Approximately a year ago I wrote a piece called, “115 Billion and counting” published on Mom’s Fight Back. http://momsfightback.org/search/115+billion+and+counting
Since that piece was written and published using data from the 2015 Report to Congress, the 2016 Preliminary Report to Congress was published on 04/10/2017 on the OCSE web site. You can check it out here https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/resource/2016-preliminary-report
Of note is the appendix, page 90, table P-85, our national arrears (unpaid child support) is now $116,360,701,209.00 BILLION dollars. This is an increase of $816,362,323.00 million dollars… in one year’s report.
One hundred and sixteen billion, three hundred and sixty million, seven hundred and one thousand and two hundred and nine dollars…
Do those figures boggle your mind or is it just me?
I am going to say it again, America’s children are being seriously shortchanged, not only by their own parents but by a system that was put in place to protect them and serve their best interests.
In 115 and Counting, I outlined the causes of this national disgrace, from Gerald Ford establishing the section IV-D Social Security Amendment to protect children of divorce, the divorce rate skyrocketing due to no-fault divorces, thus dragging the issues of spousal support, child support, custody of children and distribution of property into our court system.
The battle lines were drawn. And it was Mom vs Dad with the kids playing monkey in the middle. And no one was having a good time.
Except possibly Jerry Reed, who came out in the early 80’s with the hilarious hit song, “She got the gold mine, I got the shaft.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cudY-kC4JOQ I remember seeing this on either the Dolly Parton or the Barbara Mandrell show when I was a kid and I though it was hilarious! Check out the audience laughing and singing along.
Social stereotypes were set and from some groups are still treated as biblical truth to this day… Welfare Queens, deadbeat dads, checkbook kids, kids for cash…
I have never encountered ANYONE, male or female who got married INTENDING to get divorced… I know no one who got married planning on experiencing infidelity, alcoholism, family meddling and interference, lack of communication, job loss, financial disasters, inability to agree on money issues and constant arguing, emotional and physical abuse….. But it happens, all around us and even to us. Life happens, dreams tarnish, some things are not in our power to work out. And the little witness’s are the generation of children who have grown up in this toxic atmosphere and are sometimes treated as pawns in the most dysfunctional and destructive of personal situations.
And so the government steps in again, now with Fatherhood.gov. There is disagreement as to which administration actually started this program, but in 1995 Bill Clinton did request that every agency review programs and policies to strengthen the roles of fathers. During the Obama administration the focus has been on incarcerated fathers being reintegrated into society at large and family life in particular. The focus of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has been on inmates with child support arrears and how this number has falsely inflated the arrears table. They want incarceration to not be viewed as “voluntary unemployment” and arrears forgiven in the case of incarceration…
While I agree that someone cannot pay child support while in jail and being released in debt for arrears is a problem, guess what? It is not that child’s fault and that child did not stop needing food, shelter, clothing or school supplies because one parent landed in jail!
How about this: I’ll go rob a bank this weekend and spend Christmas in jail. Therefore it is NOT my responsibility that my kids have no presents or Christmas dinner this year. To bad, so sad. Does that sit well with you?
On the Dad Talk Blog on Fatherhood.gov an article published on 01/10/2017 states that 92% of 800,000 incarcerated parents are fathers. IF they are all released today with 10K in arrears that accounts for 7,360,000,000 billion of the 116,360,701,209.00 billion in arrears. That leave a balance of 109,000,701,209.00.
One hundred and nine billion, seven hundred thousand and one, two hundred and nine dollars… that has NOTHING to do with incarcerated parents not paying child support.
Where is the 109 Billion?
All you have to do to find out is actually go to a IV-D court proceeding. Case after case postponed or actually dismissed for non suit of service. This means if you can dodge a process server and are not served your due process you can not be brought back in front of a judge for any enforcement action. In Fort Worth, Texas alone, the legal department reports approximately 66% of cases for enforcement are dismissed for non suit.
2/3 of all cases requiring enforcement never even get to a judge.
If an obligor parent does show up, they are likely to stand in front of the judge, wearing brand new jeans, iPhone in pocket, and state they are currently unemployed. The judge will tell them, “get a job! Report back earnings!” and they walk. The 30 days they are given to get a job and report back earnings will turn into six months, if you are lucky. The state agencies often demand the custodial parent provide the information for the non custodial parent regarding address and employment. I have spoken with several young mothers who were told their cases would be thrown out if they didn’t provide this information…It’s hard to provide information on someone who owes you money, is angry about that fact and deliberately hiding from you to avoid any enforcement action.
So by the numbers it seems that our biggest problem in enforcing child support is simply parents who do not want to pay and will manipulate the system to avoid paying.
What can we do about this?
Well for starters we need to change the laws regarding due process in these cases. Allow for E-service of process. It’s a rare soul now who has NO email or social media. In cases where the family/friends are concealing locations to “help” a family member, allow for family notification of service as well. In today’s overly connected world there is no reason for someone to be unaware that there presence is required in court for the wellbeing of their children.
And then, actually arrest those who are deliberately defying court orders! WHY do you pay parking and speeding tickets? Because you know that points are going to be assigned to your license and your insurance rates are going to go up OR you may actually loose that license if you don’t take care of your obligation. WHY do you pay your rent? Your electricity, your phone bill?
If there is no consequence there is no reason to obey a law you don’t feel like paying… Child support evaders have learned that dodging process servers will keep them out of court or simply not paying is not going to result in any consequence.
The OCSE published an article on 09/15/2017, “Who Owes the Child Support Debt?” It shows that only 15% of debtors owe more than $40,000 but this demographic accounts for 55% of the total arrearages!
COME ON– people do not end up in debt to the tune of over 40k and NOT KNOW they have a bill they “forgot” to pay! https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/ocsedatablog/2017/09/who-owes-the-child-support-debt
In the original article I quoted parents, single moms and dads, from Wisconsin to Florida. Parents owed amounts ranging from $80.00 a month for one baby to $800.00 a month for four teenagers, who are not receiving either court ordered support or help from their states IV-D agency.
I believe that one of the reasons this situation has gotten out of control to the tune of $116 BILLION dollars and counting is shame and fear.
Shame that someone we loved enough to have children with would do this to us combined with fear of speaking out about the situation.
I aim to change that and will present to you later this week another update on a previously quoted parent as well as a shocking, true story from the trenches of single parenthood. I also will share with you the story of Alice, as she is mired in the quicksand of Family and IV-D court with eight kids even as I write her story.
I do this because #1, I love kids. And your kidding yourself if you think the kids don’t know what is going on. It’s the KIDS who are doing without and suffering. Read the complete ACES study, available on CDC.gov or google one of many articles written about this important study of ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EVENTS and the effect they have on the lives of those growing up experiencing them. Financial stress and poverty do not make for good outcomes for our kids. Child support is not the “cure all”, but enforcing it is a damn good start.
Please stay tuned for the updates I promised later this week! Follow this blog’s Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=navigatingthroughlife