Last week Pop singer Bobby Brown (My Prerogative, Don’t Be Cruel) was freed after spending three nights as a guest of the Norfolk County Jail in Massachusetts for failure to pay over $19,000 in back child support and court costs. Brown was recently arrested while watching his daughter’s cheerleader competition at Attleboro High School. Originally it was reported that Brown didn’t exactly do it on his own. Washington D.C. Radio Station Hot 99.5 agreed to pay the arrears plus expenses in exchange for a week’s work at the station.
However, as often happens with Bobby Brown, drama surrounding the event unfolded and his lawyer Phaedra Parks stated the station “did not pay a penny toward Bobby Brown’s bail.” She stated the monies were not received until days later and “promptly returned upon receipt.” According to Parks, “There was never a signed contract or any formally executed agreement regarding Bobby’s appearance on 99.5. This appears to be a publicity stunt at Bobby Brown’s expense.”
But not so fast! Hot 99.5 posted an email alleged to be from Ms. Parks where she clearly states, “My Client Bobby Brown would like to appear on your show as proposed earlier. Please advise when we can expect the money.” This was on the Thursday before the money was wired. The station also posted an email from the day before that appears to confirm the essential terms of the agreement. At this point, both parties have mutually rescinded the offer.
A poll on Hot 99.5’s website shows that 89.74% of visitors thought Bobby “did them wrong.” I agree with those people. Looks like a contract to me! Now the station has decided the money could better be used locally and decided to “pay it forward.” Hot 99.5 is giving $1000 to 20 people who express a need for it so long as they also pledge to do something to make the world the little better. What a great idea and better use for the funds!
There’s a few good lessons here. One, if you don’t pay your child support, you can go to jail! This is true in California as well as many other states. It can happen as a result of civil contempt proceedings as well as criminal enforcement actions. In California, under Penal Code Section 270, someone who “Willfully omits to furnish without lawful excuse” can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and serve one year and/or pay a $2000 fine. In other states, the penalties can be much higher. For instance, in Montana, in some cases, failure to pay child support is treated as a felony and a parent can be sentenced for up to ten years in prison and/or pay $50,000. In Oregon, it is also a felony and one can be sentenced for five years and pay a file up to $100,000. The Center on Fathers, Families and Public Policy created a chart with the help of a attorney that contains an overview of all the criminal statutes for nonpayment of child support. If you would like to check your state, click here.
Two, it’s good to keep in mind a contract doesn’t necessarily have to be a “signed” or “formally executed” as Bobby Brown’s attorney was implying. In fact, sometimes courts will enforce contracts that are entirely oral in nature. Here there were writings back and forth and it appears there was a “meeting of the minds.”
If you are a parent who is not receiving child support, or a parent who has fallen behind in child support and wants to get back on track, please contact me for a consultation. It’s better to deal with these things sooner rather than later. Often I can help you! I can also assist with small business disputes over contracts and other matters.
I received in the mail some flyers from Kids’ Turn for a six week workshop that some of you may be interested in attending. It’s called “Divorce Education for Children and Parents.” According to the flyer, the workshop will consist of six 90 minute weekly sessions for children ages 4 through 14, and their parents. Children meet in groups according to their ages while parents attend groups at the same site. Parents of the same family meet in separate rooms and when appropriate, both parents are strongly encouraged to attend.
The benefits of this workshop include:
- Improved communications between parents and children leading to reduced conflict
- New insight into how children experience divorce, both during and after the divorce
- Powerful strategies for helping your children cope more effectively with separation or divorce
The workshop starts April 21, 2007 and the location is TBD but will be centrally located. For more information or to register online, visit the Kids’ Turn website or call 800.392.9239. There is a sliding scale for parents and no fee for children. No one is turned away because of inability to pay!
I encourage all divorcing parents to take advantage of these opportunities to reduce conflict over custody and visitation issues and help make the dissolution process less stressful and traumatic for children.
P.S. — If you can’t attend the program or don’t live in the Sacramento area, don’t fret. A book based on the acclaimed Kids’ Turn program has been published. It’s called Good Parenting Through Your Divorce and it’s available through Amazon. The second edition came out last December.