Time and time again, the child support system’s overemphasis on collecting payments ends up punishing low-income fathers. Or in some cases, it punishes low-income men who aren’t fathers at all.
The latest example comes from Iowa where Joe Vandusen, 45, is being asked to pay child support for a child that he says is not his.
Earlier this month, Vandusen received a letter from the Iowa Department of Human Services telling him he’s required to pay child support to his estranged wife, who he never formally divorced but has barely talked to in the last 15 to 17 years.
Vandusen contacted the Department of Human Services Child Support Recovery Unit to let them know he’s not the child’s father and even offered to take a paternity test to prove as much, but he was told it wouldn’t matter because under Iowa law the husband is presumed to be the legal father.
Iowa law does allow a man to file a request for genetic testing to disestablish paternity, but that involves going to court – something Vandusen can’t afford.
Vandusen, who was recently laid off from his job, can’t afford child support (for a child that isn’t his) and he can’t afford money for an attorney to file for divorce and contest the child support requirement.
The result is a cycle of debt that can have disastrous consequences.
This is just one of many instances that the child support system has drawn media attention for its illogical policies.
Employee ordered to repay child support that was stolen by his employer
Last year, the Albany Times-Union reported on the case of Loubert Legros, who claimed he lost eight months’ worth of court-ordered child support payments that were deducted from his paycheck but pocketed by his employer.
Rather than punishing Legros’ boss, the state still held Legros accountable for nearly $7,000 of missing child support.
Michigan man owes $30,000 of child support for child DNA tests prove isn’t his
In Michigan, the case of Carnell Alexander drew much attention to the issue of paternity fraud, which can devastate entire families.
Alexander was ordered to pay nearly $30,000 in missed child support payments, and faced a potential prison sentence, even though a DNA test proved he was not the child’s father.
Alexander was held responsible because an ex-girlfriend listed him as the father to receive welfare benefits. Due to the state’s lack of paternity fraud laws, which is a national problem, a mother can list anyone as the father without any repercussions.
Walter Scott shot after fleeing police for owed child support
The Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina created a national firestorm after a police officer fired eight rounds into a fleeing Scott’s back.
At the time of the shooting, Scott owed more than $18,000 in child support and had a bench warrant for his arrest. Scott’s parents said they believed the reason he was fleeing the officer was because he feared being sent to jail over the missed payments.
Many facts about the case are still unknown, but the incident did expose the state’s punitive child support system, which is especially harsh on poor parents.
4 comments on “Child Support System Overemphasizes Collecting Payments”
What can i do when a county court is either unwilling,or unable to explain their own child support amount? this is a small county court i have dealt with and i have been unable to afford a lawyer or any legal filings. i have had this ongoing fight for 5 years now and live 700 miles away from this court. in 3 years it went from being down to $600 in back support left over from a year of being unemployed, to $6300 in supposed back child support and $3400 in interest making them claim i owe them/her $9700. problem is,i spent the years it skyrocketed working and paying, yet they kept adding to this amount every month until my rights were taken away, given to her claiming abandonment by a neighboring county judge. problem with that is,she had been blocking all contact with my son,social media and every phone number i had, and the small county court was aware of this from many phone calls and letters that apparently found a shredder because they claim they know nothing about it. they have also told me over the years regardless of acknowledging she has done nothing but violate their own court order,my rights, and broken the law, they would do nothing to her. when asked for a simple explanation of their own math everyone i have spoken to has avoided the question or admitted they have no explanation. the last time i asked the clerk had said she had my information on the screen in front of her, i asked her for an explanation then since she was looking at it all. the following is the exact response i was given:
“Well……um…….um……..um……..JUST PAY IT”!
and was hung up on. is there anything i can do?
My fiancé and I have been together for 7 years, he has a son that is 9. He went to court with the mother of his child (they were never married) so she gets support and he has visitation and all that. We have not been going by the guidelines entirely the last 6 years. Which wasn’t a problem at first because we both spent equal time with Leo even though she legally should have had him more. This was due to a number of good and bad things going on. We have ALWAYS kept Leo overnight on Wednesdays. We pick him up from the bus stop and take hm to school in the morning. Problem is that whenever something goes wrong, she has no problem calling and cussing us out and telling Leo terrible things about us. When she is doing something wrong and we call/text her to discuss it in a calm manner she still ends up cussing us out and everything is our fault no matter what. On top of that she threatens to “go by the guidelines” and we don’t get j over night on Wednesdays anymore if we don’t agree with her on literally whatever it is she is upset about. My fiancé usually gives her whatever she wants so we aren’t fighting and so leo isn’t suffering. In the end he is still suffering, and although I’m not Leo’s real mom I take care of him like he is and it breaks my heart that she puts him in the middle of his parents. She does not work(I have nothing against this, when I have my own kids I plan on no longer working to raise them) but she isn’t being a mom. I know it is not illegal to be a bad mom. She is not entirely a bad person but instead of doing what’s best for Leo she does what will hurt his dad the most. She doesn’t take school seriously for Leo and doesn’t make him do his homework but wants to put him on adhd medicine. She had been going to a clinic for the last 8 years to get methodone, we aren’t sure if she is still doing this or not anymore. We are worried about Leo’s pyschological health and other issues. There’s many things he can’t do as a 9 year old(like tie his shoe) that we try to teach him ourselves but only get 8 days of each month to do so. We have been wanting to fix things for awhile now. I have already been documenting things for the last 2 almost 3 years. My real question is: what steps can my fiancé take so that she can’t threaten to take visitation away just because she doesn’t like us? We are sending her our summer schedule tonight. The last 3 years she has told us we can’t do the visitation rights the court set forth because she doesn’t want to. That’s the reason. We are trying to finally put our feet down and not let her bully us into not getting our fair time. We also were thinking about going for joint custody. We are getting married in the summer. what are the best options for us??
Why can’t/aren’t men suing for fraud in civil court for damages that are equal to the child support amount in paternity fraud cases. There has to be a clever way to ask for a judgement that would allow the money to just be cycled back and fourth to satisfy the insane CS rules and regulations and shield the man from the financial devastation of supporting children that aren’t theirs, and the emotional devastation that once the child is proven not theirs they have given up any right to ask for access to the kids, especially in cases where they were never married.
There are very strange things with child support and the collection thereof. For instance, above a certain support indebtedness one cannot have a valid passport. But if an invalid passport can nullify one’s job prospects, how does that help anyone? The government might see it as a “flight risk”, but if a father is going to flee there are enough “empties” in the western states to flee to.
Right now I am trying to get squared away accounting errors in my county. The people in the bureaucracy do not return phone calls, I can’t speak directly to anyone in charge, and it just seems like a lot of paper shuffling. I am at the point where I am calling on the state attorney general for an audit of the county’s books.