Child support is important. I am not disputing the importance of supporting your children. However, the system is setup to destroy families and men. It is hard to understand why it hasn't been addressed yet. Child Support Enforcement was enacted in 1975 at a time when our country was very different.
The idea was originally based off of a family unit in which a man works and a woman stays home with the children in a majority of cases. Unwed mothers were not as prevalent as today. The idea was to provide for a family so that the children did not have to suffer a lifestyle change when their parents divorced.
Today men and women are not always married and some are very young. The lifestyle people are paying for through child support is a lifestyle they would never live, even if married. It is because it is a lifestyle they cannot afford. Today some couples never get married and both parents work. Many people live with family or parents and are not burdened with house payments and utilities.
Following are five reasons why child support enforcement needs a serious overhaul:
1. It's A One Way System
Up to 60 percent of a parent’s check can be garnished by Child Support Enforcement. If a noncustodial parent suffers a job loss or becomes sick, the amount racks up. When they finally get back to work they must pay back child support on top of current child support. On a $400 dollar a week paycheck that leaves a custodial parent $693 dollars a month for living expenses. Bills such as car maintenance, fuel, and insurance, are necessary to get back and forth to work. On top of those expenses rent, food, and utilities, are necessary. This amount must be paid no matter what situation the non custodial parent is in. It can be adjusted only if their is a significant change in income and only at certain times.
If parents live with their own parents, collect food stamps, or rent a free apartment paid for by the government, it doesn’t matter. The money must be paid.
A noncustodial parent must show an income and if they are unemployed they are beat. Child Support Enforcement bases the amount paid on what people are capable of making. This is not realistic. The custodial parent is not required to make any money. They can live with a parent and not pay rent, collect food stamps, and Medicaid health benefits, and even get a free government paid apartment. If a noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support they face serious consequences including jail. Why are they being punished for financial difficulties? Why aren’t the custodial parents required to step up to the plate and face the same consequences for not providing financially?
Food stamps provide food for a single parent. Why is that not considered when tallying a monthly garnishment? Non custodial parents are paying for groceries when the child visits. They pay most of their paycheck out to child support and when they see their child it is difficult to even feed him or her. The custodial parent receives all of the food stamp benefits for the month including days when the child is with the other parent. Having different rules for each parent is not fair.
Even if the noncustodial parent has the child 50 percent of the time they are still required to pay child support. Driving the kid to and from the other parent's house, picking them up from school, and having them extra days on summer break, are all situations where a non custodial parent must foot the bill after paying a huge portion of their check out to child support. Another issue is when a non custodial parent gets the child because school is not in session. This means that the bulk of the time the custodial parent has the child they are in school during the day all week. This reduces expenses for the custodial parent even further because the child is still not even present all day.
2. The Custodial Parent Decides What You Owe.
To file a child support case in Missouri, you provide child support enforcement a date when the relationship ended and you can back date the child support as well. Upon submitting the application a case is filed and the provided numbers are immediately plugged into the system. In some cases a woman gets pregnant and doesn’t even tell the father until years later when her current relationship ends. All of a sudden Child Support Enforcement is destroying your life for a child you had no idea existed.
The custodial parent is open to give child support enforcement any number they deem realistic however it is rarely realistic. I heard a story of a woman who lived with a man ten years of the child's life and never worked. He provided for the family and she was a stay at home mom. She filed a child support case against him while she lived with him. When his check started getting garnished she told him it was for the state health benefits. He was clueless and this went on over a year until he finally figured it out and insisted she close the case.
Four years later after the relationship ended, he was laid off and experiencing financial difficulties. She opened another case against him only this time she claimed he owed her $34,000.00 in back child support. She was not required to show any proof of that money legitimately being owed to her. Child support enforcement took his license and threw a $34,000 child support bill on his credit report without even discussing it with him first. It affected his credit. He was almost paid in full and only a few thousand behind in support.
It took months to have the debt removed from his credit and while he was disputing it his license and fishing license were revoked. He took his son fishing every day after school and now he could no longer do it because he couldn’t drive or fish. In that time period he had a fender bender and was charged with driving while revoked. He then had to hire an attorney and pay for that situation putting him further and further behind financially.
