Hello T-Nation brain trust.
A relative of mine has an issue that she asked for my advice on. I had none for her, as I have zero experience dealing with this sort of thing. She raised her eyebrow at me when I told her I'd ask a bunch of meatheads on the internet, but this seemed like as good of a place to start as any.
Long story short. Boy, now 14, born out-of-wedlock. Court-ordered agreement in-place since sometime around boy's birth where father pays $68/week in child support and has visitation every other weekend. He also gets to claim him on taxes every other year.
During the course of last 14 years, father has been spotty on child-support and rarely honors the visitation agreement. Mother has kept a journal of many of these events, especially over the last several years. State has record of his support delinquency history. She also has many of his voicemails saved where he is refusing to help with ortho bills, generally being an asshole, refusing to take his son, etc.
No physical abuse from the father, which is about all he seems to have going for him. So we're just dealing with a kid's lifetime of disappointment and all of the confused feelings that come from a situation like that, plus the general frustration of a very good mother who has always honored her end of the arrangement.
Father of the year runs an all-cash scrap metal business out of his pickup truck.
Now, the point of this thread. Mother wants to go to court to have the agreement amended. No visitation for father and no claiming the kid on taxes are the things she wants most. She will still let him see the boy, but she sees no point in having an agreement that she treats as an obligation but the father does not.
I also suggested that she lawyer up and try to get his paltry child support payments raised, but she said funds are limited for that sort of thing. With the boy being 14, we were both unsure of whether or not the ROI on hiring a lawyer would be worth it at this point, even if she got more money.
Now on to my questions.
1) Is the mother's goal realistic if she were to walk into the mediation process without a lawyer to hash these things out? No visitation rights without prior arrangements, no claiming the child on taxes are really what she's after most.
2) Given the father's station in life as a metal salvage agent who deals exclusively in cash and almost certainly fails to report as much of his income as he can, would there be any incentive to lawyer up and try to rake this guy over the coals and get his payments increased? $68 per week is, according to her, based on a minimum-wage income he had many years ago. She doesn't know for sure that he is lying on his taxes, but it is a safe assumption that he is. Would the state raise as may eyebrows as we do at this and would a lawyer have any chance at making a difference in her child support payments?
I realize any advice given will be general in nature, but it will be appreciated nevertheless. Thanks for taking the time to consider this situation!