Dad Struggling to Pay His Child Support Finds $140,000 in Cash and…

Los Angeles, CA–…turns it in. According to the story Man finds $140,000, then his conscience (Los Angeles Times, 4/10/08):

“Last month, Eli Estrada (pictured) found $140,000 cash in the street on his way to work. The $20 bills were unmarked, bundled into wads of $20,000 and in a bag in the middle of Gridley Road in Cerritos. The 40-year-old Highland Park man’s first thought was: ‘I’m rich.’

“But he immediately decided to turn in his find. The money would go a long way, he thought, but keeping it would be wrong.

“‘That’s just your first reaction,’ Estrada said, ‘but it’s not yours and you feel nervous and you feel like you did something wrong, even though you didn’t.’

“It’s not that he didn’t need it.

“About six months ago, Estrada opened a landscaping and artificial-grass business, Tuff Turf, and is in debt. He said his child support payments are tough to make and he supports his mother, who moved in with him last year after she lost her house to a fumbled refinancing plan and declared bankruptcy.”

An admirable gentleman. What is probably happening regarding the child support is this–Estrada’s income has dipped because he launched his new business. However, he can’t get his child support payments lowered based on the new income. He may not have even tried, since he would have to pay for legal help and might not be successful with the downward modification.

If Estrada’s business is successful and he earns more money, he’ll immediately be hit up for more child support.

Given how hard it is for child support obligors to get downward modifications when they experience a drop in income, if Estrada’s business fails, he may well become a “deadbeat dad,” with fake child support arrearages piling up. In my recent co-authored column New LA County Campaign Against ‘Deadbeat Dads” Unfairly Targets Low-Income Fathers (Los Angeles Daily News, 3/26/08) I explained:

“According to the California Department of Child Support Services, there are four primary factors creating child support arrearages in California: ‘high child support orders established for low-income obligors’; ‘a limited number of child support orders adjusted downward’; ‘establishment of retroactive child support orders’; and ‘accrual of 10 percent interest on child support debt.’ Over a quarter of these arrears is interest.

“The report was based on a study CDCSS contracted from the Urban Institute. According to the study, ‘assuming every effort was made to increase child support collections and reduce future arrears…only a quarter of the existing debt is collectible.’

“The study found that California is particularly prone to turning dads into ‘deadbeats’–California arrearages are piling up ‘much faster’ than those in the rest of the country. With only 12% of the US” population, California”s arrearages represent 20% of the nation”s whole.”

The full Los Angeles Times story is here–thanks to Kelly, a reader, for sending it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *