Ontario to Begin Impounding Cars of Noncustodial Parents in Child Support Arrears

Here’s the always-excellent Barbara Kay on the latest measures thought up by the province of Ontario to prevent non-custodial parents from making their child support payments (National Post, 11/9/10).

Yep, you read that right.  In addition to the astonishing array of sanctions already in place, Ontario has decided that NC parents who fall behind on their payments will, beginning on December 1, have the automobiles impounded.  (Of course the term “non-custodial parents” is code for “fathers.”  In Canada, some 90% of primary custodians are mothers.)

I can only guess at what genius thought that one up or why.  NC delinquents can already have their license to drive taken away for failure to pay support.  So the only thing I can figure is that parents who were behind on their payments must have been driving to job interviews without a license hoping they wouldn’t get stopped.

Now Ontario is going to put a stop to that!  After all, a dad who can get to a job interview is a dad who can possibly get a job; and a dad with a job is a dad who can make his payments.  So the fearless bureaucrats and legislators of Ontario have leapt into the fray to thwart any such outcome.

Like the loss of a driver’s license, like the loss of professional and occupational licenses and like jail, all of which punishments are meted out to non-custodial parents who get laid off work in the worst economy since the 1930s, impounding automobiles is nothing but a barrier to making child support payments.

And of course the elected officials of Ontario know this very well, which raises the question “why do they do it?”  They scarcely draw a breath without repeating their dedication to the wellbeing of children, so why do they make it harder and harder for those children to receive monetary support?

We know for example, that overwhelmingly the parents who suffer these repeated attacks on their ability to pay are the poor.  I’ve said before that, in the United States, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, 63% of NC parents in arrears say they earn $10,000 per year or less.

And when the State of New Jersey conducted a sweep of hundreds of NC parents who were behind on their payments, it collected a grand total of six cents for every dollar owed.  To anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, that means that these people cannot pay.

Into the bargain, it’s not as if, once a parent is sanctioned for failure to pay, his payments are suspended.  If his license to drive is taken away, if he’s imprisoned, the arrearages just keep building up and up along with interest.  In that way, a state or province keeps its NC dads in perpetual violation of the law, perpetually at risk for being jailed, perpetually lacking the resources they need to find employment and pay.

To Ontario, all that is an opportunity for ever-more-punitive measures to be taken against them.

So the answer to the question “why?” begins to look like a gratuitous desire to inflict pain.  It looks sadistic.  It’s hard to avoid the perception that the people making these decisions prefer the suffering of fathers to the wellbeing of children.  How else to explain the barriers they continue to erect to fathers supporting their children?

Kay also turns the coin over and looks at the other side – the one on which we see custodial parents (90% of whom are mothers) refusing with complete impunity, fathers’ access to their children.

As we know, in Canada, England, Australia and the U.S., that practice is (a) common and (b) rarely punished by courts.  Once in a blue moon, a mother loses custody for truly egregious behavior, but what about her license to drive?  What about her car?  What about her license to practice law or her teacher’s certificate?  Nope, never.

Like Kay, I’ve never seen or heard of such a thing and, as far as I can tell there is no law anywhere that would allow a judge to impose such penalties.

The child support system long ago stopped making much sense, but legislative bodies going to extremes to make payment of child support more and more difficult and depriving children in the process is surely the worst of it.

Thanks to Jeremy for the heads-up.

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