Can I handcuff this guy to the gate?
June 4, 2007 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Help me turn in a deadbeat dad.

The Background:
My cousin and best friend married a man who went into the Army. He has not supported their three children in any way whatsoever. He fritters away all their money and takes out further payday loans without telling her, making her take a night job (putting her very premature infant into daycare) to keep the gas and water on. He has an expensive car which he updates with new rims or something else every weekend. She has none. He will only watch the kids if they are fed, changed, and she will be back in an hour. He has only done so a few times. He has cheated on her with nine girls (that she knows of). There are more than ample grounds for divorce here, but she has no money for the process. She is pretty meek and only worked up the courage to leave him six months ago. Since then, nothing has changed but the following. He is currently AWOL, has moved to a nearby town, works off the books for cash for construction companies, and is living with his current girlfriend while she lives on her own. He pops over unannounced and wheedles at her to take him back occasionally. Last time he drove over, it was in his girlfriend's truck, yet he still had the stones to ask her to come back. He will not interact with the kids. They are 3 years, 20 months and 9 weeks old. Thankfully, they do not care if he is there or not since they essentially do not know who he is. The point of all this is; he does not care, will not change, and plans to live this way indefinitely.

The Questions:
Can I turn him in and how? Is there a cheaper way to get a divorce? How can child support be collected when there is no record of him? If he were hogtied and driven to a military base and left at the gate, would that be a citizen's arrest or a kidnapping?(Only half joking. My husband(also military) would gladly carry out this plan if it were feasible. We wouldn't cross state lines.)

The Needed Facts:
Both of them lived in Texas and are now in Missouri. She says he is AWOL, but he could be a deserter. She also loathes him now and would like him to be turned in. He has no paycheck to be garnished since his pay is suspended. The military police have been called and given his address to no effect. He also has an outstanding vehicle citation of some sort which could possibly interest the civilian police force. The reason for turning him in would be to prosecute him for lack of child support and to hopefully force him to take care of his children and possibly pay for a divorce.
Be kind please. I know absolutely nothing about legal-ese and have probably used the wrong wording the entire question.
posted by j_gd00 to Law & Government (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is not for you to deal with. You don't even know the whole story. This is for a lawyerman to deal with. At best you can hand your cousing a yellow pages so she can look for low income legal help.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:26 PM on June 4, 2007

Geeze. First step (aside from the possible counseling that might help her) is to get a divorce, it would seem. I doubt you can get child support from someone you're still married to. If you suspect that he might be abusive, offer her help in the form of somewhere for her and the kids to stay. There are certainly women/children support services in your area - help her find out where they are so that she can contact them for help with the proper paperwork -- a divorce in a situation without any real assets should not be very expensive, and those types of organizations will probably have resources.

I'm suprised the Army doesn't care where he is if he's AWOL.
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:31 PM on June 4, 2007

If he were hogtied and driven to a military base and left at the gate, would that be a citizen's arrest or a kidnapping?(Only half joking. My husband(also military) would gladly carry out this plan if it were feasible. We wouldn't cross state lines.)

This is an idiotic thing to even contemplate. You'd be in a shitload of trouble is you did anything like that (assault, battery, kidnapping, etc.).
posted by jayder at 3:32 PM on June 4, 2007

It's really hard to tell someone how to proceed here. I would think the Army would be interested in someone who was AWOL and that a local base would have some services they could offer to help her with the divorce, etc.

At this point, no order or agreement of child support exists, so there is nothing to prosecute.

Legal Aid probably won't be able to help unless there is abuse or other serious circumstances. But they may offer workshops on getting a pro se divorce. Example.

Another thing she may want to do is apply for state assistance of some sort. If she can't pay for a divorce, I'd imagine she would qualify. The state government likes to make sure it isn't having to pay what someone else should be paying, and this is usually when orders of support are made.

If he works off the books the rest of his life and never paid or pays taxes, she'll never see a dime. But it is worth a try. She really needs the divorce first.
posted by Mozzie at 3:35 PM on June 4, 2007

Also, here are additional links with information

The OCSE FAQ page, there are FAQs for people in the military.

DivorceNet has a lot of great information about divorce and support, and forums with people who have seen and been through it all. They have guidance for Military Divorce as well.
posted by Mozzie at 3:43 PM on June 4, 2007

If she lacks the money to hire a lawyer, it seems like the nicest thing you could do would be to hire one for her if you are able.
posted by mai at 3:44 PM on June 4, 2007

Sorry the OCSE FAQ link didn't come through. This is the office of child support enforcement for the federal government, and they try to be a clearing house for the various state agencies involved.
posted by Mozzie at 3:45 PM on June 4, 2007

Don't get all vigilante on this guy or you might actually hurt your cousin's case. The only thing you should really do is to help her find the best lawyer who specializes in this field. And help her pay the legal fees if you can afford to do so.
posted by boomchicka at 4:01 PM on June 4, 2007

The military police have been called...

Did you call them, or your friend? I seriously doubt the military would just let slide a deserter in the middle of a war where we are short-handed. If you didn't call you might want to do that yourself and make sure they know.
posted by chairface at 4:10 PM on June 4, 2007

Of course you don't actually need a divorce to get child support, but you do generally need a court order that sets it (e.g. for separated couples).

If she is already receiving state aid, they will be interested in pursuing him for reimbursement. She might bring this up with them.

