A new law in Texas is just the latest example of how counterproductive and harsh on low-income parents the modern child support system can be.
Beginning this fall, Texas parents who fail to pay child support for at least six months won’t be able to renew their vehicle registration. Registration blocking will be added to the list of other collection mechanisms. The state can also garnish wages, block unemployment benefits, deny passports, and suspend drivers’ licenses.
Taking steps to ensure that children are financially provided for, regardless of their parents’ marital status, seems noble, at least on the surface.
The problem is that too often the system pushes parents who are struggling financially into a spiral of unending debt that ends up harming entire families.
According to the most recent data from the Office of Child Support and Enforcement, 662,000 of the 5.2 million people in the U.S. who owed child support in 2010 were incarcerated.
Child support arrears can still accumulate when parents are behind bars – something many of them fail to realize until a massive amount of debt has accumulated.
In some states, such as Georgia and North Dakota, incarceration is considered voluntary unemployment, which means it isn’t possible to petition for a reduction in child support payments.
Once released from prison, employment prospects for former inmates are usually grim. Up to 60% of former inmates are still unemployed a year after their release. If they continue missing payments, they could have their license suspended, their credit report damaged, their property seized, their passport suspended, or even return to jail.
These are all measures that make it essentially impossible for the parent to earn a livable wage. Which makes it impossible to provide financial support for their child. With so much debt and no way to increase their income, many guys are forced to either work off the books or leave town and abandon their children.
The cycle is vicious and defies logic. Rather than protecting children, the child support system drives a wedge between families.
The system makes the assumption that most parents who fail to pay child support do so because they don’t care about their kids. In reality, most parents who miss payments do so because they simply don’t have the money.
About a third of the families in the child support system live below the poverty line. Two-thirds of support not paid by non-custodial fathers is because of an inability to pay.
Qualitative research seems to indicate that even when fathers are unable to make payments, they still do what they can to provide support in non-cash goods.
Coming up with workable solutions to this massive problem isn’t easy.
A state-funded pilot program in Colorado that utilizes rehabilitative techniques rather than punitive ones has yielded some positive results, albeit with a small sample size. The U.S. could also consider a child support model more similar to the one used in Europe where 95 percent of parents receive their payments.
What is clear is that more attention needs to be given to this dilemma. Fortunately, the National Parents Organization is conducting a major study of the child support system. Hopefully, its findings will lead to greater public awareness of this crisis and finally lead to meaningful child support reform.
4 comments on “Texas Law Indicative Of Counterproductive Child Support System”
i.m a mother of two. and i think its wrong , when fathers have once had a good paying job and was paying support faithful . Then they lose, are job shouts down. now they are making no more then minimum wages. And that can’t get a reduction on there child support. Thats why some many men are angry. There trying to do the best they can. Also when a parent lives out of state and their not able to get to court . what every happen to court T.V. There are men out here that love there children. And i believe that they should be treat equal. When the mother loses her job they get on welfare, who has to pay that money back the fathers. so that being said were is the help for the fathers who our trying?
As long as the state has an interest in generating child support arrearage and the way perverse incentives are used to qualify seperated families. It is a financial model that allows what has developed into a professional welfare industry of around a million people who rely on work generated by family courts. Including but not limited to the legal profession all the connected agencies and further business generated from the business model. In North Dakota I believe it was Gov. Hoven who stated that if they basically allowed equality in parenting the state would lose a 100 million in federal benefits for not operating business as usual. The revenue for the attorney generals office which manages the reimbursements in Texas, is astronomical and is estimated in the Billions. Like Bill Clinton who ushered in the beat the father up financial federal model the Texas Ag will also pretend he protects women and children. All he has done is become a professional welfare moocher along with his manyentitled friends and business associates.
The obligation of paying child support is duly noted in many articles as is the related and social aspect of being employed. It is what is behind President Obama’s “RESPONSIBLE FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE”. The flaw in that thinking is that everyone needs employment, not only dads. Therefore to argue that jobs or any other social need that the universe of people has doesn’t reach out far enough (I contend that it isn’t supposed to) to address father’s needs & issues. Jobs is a universal issue. Everyone needs one.
Looking at the bright side, this article makes a reference to dad’s desire to be in the life of their children and provide “in-kind” support. Time spent with children is associated with a good upbringing that sets up a successful transition of childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Statistics on “fatherless children” show that. However crucial it is in avoiding future social problems such as feeding into the prison industrial complex’ “recruitment” of inmates, it is outside the scope of interest of the family judicial system as is visitation. Common sense (along with the baby & the bath water) go out the window.
The issue directly affecting dads in particular, but, what isn’t noted and less is it discussed is the reciprocal obligation for the “responsible” party(-ies) to collect and that present laws & policies & procedures are punitive and offer no reward or compensation to dads, again, regardless of economic status. Revocation of driver’s and other professional licenses, as is incarceration, is common in NYS and has sever adverse affect on everyone and their dependents to some degree regardless of their income status.
As alluded to in the article, much of the laws and policies that are enforced simply don’t make common sense, child support being an example. They work against the judicial system’s premise of doing what is in “the best interest of the child” and not enforcing the collection of child support and there not being anyone to whom a claim of not collecting them are examples. Another issue that correlates with dads is the absence of oversight. There are not checks and balances that assures the general public, dads, and families that the role, authority, and responsibilities of inherent in the family judicial system and its parts, aren’t abusing non-custodial dads (who comprise 8 of 10 NCP), implementing a “anti-male” sexist agenda, alienating dads from their children, or worse.
Let me return to the focus of this article. This and other articles focus on the enforcement of payment and not collection. You can walk into any child support COLLECTION enforcement unit (CSU) office (as I have), claim that you are willing and able to pay child support (provide very specific information on where & how the funds can be collected) and there is no obligation to follow up on the information given and collect. The question of “what does the child support enforcement office do to collect payment?” is often met with a reply, not an answer, stating that the CSU has no responsibility to take action. The action of resolving the debt isn’t that of the CSU it is instead on employers, dads, and others who are obligated to act on the behalf of the CSU. The CSU does nothing. The inherent responsibility is legislated away and on to someone else.
My last point. Where dads are concerned, a contemptuous topic of discussion is in being “equal” to women in sharing the right/privilege of choosing to be a parent. Men don’t have that option/right/privilege. The reason for the inequality and basis for all that is wrong with the family judicial system, as it stands now (and probably for the next thousand years) is gender role in reproduction. As the male of the human species, we, men, don’t bear off-spring and so we shouldn’t have the right to choose to be a father to our children nor avoid the responsibility and obligation to support them.
I am interested in reading anyone’s comments and in speaking with the author of this article.
I have heard so many times from mothers,fathers no money, they will never get to see there kids. i feel so broken about the fact that children in the united states suffers all because of the igronance. i would like to know if there an information that you can give for a father in new jersey, who loves his child in Texas , that now makes minimum wages and can’t get reduction, are a video court. because he cannot afford to pay for an lawyer or a plane ticket.