ACLU defending woman arrested for being too poor to pay child support
The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral argument this morning in a case brought by the ACLU of Michigan on behalf of a woman who was arrested for being too poor to pay child support.
In a press release, the ACLU says:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic are representing Selesa Likine, who lost her job and custody of her three children after being diagnosed with a severe mental illness.
The ACLU of Michigan and the U of M Innocence Clinic will argue the trial court violated Likine’s constitutional rights by not allowing her to prove to the jury that she was unable to pay her assessed child support. Last year, a judge adjusted Likine’s child support payments to $25 a month; however, she still owes tens of thousands of dollars in back payments.
In 2005, Selesa Likine was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. After a lengthy hospital stay, she was terminated from her job and has not been able to work since. In 2007, despite the fact that her only income was the $603 a month she received in Social Security benefits, the court increased her child support payments from $181 to $1131 a month. The Friend of the Court mistakenly recommended the larger amount because of a commission Likine received in a one-time transaction selling real estate. It was her only sale and her real estate license lapsed in 2006 because she couldn’t pay for renewal and continuing education costs.
For years, Likine attempted unsuccessfully to have the child support payments modified. In November 2008, Likine was arrested and jailed for failure to pay. She was convicted in Oakland County Circuit Court and later sentenced to probation for failing to pay the amount owed.
The ACLU has made such cases, which they say are becoming more common in the middle of a long economic downturn, a priority.