Alberni Valley Times

May 24 2000

Waitress chafes at paying child support

By SHAYNE MORROW
Staff Reporter
Alberni Valley Times

"Our court system sucks." That's the sentiment of a local woman who has been ordered to pay child support of $95 a month, despite the fact that she earns barely over $10,000 a year.

The lady does not wish to be identified, to avoid embarrassment to her son, who is now 17. She was divorced in 1992, and the couple split the equity in the family home, with the husband retaining the home and custody of their two children.

"The divorce decree is specific - I wasn't supposed to pay any child support," she said. Her ex-husband is a full-time logger, while at the time, she was a full-time waitress. According to the decree:

"The husband agrees that due to the disparity in income between himself and his wife, he will not seek maintenance from her for the children and that for so long as the children reside with him he will provide for their support."

The document goes on to state that should financial circumstances change substantially, or should the children change residence, 'alternate maintenance arrangements will be made.'

During the intervening time, the couple's teenage daughter moved in with her mother, and the arrangement was adjusted. Her ex-husband began paying $500 a month in child support, with $95 of that going directly back to himself to support their son. That arrangement lasted three and a half years, until the daughter left home. That left the only the $95 support payment in place.

"I've been sick, and I'm only able to work part-time, and he got re-married," she said. The new wife is the assistant manager of a department store, with 'a significant income,' she added.

Last fall, the couple's daughter, now living in Alberta, ran up $6,000 in unauthorized charges on her mother's Bay and Zeller's accounts, plus hundreds of dollars in long-distance bills.

"I authorized a $140 purchase on my Bay account, without giving her (the daughter) the account number," she said. Somehow, the teen accessed the account for the maximum $3,000 credit. She managed the same trick with the use of a Zeller's gift certificate, the mother said.

"I had her charged, but I was told that because she's only 18, I'm still legally responsible," she said. "I was unable to make my $95 child support payment, so I went to court to ask for hardship status and to reduce payments to $40."

Judge Carol Lazar was not impressed with the original divorce decree, she said.

"She said the original agreement doesn't mean anything when it comes to children and maintenance. So I asked, 'Does that mean we're still married, and I still own half the house?' She (Lazar) threw the case out - she told me to get a better-paying job. She said they need the money. What bull...""

In April she was served with a notice of garnishee by the Department of Justice for $526.14.

"I wonder - if I went on welfare, would they be able to garnishee my wages?"