F & F Writes Column for Cleveland Plain Dealer Criticizing ‘Deadbeat Dad’ Raids

In Father’s Day ‘Deadbeat Dad’ Raids Unfairly Target Hard-Luck Dads (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/19/10), Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. and I criticize the annual tradition among some sheriffs and attorneys general of launching “deadbeat dad” raids in honor of Father’s Day.

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Dr. Holstein and I wrote:

That most “deadbeats” are really dead broke can be seen by taking a look at the “Most Wanted Deadbeat Parent” posters put out by many attorneys general and county sheriffs. For example, authorities in Ohio recently launched a highly-publicized campaign against “deadbeats,” yet the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services’ “Most Wanted” poster features only blue-collar workers of limited means.

In a national article on the problem, The Associated Press highlights numerous cases of loving fathers being ground up by the child support system, explaining, “With the economic downturn hitting men harder than women … many dads are finding themselves struggling to make child support payments that were based on incomes they no longer earn.”

Jeremy Lavine, a 30-year-old Tampa, Fla., dad, is an example. According to The AP, Lavine once earned $4,500 a month working in the real estate industry, and has a $1,100-a-month child support obligation. Now, he’s earning about $1,500 a month repairing jet skis. Yet the Florida Department of Children and Families refused to give him a modification, instead telling him that the real estate industry is going to bounce back. Lavine is being turned into a “deadbeat dad” and possibly becoming criminalized, yet his kids live with him 50 percent of the time.

Peter Triantafillou’s finance industry income has dropped to practically the exact amount of his child support obligation. The Bergen, N.J., divorced dad told reporters:

“They had an arrest warrant on me. I had to go to jail for two days. I could understand if I was a deadbeat dad, or I was on the run or something. But I’m here, picking up my kids after school. I’m involved. Just because I don’t have that much money to pay anymore doesn’t mean I should be chastised.”

In the bad economy, many dads are substituting hands-on child care for the monetary benefits they can no longer provide. The child support system is impervious to this, judging fathers’ worth only by what they pay. In fact, child support officials in numerous states are telling the media — without a trace of irony or shame — that the best way they’ve found to collect child support money in the recession is garnisheeing half of obligors’ unemployment checks.

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