I write in regard to David Broder's May 16 op-ed column, "Morally Bankrupt Creditors." Mr. Broder, referring to the position of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton, wrote that the bankruptcy bill that passed the house on May 5 "might give the issuers of plastic as much claim to a bankrupt worker's earnings as his ex-wife or their children." Mr. Broder used this as an example of why the bill deserved more scrutiny.
I have been a pioneer on child-support reforms as far back as 1983 and served on the U.S. Commission for Inter-State Child Support Enforcement. I closely examined the issue of child-support payments before I decided to support the bill.
The facts are that this legislation strengthens protection for child support. It moves child-support payments from being seventh in line, behind such "priorities" as attorney's fees, to No. 1 when determining which debts are to be paid first in a bankruptcy case. The bill makes confirmation and discharge of Chapter 13 plans conditional upon the debtor's complete payment of child support. It provides that the automatic stay of repayments to creditors does not apply to a state child-support collection agency that is trying to recover child-support payments.
The bill will require the trustee to notify a claimant parent of the bankruptcy proceeding to ensure that he or she is not left out when a debtor parent enters into bankruptcy. In addition, the bill contains my amendment requiring the General Accounting Office to study the feasibility of having Bankruptcy Court trustees report the names of individuals filing bankruptcy to the Office of Child Support Enforcement. The study is intended to lead to even more effective legislation to ensure further that debtor parents cannot use bankruptcy to escape their child-support obligations.
As with any piece of major legislation, we must closely analyze the effect of new laws. But let it be known that I will stay vigilant to ensure that child support enforcement will remain a top priority.
U.S. Representative (R-N.J.)