The largest number of those that "owe back child support" actually don't exist.
"In 1992, deadbeat dads owed nearly $34 billion to their 23 million children". And "49% default on their child support agreements" according to a column written July 29, 1994 by Ellen Goodman. This has been universally accepted until recently as fact. It was based on THEORETICAL MATHEMATICAL MODELS and not based on cold hard facts.
The real facts are as follows: the Current Population Reports by the U.S. Census Bureau puts that figure at $14.8 billion dollars owed; 75% or 11.1 billion has been paid. That leaves $3.7 billion owed, a far cry from $34 billion!
Current information from multiple sources indicate 10% of non custodial fathers fit the "deadbeat dad" category. Fathers with joint custody pay 90.2% of ordered child support, ones with visitation pay 79.1% and 44.5% of those with NO visitation rights still support their children, (source: US Census Bureau report. Series P-23, No. 173).
The problem is the $34 billion dollar figure is still accepted as correct and politicians need to be educated about the correct figures. While we condemn the current multi billion dollars owed in back child support, the figures do not warrant the type of treatment responsible yet financially strapped non custodial parents are receiving.
Furthermore, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala has said that with increased enforcement, $50 billion in back child support can be collected. (Wall Street Journal, March 2, 1995). Yet in that same article they take a hard look at the figures and come to a much different conclusion. In the governments Annual Child Support Report of 1992 the figures were at $10.9 billion owed in court ordered child support; of that, $6 billion had been paid. That left less that $5 billion owed! Of the $5 billion owed 30% of those owing are in jail and as many as 1/3 of the prisoners in county jail are in for non payment of child support. Many of the other "dead beat fathers" are addicts, alcoholics, disabled, mentally incapacitated, unemployed (or underemployed), or otherwise unable to pay court ordered child support.
However the largest number of those that owe back child support simply do not exist. In 1992 the General Accounting Office (GAO) found 14% of fathers who owe back child support are dead. In a 1991 Census Bureau study found 1/2 or all fathers received no visitation order. When fathers receive visitation almost 80% pay all court ordered child support. When they receive joint custody the figure jumps to 90%. Yet joint custody is awarded in only about 10% of all divorce cases. According to 2 independent studies 40% to 50% of all mothers interfere or block meaningful access to the children. "Given this documented connection between father's access to his children and the payment of child support, why does Washington seem intent on punishing the father? What about the mother who creates a climate encouraging non-compliance?" (Wall Street Journal March 2, 1995) The Clinton Administration has since backed off on Donna Shalala's figures.
We have witnessed over the years a campaign of misinformation, outright lies, ignorance of the facts, gender bashing, political posturing and vindictive attitudes in all levels of this "problem". This is one of the reasons why CSRN has chosen to take on this problem, it goes much deeper than Child Support; it rips at the very foundation of family. The question that needs to be asked are at what cost to family, children and society? Is this new generation of children from broken families seeing this type of governmental attitude and enforcement going to result in the type of citizens we want to raise? Or is it going to have some far reaching effects that could ultimately result in a societal decay and increased government intrusion in our daily lives to the point were the freedoms we enjoy now become a memory? While these questions can't be answered, nevertheless it is something to think about.