The child support practices in New York and many other states have become so draconian that they are increasingly causing early deaths among their target victims. Such practices are often mindless, revenue- driven and devoid of accountability. In too many cases, they produce jail terms and effectively kill debtor parents without commission of any crimes, thereby ending child support altogether.
Worse yet, debtor parents, desperate to avoid incarceration, surrender their parenting rights to appease underlying goals of their adversaries to secure a substitute particularly in married settings. Such was the case involving Michael Brancaccio, a father of four who was coerced into giving up his daughter in 2018 to avoid a recurring jail term imposed by Lewis County Family Judge Daniel King who is now up for re-election.
Mike had already served a six-month term for child support arrears in 2015, the maximum allowed by law, and he was now facing another identical term involving several thousand dollars. He had been through a number of jobs and could not keep up with the support orders being issued against him. During the first stint, he was committed to toughing it out by doing his time but that turned out to be a nightmare. He was also unaware that his monthly obligations continued to accrue while incarcerated in Lewis County jail.
Unable to reconcile the early release of fellow inmates on serious crimes, he was finally set free after serving a full “sentence.” He fell into a bad state of mind and was soon hospitalized for kidney failure and other complications. He survived that brush with death only to fall victim again to another support violation petition. This time he was coerced into waiving all parenting rights and access to his little girl, then aged nine, in order to have this debt erased and incarceration avoided.
The adversary mom quickly had his daughter’s last name changed to that of her new husband. This outcome devastated Mike who then returned to a depressed lifestyle while entertaining thoughts of serious revenge. On October 11, 2020, he was found dead at age 46 in his Utica, New York apartment. Those close to him who had witnessed his lively parenting periods and regular phone chats with his little girl knew that this debt-induced, permanent separation was the core reason for his downfall and early death.
That little girl cried at the funeral and asked those around her whether it was all “the court stuff” that caused her daddy’s death. She would now suffer his absence from her graduations, birthdays, weddings and other cherished events. In the end, no one in the family court system gave a rat’s ass about this barbaric outcome as they simply moved on to their next victims. Judge Daniel King who presided over it was likely unaware of the early death of the young dad he had sent to a debtor prison.
Instead, Judge King was too busy satisfying performance grants awarded to him (the state) by the federal government based on the number, size and collection of support obligations under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Mike was simply another statistic, a means for satisfying pay hikes under the state’s new compensation law. That law was influenced by a highly controversial lawsuit brought by the state’s chief judge and court system against the governor and state legislature, the ones constitutionally authorized to decide state salaries.
It was called the judicial pay raise trilogy, Maron v Silver, 14 NY3d 230 (2010). As a result of that lawsuit, judicial pay raises are now set by an appointed group and virtually automatic. The people would likely be shocked at the judge salaries we see today, and the money had to come from someplace. Federal funding incentives and legal fictions to maximize support orders were a big part of the answer. And it did not matter that impartiality and due process had to be sacrificed to make it happen.
While there is much more to understand about this pay-to-parent scandal, the bottom line here was that a mom got her substitute dad, a little girl lost her real dad for life, that dad got a funeral, and Judge King did his part to make it happen, all in the so-called “best interests of the child.” Greater detail exists in the newly published book, Whistleblower in Paris, available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and major bookseller sites. Mike’s ordeal can be found in Chapter Five.