It's odd he hasn't been arrested, but maybe they just have a record number of people to deal with right now (anecdotally). If he is arrested the military will happily put him to work chopping rocks and arrangements can be made to garnish his military pay.

But your friend really needs to start by talking to her local authorities and getting a support hearing called.
posted by dhartung at 4:16 PM on June 4, 2007

She can do her own divorce. If they have a reasonably simple financial situation and they don't need to fight over possessions or custody, it is easy-peasy. She can just get a book, get the forms it says to get and fill them out the way it says to fill them out. She can apply for a fee waiver, so she doesn't have to pay a nickel in court costs or even to have him served. Et voilĂ , divorced.

The court has a formula for calculating child support based on his income and the percentage of the time the kids are with him. When she sees the judge, she can ask for a wage garnishment order. If she ever finds out where he works, she can serve it on his employer and they will have to withhold a portion of his paycheck and send it directly to her. (She can keep serving every new employer he ever gets with the same order.)

Should she apply for public assistance (which she wants to do, yesterday!) the district attorney will get involved. Then, if her husband does not make payments, he will be thrown in jail. (My ex-husband found that very persuasive.)

The need to care for your children is more motivating than any other reason to do stuff, and she will be amazed what she can accomplish for her three little babies' sake. People are lining up to help her, too, with everything she needs -- from baby stuff to childcare to job training, whatever, if she will only ask around and let people help her. To illustrate: I had two kids under three, but no job, no particular job skills, no car, no nothing, when I divorced my Navy husband. People gave me or helped me get all of that and everything else I needed. Last Friday I finally got my Bachelors in Science, Biology, with my teenage kids cheering me on. My ex-husband is 40 and lives with his mom.
posted by Methylviolet at 4:25 PM on June 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

In many states, maybe in most, the attorneys fees of one spouse can be charged to the other. Each state will have its different rules, but she should not just conclude that she is stuck because she does not have the money to pay a lawyer herself.
posted by yclipse at 4:34 PM on June 4, 2007

I don't know if this has been mentioned, (and im in a hurry so i rudely didn't read any of the prior answers) but I recall hearing that AWOL soldiers usually has some kind of bounty on them.

I mean, the military usually spends 30k training each one, if they can pay someone 10k to bring them in, they've saved 20k ok training a new one.

Id look into that. My friend who works for the TSA was bullshitting with a bounty hunter to makes OBSCENE amounts of money just bringing in AWOL soldiers.
posted by nihlton at 4:41 PM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Regarding the AWOL issue:

The Army cares that he's AWOL (or, if he's been gone more than 30 days, a deserter)...but they don't care enough to send MPs to visit every construction company and trampy girlfriend in the county looking for him. What they do, at least in the case of the deserters I've known, is put out a federal arrest warrant, which will come up if his driver's license is ever run in a traffic stop, etc.

Incidentally, I'm told local and state police forces are very well compensated by the federal government for holding and transporting deserters. So they may be even more eager to pick up this fellow than the MPs, and are liable to take their time getting him back to his base. Ample time, I'd imagine, to process a divorce....
posted by a young man in spats at 4:50 PM on June 4, 2007

Regarding the AWOL let the command know or the local MP/NCIS (or other service equivalent) and they should be interested in it - though honestly the military doesn't super aggressively go after AWOL/deserters (from what I've seen, albeit with little experience in my career).

Regarding the way more common situation of non payment, again contact the command legal officer and if he is still getting paid (probably not if he is AWOL) then it would be very easy to have an allotment taken out of his paycheck and given to your friend. It happens all the time to sailors in my command for divorces, though much more common money is taken out for guys not paying rent, car payments, etc.
posted by aggienfo at 4:51 PM on June 4, 2007

She should visit or call the legal assistance section of a nearby post's JAG office -- she's entitled to legal advice from an Army lawyer as a spouse of a soldier (even an AWOL one).
posted by Zonker at 5:15 PM on June 4, 2007

find out where he lives, or where his girlfriend lives. send a letter to the police of both your town and his with the information, and cc both the base he's awol from and the nearest army base to where you live (write "CC: W military base, X military base, Y-town police department, Z-town police department" at the bottom of the letter, so everyone knows who's been contacted).

contact a lawyer. your state's legal aid society ought to be able to advise your cousin about how to proceed with a divorce, as well as what state aid she will be eligible for.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:20 PM on June 4, 2007

2nding what spats said. just call the local police/sheriff/whatever. they will get paid to bring him in. not only will he get his pay docked at NJP for being AWOL, but it's possible to have his pay docked even more, to ensure the child support gets paid (well, after the divorce anyway).
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:21 PM on June 4, 2007

Always check out Nolo press on self-help legal issues.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:27 PM on June 4, 2007

If she knows where he is, turn him into the police, commanding officer, someone. Spats makes a great point about the warrant. Aggienfo makes the other point I was after regarding getting money from him. My father rents furnished apartments to the local navy personnell and never has to worry about non-payment... he can always just go to their CO.
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:33 AM on June 5, 2007

And for absolute clarity's sake, as a private citizen you lack certain protections that sworn law enforcement officers enjoy. It would be really easy to get in trouble for excessive force or even false imprisonment. Do not go hogtying anyone.
posted by eritain at 2:57 AM on June 5, 2007

j_gd00: this is not your life, this is not your problem. Please leave this man alone. The things you are contemplating could fuck up his life forever.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:23 AM on June 5, 2007

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