I have often spoken out against child support enforcement. Just to clarify, I am not against child support itself, as long as it is fairly assessed based on a realistic view of the income and job skills of both the non-custodial and the custodial parents. Sometimes, that may even mean that no child support is due, especially if the non-custodial parent was not the breadwinner during the marriage. What I am against are the draconian measures put in place to collect child support that actually sabotage the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay. We practically force non-custodial parents to work “under the table,” as we sabotage their ability to get a legitimate job, by removing driver’s and professional licenses, passports (yes, some jobs are dependent upon having a passport), and throwing them in jail while calling it a felony.
We justify these measures by saying “it’s for the children.” Now, honestly, think about this. What good does it do for a child to take away their parents means to make a living, then throw them in jail for it? There are measures in place that I understand. Reporting the child support debt on their credit report is more than fair. Taking it from income tax rebates, I can see to an extent, but only if it is taken from what the non-custodial parent has made, and not from a new spouses income.
Measures taken to collect child support should also be impacted by the reasons for non-payment. If this is a person that wants to pay but can’t find employment, perhaps we should put tax incentives in place for those employers who hire so called “deadbeat” parents, similar to the welfare to work tax credits. It seems to me that this would be much more efficient and better for the children than punishment and turning parents into criminals for being unable to find work.
If we’re dealing with a person that is unable to work because of a disability, we need to look into alternate methods of allowing them to help their children. Although we have a tendency to boil the responsibility for children down to only the financial, there’s a lot more to it than that. Parents who are unable to work shouldn’t be punished for that. Perhaps they can make up what they can’t provide financially with time spent doing things for the children from volunteering at their schools and extra-curricular activities, to being the child’s daycare provider so the custodial parent doesn’t have to pay for daycare.
Some parents withhold child support because they are prevented from seeing their children. Sometimes it is active prevention by keeping the children away when the non-custodial parent comes to pick up the children. Sometimes the custodial parent harasses the non-custodial parent to the point where they don’t feel safe and can’t deal with the stress of coming to get the children. In these cases, the custodial parent needs to be made to tow the line if they want to receive child support or else prove that the non-custodial parent is unsafe to the children. Although legally it may be two separate issues, emotionally, it doesn’t feel that way, especially to the non-custodial parent. I’ve seen this situation compared to paying for a car that you’re not allowed to drive. Although I would never compare my children to a car, it’s still frustrating to have only the financial responsibilities of being a parent, and none of the privileges. These are the cases where the custodial parent deserves the punishment, not the non-custodial parent.
There are also parents who have neither the skills nor the training to make a decent wage. These parents should not even have to pay child support in the first place. This puts them and keeps them in a constant state of poverty, which goes against the very principles our country was founded on.
Now there is the last category of deadbeats. These are the true deadbeats, that want nothing to do with their children, and really don’t care about their children. This last category is unfortunate, but jail time still may be a little harsh. In these cases, I think the best thing is that they are denied access to their children, and denied all parental rights. This may not seem fair to the custodial parents, but it’s actually more fair to the children, because they should not have someone being forced to care for them that doesn’t care about them. This frees the children to be adopted by a new spouse of the custodial parent that actually does love and care for them, because the bond of love is stronger than a biological bond. Before taking this last measure, however, great care must be taken to make sure that the lack of involvement is due to the non-custodial parents lack of caring, rather than a custodial parents manipulations to keep the other parent out of the children’s lives.