 a year by her work as a occupational therapist. The original assessment done by a clerk back in 1988 stated that I needed to pay over 449 dollars a month. This is almost all my paycheck at the time. As you can imagine, I didn't pay all of it. In fact, I now have in excess of 13,000 in arrears, of which my x-wife is demanding I pay. I cannot pay this amount because I am unemployed, recently disabled, but the court is threatening me contempt. I am not a contemptible person, which is probably why I have never been in jail, even for the amount I currently now. I have a friend who think I should try and get this order rescinded and discharged. That is the purpose of this letter and request for the hearing. I plan to appeal de novo if things do not go in my favor. If any of you knows an attorney who does pro bono or quo quid pro work, please let me know. My hearing isn't until the 12 of September. Thank you for your time in advance and for reading this, and making intelligent comments.

Dear Madam/Sir

This letter is an official request for modification and termination of an existing support order due to substantial changes in circumstances.

The bases for this proposal is seven-fold and he respectfully request that all arrears be discharged and the court allow this docket to become a case of insolvency, all without prejudice for the following reasons:

a) Due to unfortunate circumstance beyond his control, he now has medical issues which preclude him from obtaining a job before six weeks.
b) That the obligator is unable to pay; has no known income or assets, and there are no prospects that the obligor will be able to pay in the foreseeable future. He bases this fact upon the obligor’s earning history as stated by his Social Security statement.
c) That the obligor was over-assessed from the beginning by proof of his Social Security earnings dated back to 1988.
d) That the obligor may have already paid more than appropriately assessed due to his bankruptcy which included bills that his x-wife charged before their divorced and the plaintiffs claim for child support.
e) The law clearly states that Public Assistance is not to be considered income. Support Guidelines of Net Income, so Mr. (anonymous) no longer wants his Assistance checks attached.
f) Substantial student loans may warrant alteration of guideline-based child support giving this case a condition of insolvency, upon which he begs mercy upon the court.
g) Overwhelming debt precludes payment of child support due to the fact that multiple debts plus child support renders basic living expenses impossible. In fact, the over-assessment of Mr. (anonymous) income over the last 15 years had made it impossible for him to make a living of any kind due to the fact that living expenses plus debts plus child support was almost always 10 to 15 times more than his historical earning capacity.

This notice requests that the Domestic Relations Section of (name has been removed to protect anonymity) Pennsylvania schedule a conference and/or hear to view the facts and if appropriate, modify or terminate and discharge this unconscionable order.

Due to the new law as of 2006, Rule 1910.16-2, “Likewise, an obligor with no verifiable income or assets whose institutionalization, incarceration or long-term disability precludes the payment of support renders the support order unenforceable and uncollectible,” unforeseen circumstances become a legitimate reason to request a modification and closure of this case. This letter is to inform you that federal guidelines under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, “…provide for circumstances under which a support order shall not be entered or under which a child support case may be closed.”

Therefore, (name has been removed to protect anonymity) respectfully requests a hearing to ascertain and present to you evidence that supports my request to terminate and close this case, forgiving arrears and rendering this case uncollectable.

With all due respect;

Sincerely,


If anybody has any comments about this letter or about the laws pertaining to this letter, please feel free to make them. I am aware of the spelling mistakes, and I will change the wording to accommodate better grammar. I am not looking for grammar comments. Legal advice or comments only please.

I thank you kindly.
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Old 08-20-2008, 06:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think your letter is succinct, and well written and it is certainly within anyone's right to petition the court for a review of their case if their financial situation changes.

The only concern that comes to mind when reading all of this is that it seems difficult to imagine that in 15 years, you could not at any time have obtained a higher paying job. The court may wonder if no job in your area was adequate, why didn't you move? If you don't have a skill or trade ( Just suggestions--I am not implying that you do not) 15 years was plenty of time to go to school, learn a skill, trade, or profession and make changes in your life accordingly. Usually when people petition the court for a change in the child support order, they do so when unforseen circumstances happen, a sudden job loss, a death in the family, one party finishes law school and doubles their salary opening their own practice, etc. Not just a life long continuation of joblessness or poor paying jobs.

