AZ Governor Ducey Attacks State’s Most Vulnerable – Dads Behind on Child Support

January 15, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is betting that misandry and ignorance will appeal to the state’s electorate.  Into the bargain, he’s putting his money on the idea that kicking a man when he’s down makes him look tough.  Who knows if he’s right or wrong, but suffice it to say that the man’s latest ploy would disgrace anyone who values honesty and decency (CNN, 1/12/16). 

In his State of the State address, Ducey pounced on some of the most vulnerable of his state’s residents – fathers who owe child support.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey has launched a controversial new initiative to publicly shame suspected "deadbeat dads," tweeting out their names and faces using a social media account operated by a state agency.

During his State of the State address, the Republican on Monday issued a stark warning to the "fathers out there who aren’t meeting their obligations."

"For too long, you’ve been able to remain anonymous," he said, "able to skirt your financial and legal responsibilities with no shame.

Yes, according to Ducey, the only parents who fall behind on their child support obligations are dads.  In case anyone might miss his frank sexism, Ducey invariably used the word “dads” and masculine pronouns to refer to the targets of his latest fearless campaign.  Make no mistake, according to him, the only parents in the state who don’t pay the child support they owe are fathers.

Sexism is always based on ignorance.  Even a casual glance at national data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, reveals that non-custodial fathers are better at paying what they owe than are non-custodial mothers.  They pay more dollars and a higher percentage of what they’re ordered to pay.  Plus, judges are almost twice as likely to order a father as a mother to pay support.  About 54% of dads have a child support order versus about 28% of moms.

But Ducey doesn’t mention any of that.  I suppose, in his book, children being cared for by their dads don’t need their mothers’ support and non-custodial mothers shouldn’t be asked to do so.  What else can we conclude from Ducey’s consistent reference to male parents as the ones to be “shamed?”

Needless to say, his tough-guy stance against fathers won’t work and my guess is that Ducey doesn’t care if it does or not.  Posturing politicians seldom have a strong interest in the issue in question; their schoolyard bully act is all about getting votes and who’s a safer person to push around than impecunious fathers who probably don’t vote and certainly don’t contribute to political campaigns?  The simple truth is that Ducey’s trying to look tough by attacking the weak and vulnerable.  That may impress him, but in fact it’s just the coward’s way.

Why won’t shaming work?  Again, it takes a smidgen of knowledge to understand the answer, a smidgen Ducey doesn’t have.

As the Office of Child Support Enforcement has been telling us for years, the overwhelming majority of parents who fall behind on their child support payments do so because they’re too poor to pay.  In its 2006 report on the matter, the OCSE revealed that an amazing 63% of child support debtors reported earning less than $10,000 the previous year.  That’s not enough to support an adult much less an adult and a child.

The OCSE has also been begging judges to issue orders that non-custodial parents can actually pay.  You’d think that would be nothing but the obvious, but apparently it’s not.  Judges routinely issue child support orders that leave the payors in poverty.  Here’s one example I blogged about last September.

That’s often because of the practice of imputing income to non-custodial parents for the purpose of calculating child support.  Imputing income involves ignoring what a person actually earns and setting support levels based on what they could earn in a better economy, another state, an earlier time, if their health hadn’t failed, etc.  So the middle manager who once earned six figures but who hasn’t had a middle-management job in five years may see his support set on those earlier earnings instead of his job at the strip mall that’s been his sole support during all that time. 

The theory of imputation of income is that every action of non-custodial parents is aimed at avoiding their obligation of support.  That’s utter nonsense of course.  Study after study reveals that parents want to support their children, but sometimes can’t.  Yes, there are a few true deadbeats, i.e. those who have plenty of money with which to meet their obligations, but, out of spite or perversity or something, refuse to part with it. 

The law and regulations on which child support orders are based assumes those exceptions to be the rule and punishes everyone accordingly.  Funny, the same could be said about Doug Ducey.  Great minds think alike.

Some people have more sense and more compassion than the governor.

"There are all kinds of potential legal concerns surrounding public shaming and I don’t know that there’s any evidence that it works," Arizona House Minority Leader Eric Meyer told CNN.

"These are parents who, for whatever reason, may not have jobs, and there are lots of Arizonans who may not have jobs, so if you don’t have money to pay the bills, yeah, you’re a ‘deadbeat dad,’" but [the families] are not going to get any money anyway."

Actually, a man who loses his job isn’t a “deadbeat;” he’s a man who lost his job.  In that regard, he’s like millions of men and women throughout the country.  Face it, the economy has for years been shedding good jobs and replacing them with lousy ones.  It’s a process that shows no sign of letting up.  The child support system of course makes matters worse.

When a non-custodial parent has a major drop in income, the system requires that he/she go to court and prove not only that a job has been lost, an illness incurred, an injury suffered, etc., but that the loss was unavoidable and the situation won’t be rectified soon.  That usually requires the services of an attorney, but of course the very change of circumstances that necessitated going to court means it’s probably impossible to hire one.

And in any case, it often takes months to get a hearing, during which time the arrears build up and up.

The point being that the great majority of people Ducey calls “deadbeats” aren’t.  They’re people with real life problems that shaming doesn’t solve.  Truth be told, the governor can plaster these men’s mugs on every billboard and Facebook page in the state and it won’t create income with which to pay.

Ducey probably knows this.  His act has nothing to do with getting child support paid and everything to do with getting him re-elected.  You’d think he’d have more common decency, but then decency isn’t all that common among politicians, now is it?


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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