Once a case is filed, it is the non custodial parents responsibility to show proof that the amount owed is not accurate. If they supplied the custodial parent with any money or paid any bills it doesn’t count unless a detailed receipt is provided. For instance: The same man provided a cell phone and cell service for his son and the mother of his child. It was not considered at all when it all came down to the amount of support owed.
He finally got the amount removed from his record but it took months of diligence and she was never held accountable. When she filed the case she did not have to provide any proof of anything. She provided a false number and Child Support Enforcement began the process of destroying his life based on her word alone. They were never married and she did this without any contact being made with him until the ball was already rolling and his life was being affected along with his credit.
3. Late Child Support Will Cost You Your License.
The most counterproductive consequence of late child support is losing your driver's license. I am not sure where this idea stemmed from but it makes absolutely no sense. If a non custodial parent falls behind on child support their license is suspended. This means they cannot legally drive and pick up their child. They also cannot drive to work and if their job requires they have a license they are really screwed. If they continue to drive regardless and get pulled over they will get a driving while revoked and be held financially accountable in court. Child support arrears will also affect the non custodial parents fishing license. The situation is dire to say the least. If you get laid off, lose your job, or your hours are cut, you can expect that your license will be suspended. You won’t be able to work unless you continue to drive regardless of your suspended license. If you continue to drive anyway you risk accruing additional legal problems, legal fees, and fines. If you don’t go to work because you don’t have a license then you can’t pay your child support which is the main goal at hand.
4. Late Child Support Will Buy You a Ticket to County Jail
After losing your license, you become even more behind in child support. The next repercussion for non custodial financial distress is jail time. Again, putting a parent in jail because they are suffering financial difficulties is unbelievable. Some people spend weeks in jail due to unpaid child support which is distressing for two reasons. The first is concern of “debtors prison” which is supposed to be obsolete. The second is how do the courts expect child support to get paid if non custodial parents are being arrested for child support arrears? Someone with back child support owed will face up to 180 days in county jail at a time. This whole aspect of child support enforcement is counterproductive to say the least.
5. Child Support Enforcement Law Destroys Lives
Lives are being destroyed every day due to Child Support Enforcement laws. People are losing everything and are in and out of jail and court systems due to consequences of child support debt. Non custodial parents who cannot pay the amounts they are ordered slowly enter a world of debt and a hopeless situation. It is a nightmare. Suicide and addiction result from the hopeless situation people find themselves in. It causes children and noncustodial parents to experience strained relationships due to the consequences faced. It leaves people at the mercy of the custodial parent. In breakups and divorces it can get ugly. It interferes with jobs and produces the opposite results intended.
The laws are not fair and are dangerously close to being unconstitutional and against human rights. Change is pertinent. Children are suffering and parents are not only unable to survive on their own after Child Support Enforcement is involved in their lives, but they are unable to support the child when it is time for their visitation. Both parents should be held financially responsible, not just the non custodial parent. If one parent is being required to work then both should be required to work unless both parties agree on something different for their family.
Supporting a child is always important. The government stepping in and destroying lives and throwing people behind bars who are having financial difficulties is absolutely unacceptable. Taking a person's driver's license because they are having financial difficulties is not helpful. It causes the parent further financial distress. It opens the door for elevated job loss rates and situations where there is no way out. The bill just keeps increasing and prospects for employment decrease when you remove someone's right to drive a vehicle to work. This is not only counterproductive, it is a waste of law enforcement time, payroll, and resources.
To make matters worse throwing financially strapped parents in jail for up to 180 days at a time because they cannot afford to pay child support amounting to more than they bring home is a travesty. This places people in danger of losing their jobs and also keeps them away from their child. How is it fair to tell a child they won't be able to see their mommy or daddy for 180 days because they are in jail for being poor? Even worse telling the child because their parent couldn't pay child support for them they were locked in jail. This is very unhealthy for all children involved.
It is easy to turn your head if you are financially stable and say it doesn't affect you, but this situation affects society as a whole. There are stories of parents running from police on routine traffic stops in fear of being locked up for back child support and being shot and killed. Parents who could not go to jail or they would lose their job. Punishing people for being poor is absolutely unacceptable and serious reform is needed for parents and children alike.
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