Yet another story has emerged that reveals how counterintuitive the United States’ child support system can be.
The Albany Times-Union published the story of Loubert Legros, the former executive chef at Carmine’s Restaurant in Albany, N.Y. Legros, who worked for almost three years at Carmine’s before it closed in February 2014, claims that he lost eight months’ worth of court-ordered child support payments that were deducted from his paycheck but pocketed by owner Carmine Sprio.
Court orders require employers to deduct child support payments from their employees’ paycheck and send the money to the state child support collection unit. Legros even provided documents, including paystubs and child support payment records, that show that between 2013 and early 2014 more than $6,800 was deducted from his pay while working for Sprio.
Yet only two payments – one for $168.50 and one for $133 – were submitted by Sprio.
It seems obvious that the responsibility for repaying those missed payments should fall on Sprio’s shoulders. According to child support records, consistent deductions were made from Legros’ paychecks at previous jobs and during a period when he was receiving unemployment.
But against all logic, the court is holding Legros responsible for the missing support, which he concedes will be difficult to make up.
In September 2013, a case for nonpayment against Legros was opened by Schenetady County. Legros said he explained to the judge that Sprio was deducting the payments and he provided paystubs as evidence. Still, the court kept the income execution in place until the restaurant closed for nonpayment of taxes.
A subpoena was issued for Sprio by the Schenectady County Family Court in March 2014 ordering him to appear in court and provide financial documents, but he failed to show. In May 2014, the case against Legros was dismissed but the court failed to credit him for the missing payments and held him responsible for the missing payments.
Legros wrote several lawmakers for help, but found no support. A letter he received from the deputy attorney for the Schenectady County Child Support Enforcement Unit cited the following state law: “[You are] not relieved of the underlying obligation based upon the malfeasance of the employer. Therefore, it is not the obligation of the [Schenectady County Support Collections Unite] to front the non-custodial parent the money in question.”
The crux of the issue is that the state appears to have essentially done nothing to compel Sprios to pay the missing payments. If a court finds that an employer failed to deduct and send payments, it can order the employer to comply. If the employer fails to do so, they face fines up to $500 for the first instance, and as much as 41,000 for any subsequent violations, as well as legal costs associated with the action.
State law also allows the county to sue Sprio, but it declined to pursue the case. Legros’ only remaining option appears to be to file a civil claim against Sprio.
But according to Cordell & Cordell Albany litigation manager Chad Jerome, that offers another no-win proposition.
“He has a remedy but no real remedy,” Jerome told the Times-Union.
According to Jerome, the law does allow a person to sue their employer for the lost child support payments, but doing so could leave them out of a job.
A court could also rule in the employee’s favor, but obtaining the money is not a sure thing if the employer doesn’t have the money. In that case, the responsibility again falls back on the employee to come up with the missing support.
According to Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen, the letter of the law is being followed in this case.
“Our role is to do what is in the law,” he told the Times-Union. “We’re following the law. The responsibility is on the employee. Our responsibility is to the custodial parent.”
And apparently that responsibility never wavers, even when it is at the expense of a non-custodial parent whose only fault appears to have been to have worked for a dishonest employer.