August 12, 2014

A Veteran Father Struggles With Family Court and Child Support

When a person walks through the doors of a Military Entrance Processing Station, they know they are signing a contract that gives their mind and body to the military. Most believe it is for a set period of time. For many, the contract is lifelong as the effects of being in the military follow them the rest of their lives.

When a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman is deployed, more is lost than the every day mundainness of life in the United States. Military personnel leave behind home, friends, and family. Often times this loss is permanent but not because the soldier is killed in combat. Most often, losses are because of the strain of being in the military and the effects the soldier carries with them.

The media is quick to jump on stories about military suicides, combat deaths, and active and veteran military members going on a homicidal rampage fueled by PTSD. This is what gets headlines and ratings. This is what people click on when looking for news on the internet. This is what people post and repost to social media. The bloodier and gorier, the more the story is shared, commented on, and used for political issues like gun control.

What happens when a veteran with PTSD is faced with the loss of their home and family? Where is the media then? There are no ratings or headlines for veterans who fight for their rights as parents. A father who is fleeced of his disability pay because courts use past employment to calculate child support is not newsworthy. A man with a bonified disability is discriminated in our countries courts is not a headline when the disability is PTSD. False accusations are believed because the father was labeled with four simple letters.

Where is the outcry? Where is the balance of justice? Courts have spent decades ensuring father's get equal treatment in custody and child support cases. But because lawyers do not understand PTSD, and judges base their opinions on sensationalized headlines of an extreme minority of cases involving violence, a disabled father risks losing his children after already losing his home because he cannot afford child support that was erroneously calculated.

We are not talking about deadbeat dads. We are talking about disabled military veterans who are also parents. Cecil Ranne is one of those fathers struggling for his rights as a parent, and rights to support himself and his children in spite of a disability as a result of his military service. Years after his divorce, Ranne is still fighting a miscalculated child support order while supporting three children with another on the way. Now, he faces jail time for lack of payment for one child in the custody of his ex-spouse.
The amount awarded is in excess of $1300 per month. Shortly after filing for a divorce in 2012, Ranne lost his job and has supported himself and his three other children on his military disability. Despite dozens of attempts to work within the system to get the order modified, Ranne is caught in the child support vortex many parents face who live in one state while the ex-spouse lives in another. Instead of child support services working for the good of the family, child support services in several states are passing the buck amongst themselves causing Ranne to overpay, double pay, and have little to no chance of getting the erroneous order modified and avoid jail.

Each state claims Ranne's issue is the problem of another state because there is an open file in that other state. Oregon where Ranne lives, has decided to harass him for back due child support instead of helping the disabled veteran get things straightened out. Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico pass Ranne off as not being their problem. In addition to passing the buck, each of these state's child support office and family court have apparently forgotten their obligation to assist Ranne through this process per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the ADA, courts and agencies are required to assist persons with disabilities in completing paperwork and making sure the disabled individual understands everything that is part of the court process. To date, Oregon Child Support Services and Family Court has refused to abide by the ADA in Ranne's case.

Cecil Ranne has PTSD from his two deployments into combat for the United States military. He is not violent. He is a caring and diligent father. He is trying to support his family despite his disabilities. But because of sensationalized media headlines about "crazy" and violent veterans, Ranne has been stereotyped and resultingly discriminated against by a system that purports to act in the best interests of the family.

Where is the media? Where are the headlines? Where is the ACLU when a war veteran carrying the burden of his service to the United States becomes a victim of the United States court system? Where is the justice for a disabled veteran who is also a devoted father?

People enter the military knowing that they are potentially signing away their lives to their country. They did not sign away their civil rights. They did not sign away the lives of their children. Veterans carry the burdens of war. They did not sign away their humanity.