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Author Topic: The Follies of Child Support: Dead-Beat or Dead-Broke?  (Read 1857 times)


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The Follies of Child Support: Dead-Beat or Dead-Broke?
« on: Mar 11, 2004, 12:04:54 PM »
The Follies of Child Support: Dead-Beat or Dead-Broke?

March 11, 2004
by Carey Roberts

Persons who are looking for an example of how good intentions can turn into a nightmare should consider the case of Alexander Shire. When Alexander was 14, he was plied with liquor and raped by Laura Evelyn, then 21 years of age. Evelyn became pregnant and bore a child. That was back in 1984.

When the child support commissars in Michigan recently found out about the case, they demanded that Shire pay child support.

You may wonder how this can be, since the offspring is now full-grown and no longer in need of “child” support. But draconian child support laws make no provision for that. Shire would be required to pay for all back payments, plus interest.

How could this banana-republic justice happen here in America?

Back in 1974, the Congress established the [a href=http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/index.html" target="xx]Office of Child Support Enforcement[/a]. For years, few knew of this petty bureaucracy.

All that changed on May 4, 1992, when Newsweek magazine depicted on its cover an affluent white man. He was framed with a Wanted poster bearing the caption, “Deadbeat Dads: Wanted for Failure to Pay Child Support.” Almost overnight, Deadbeat Dads became Public Enemy No. 1.

But the Newsweek picture was wrong. Instead of a well-heeled businessman, it should have shown a guy wearing a faded T-shirt. Color him disheveled. Call him “dead-broke.”

In his acclaimed book, Divorced Dads, researcher Sanford Braver concludes that “unemployment is the single most important factor relating to nonpayment.” And according to a study of non-paying dads released by the Urban Institute last year, “only 1% have recent net incomes in excess of $50,000.”

So much for the two-timing executive driving off in his red convertible with trophy girlfriend in hand.

Teresa Kaiser, former director of the Maryland child support office, freely admitted to her audiences that support formulas are set way too high for low-income dads. So the child support “crisis” is actually an artifact of unrealistic payment guidelines.

But seduced by the stereotype of the dad willfully neglecting his kids and tantalized by the prospect of reducing ballooning welfare budgets, the child support zealots moved ahead.

First came wage garnishment in 1977. In 1980, child support agencies were granted access to IRS wage information. [a href=http://www1.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/2003appendix7.pdf" target="ll]Paternity identification programs[/a] geared up in 1988.

But the early returns were not encouraging. In 1989, moms were getting $2,252 – only $37 more than they had received in 1983.

So the Clinton administration shifted the campaign into high gear. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act established two vast databases that made almost every American a potential suspect for non-payment of child support: the National Directory of New Hires and the Federal Case Registry.

Clinton-era bureaucrats dreamed up other programs that, in retrospect, were simply irrational. Driving licenses were revoked – just try earning a living wage if you can’t operate a car or truck.

And debtor’s prison was re-instituted. As you read this article, 15,000 destitute dads are spending time behind bars. Is that where they’re supposed to get training for the jobs of the future?

Last October the Census Bureau issued its [a href=http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-225.pdf" target="mm]report[/a], Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2001. The report reveals that from 1994 to 2002, the percentage of mothers who received child support actually dropped, from 76.1% to 74.7%.

Thirty years and many billions of taxpayer dollars later, we must face the truth: We have unfairly marginalized millions of poor dads from their families, while betraying the hope and trust of struggling moms. In the process we have infringed on the rights and privacy of average law-abiding Americans.

In short, the American child support system has been a depressing failure.

The case of [a href=http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=11004783&BRD=988&PAG=461&dept_id=141265&rfi=6" target="nn]Alexander Shire[/a] was finalized last month in the Michigan Court of Appeals. State prosecutor Carl Marlinga successfully argued, “At stake here is not the mother profiting from criminal wrongdoing; what’s at stake here is the child, who is entitled to an appropriately supported upbringing regardless of how he was conceived.”

That statement, notably short on compassion and reason, is the totalitarian mindset at work. And that’s what the $4 billion-a-year child support dragnet is doing to us.

Carey Roberts



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RE: The Follies of Child Support: Dead-Beat or Dead-Broke?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 11, 2004, 04:28:29 PM »
Ok, then we have the flip side of the coin.

When I was ordered to pay cs, I paid it faithfully, despite having to allow my car be repossesed in order to meet this decree. I found a 400 dollar beat up 20 yr old toyota and continued on.

When custody was granted to me, my ex told me in no uncertain terms, she would NEVER pay. Three weeks later, she quit her job. She now lives off a string of roommates, bf's and cries poor and pays not one red cent. But she also hasnt filed for a downward adjustment so the arrearage piles up.

So I have to wonder,,,, how many parents out there are doing what my ex did? How many said to hell with it and quit their jobs?


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RE: The Follies of Child Support: Dead-Beat or Dead-Broke?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 12, 2004, 10:00:48 AM »
I like the second page of the report linked in the arcticle (http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-225.pdf).  It actually shows percentage of father and mother NCP and how many pay and don't (mothers are almost 10% less likely to pay full or partial CS that is ordered).  And while this doesn't seem like a big difference, I then looked at the number of award ordered.  37% of dads get away with not having to pay at all.  But over 61% of mothers are not even ordered to pay.  And then on top of that, dad's have to pay more than 20% more in CS than moms do.  But it's dads who are deadbeats.  From those numbers it looks like NCP mom are more likely not to "support" their children than dads (but shush, we don't want to tell the rest of the world out there!).  


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