The Financial Incentives of Fatherlessness

April 11, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Part Four of Terry Brennan’s excellent series on fatherlessness is here (Daily Caller, 4/9/18). His latest is on child support laws and the many ways in which they achieve the dubious goal of taking fathers from children. As I’ve said many times, fatherlessness is the public policy of the United States and the several states. Our laws, regulations and practices accomplish that in far too many ways and despite the best interests of children for us to conclude anything but that removing fathers from children’s lives is public policy.

Brennan makes the case yet again.

While it obviously takes money to raise children, existing child support laws create fatherless kids…

Examining how child support creates fatherlessness begins at the national level by, as the saying goes, following the money.

Federally, Title IV-D is the part of the social security act establishing the National Child Support Program. Through it, the federal government provides an incentive by matching the amount each state collects in child support.

State laws are then written tying the amount of child support received to the amount of time the “custodial parent”, typically the mother, gets with the child. The more you minimize the other parent, the more money both you, and the state, receive.

In short, via Tile IV-D of the Social Security Act, the federal government offers monetary incentives to states to remove one parent from a child’s life. Unsurprisingly, states then offer cash incentives to custodial parents (82% of whom are mothers) to fight for as much parenting time as possible. Family court judges then give custody and the lion’s share of parenting time to mothers.

Given that child support (and therefore the amount paid to the state) is pegged to the earnings of the two parents, it’s likewise unsurprising that mothers tend to end up with custody and fathers on the outside looking in. Since men tend strongly to earn more than women, giving custody to mothers increases the amount of child support to be paid and therefore the amount potentially harvested by the state.

And, since the amount of federal largess paid to states is tied directly to the amount of child support ordered to be paid, it makes sense for judges to set child support orders as high as possible. This they notoriously do, bankrupting many fathers and sending others to jail. In vain does the OCSE beg judges to set orders at levels non-custodial parents can actually pay.

And of course the most heavily impacted by all this are the poor and African-Americans. Those are both groups that have a hard enough time as it is maintaining active relationships between fathers and their children. Federal and state governments are Johnny on the spot to make matters worse.

All of this tends strongly to remove fathers from children’s lives, creating fatherlessness.

Late, late in the game, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has begun offering states a bit of leeway in their draconian efforts to squeeze every last dime out of fathers. As I’ve said before, that’s at least in part due to the realization that the massive arrears owed by non-custodial parents will, realistically, never be paid. One 2007 report predicted that it would take a decade to collect just 40% of what was then owed. That prediction turned out to be accurate. And of course in the decade since then, arrears have only grown.

So the OCSE told states they could seek new ways of approaching child support.

The Virginia Department of Social Services had an awakening on child support, describing it as “a completely new approach of looking at men as they are, fathers who care about their children.”

Likewise, the Colorado Division of Child Support Enforcement asked:

“What if we don’t just come after them with enforcement measures, but actually help them build a relationship with their children, help them get a job?”

Now, many of us would ask, “Why is that a ‘completely new approach.” And, “Why did it take Colorado over 30 years to decide to help fathers and children stay in meaningful contact?” After all, we’ve known since at least 1998 when Sanford Braver skewered the many myths about non-custodial fathers, that fathers don’t mind paying child support as long as it’s for a child they’re allowed to see and be a father to. Since then, right public policy regarding child support should have emphasized keeping Dad actively involved in little Andy or Jenny’s life. But no, here it is 2018 and states are just beginning to figure out the obvious.

Meanwhile, Brennan has a good idea on how to encourage states to enact shared parenting laws.

Federally, Title IV-D must be re-written to prohibit payments made to states which, in their laws, increase child support payments by minimizing one parent in the lives of their children. States providing financial incentives to “rip families apart” would immediately change their laws rather than risk losing the federal income.

That way, state family court judges could start issuing custody and parenting time orders that actually serve the interests of children, instead of just saying they do.




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.

#fatherlessness, #childsupport

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