I understand you feel you are in dire straits now, being diabled, and I don't doubt that you are. My point is that to assert that in fifteen years you haven't been able to at any time meet that standard of payment seems difficult to accept from a reasonable point of view. The court determined that amount of money based on tangible factors in the first place. When it became apparent from the beginning the amount was too high, did you bring it to the courts attention? The court may focus on the children who have, apparently, been without their fathers support for many years of their life. Because a parent cannot pay doesn't mean that the children's needs stop---that very well may be the most unfortunate thing of all.

Also, and in your favor, the court also considers the earning capacity of BOTH parents and well may rule in your favor since she has the ability to make more money. But, don't be surprised if they are hard nosed and see the 15 years that have passed as an opportunity to do the same, yet you declined for whatever reason, not matter how legitimate. I think it will be encumbent upon you to establish that for 15 years you simply could not have done any better financially ---and that may be where the difficulty arises.

Good luck.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you for your response Grace. You answered my question adequately.

You are absolutely correct in your assessment of the situation. The most difficult part will be in establishing a viable reason as to why I could not have done better. This is a good question and my sole reason will rest on evidence to show that I could not move or change locations or any of the things that would have made it easier to get a higher paying job because I did not have any of the resources to help me. There are limited social service resources here. I do not have any family member upon which to draw support or borrow money. All of my family members are deceased and I am the only one left except for my children, and I couldn't borrow money from them. That would be crime and a shame. I have not and currently do not own a car, have any resources, nor do I own any assets. Being unemployed precludes be from buying insurance and gas even if I did own a car. Frankly, it cost money to move and relocate and have a car. In fact the cost of maintaining and having a car would have been more than the money I did earn in any given year. The poverty situation has been quite grim and short of living in my shoes, it might be difficult to believe. My yearly social security report will show my income for the last thirty years, and I hope to set a financial precedent with that. I am fairly confident that with my bankruptcy and SS financial report, the court will at least approve of a reduction in both payments entitled to her a month, and possibly reduce the amount of the arrears or both. My hope is that they dismiss the case altogether.

I appreciate your comments. They were a logical reply to my letter and intentions which is what I was looking for.

Take care
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You are welcome. But, if you will allow me one more comment---and please accept my comment in the spirit in which it is given. My comments are intended , NOT to be a reflection of my PERSONAL opinions of your situation, since I would no more sit in judgment upon you than I would expect you to do to be, but rather as an observation of which you need to be aware.

You need to be aware of how a court views your position. While no one judges someone else, per se, when you are in a court room a judge weighs what they see with what they know. And, I am concerned that a judge may not see your reasons for not being able to advance yourself in the same light as do you.

Their thought process may go like this: For fifteen years, he could not "do better" because he didn't have help? Barring some exigent circumstances, such as loss of life or limb, stating a lack of help isn't a valid argument.

A lot of people have come from poverty and destitution and become wealthy and/or accomplished. I would be careful stating a lack of help is the reason you haven't done as well as perhaps the court may think you should.

I am a widow with seven children---and I am where I am in life because at a some point in time, I decided to get an education--I worked and paid for. After that, I wondered what I would do if something happened to my husband--how would I support my children? At that point, I went to graduate school and got a degree in Criminal Law. Unfortunately, after I enrolled in grad school my husband was killed at work at age 44.

I do NOT mean to imply I am a model citizen. What I am saying is that life is a series of choices. It isn't just block after block that closes you in and you cannot rise above it. There has to be a place to start----public education (high school) is free. A lot of times, vocational school is inexpensive. Also, as in my case, my school loans were paid in full while I was in school and I did not have to start repaying them until after I graduated and after I obtained employment. There is always help somewhere. Work nights close to your home, work your way up the management ladder, etc. I don't mean you personally---just examples of how people overcome "lack of help".

I haven't seen my family since the day my husband died. And I moved to a new area myself. Didn't know anyone. But I made friends, established contacts, and went forth from there. Just giving you examples.

That being said, I do think you are correct in assuming they will order a reduction in payment due to your current financial status. But, I am not sure the court will do so based on the 'lack of help' scenario, but more on your disability now and the resulting financial distress.

Be well.
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