Brothers, do you really want to know when the
'great debate' over child support payments REALLY began to
take place? I'll provide you a few hints: *It wasn't when
man after man had been thrown into prisons by courts who put money
ahead of visitation
rights and charged them--on top of everything else--with felonies,
making some men unable to find well-paying work; *It wasn't
when man after man had their wages, income tax refunds, and retirement
by an allegedly 'gender blind' justice system; *It wasn't when
Uncle Sam made those who fell behind in paying child support because
layoffs, illness, or job injuries ineligible for everything from U.S.
Passports to lottery winnings; The real 'ground breaker' that forced
discussion of the 'fairness' of child support into the national consciousness
came--when a few WOMEN were arrested and jailed for non-payment!
The sad truth about the whole child support
issue is that federal, state, and local authorities STILL don't
get it; a government agency can't take away up to fifty percent of a
person's economic health for eighteen to twenty years, without that person
a tad bit steamed. Worse yet, while child support is supposed to go for
the care, clothing, and feeding of children we produce, VISITATIONENFORCEMENT is woefully inadequate. H'mmm--I wonder how many jailed
women it would take to have the system reformed?
But, I digress!
America's child support system is the only economic model where not only
don't you get what you pay for; you can't even SEE for whom you
have paid! When was the last time you saw a female of the species put
behind bars for a few years because she denied the paying and lawful
a chance to see his children? Yet, in many jurisdictions, the custodial
parent (usually female) can force a noncustodial parent (usually male)
back into court for as little as a five dollar a week increase in their
base child support amount. Stand by and put away your best crystal. We're
gonna quake on this issue because there is a lot the general public doesn't
know about child support--but those who are paying--do.
A BIT OF INSPIRATION:
Now, don't get me wrong. If a man helps to create a child, he is duty-bound
to support that child: financially, morally, spiritually, and emotionally.
There is no two ways about it! If you 'birth' a baby, my brother, you
are on the hook! So, paying child support is right, ethical, and biblical.
As a matter of fact, the biblical admonition is clear, for the Apostle
Paul writes in the New Testament, in summary: 'A man who will not support
his family is worse than an infidel'. Thus, a man should pay his child
support on time, every time, as best as his economic circumstances allow
him to comply with the orders of the court. However, the courts may not
always be right when it comes to the collection of child support, or the
issuance of orders regarding the same. There are many cases where men--and
some women--have been literally forced into a position where they have
to decide: 'Do I eat this week, or, pay my child support?' Back in February,
a column was written by Kathleen Parker on happenings in the state of
Alabama about a move to publish another 'deadbeat parents' photo gallery
in the effort to increase collections. The underlying objective: 'rallying
public shame' against those parents who have had a long-term lack of cooperation
in taking care of their children. It wasn't the usual 'bash 'em all' type
of column many female (and male) columnists pen to curry public favor
(like politicians and custodial parents), but it provided a balanced view.
The irony is that many who are involved with the child support system
will 'see' what they want to see in the column, without thinking about
those who have to pay support, without seeing their children for months--or
TIME FOR SOME AGGRESSIVE VISITATION ENFORCEMENT:
That last statement may shock a few of you, but take it from me. Just
because a man pays his support, and may even be paid up-to-date, there
is no guarantee that they will be able to see their children for whom
the support is being paid. In other words, when one buys a car, pays for
a bag of groceries, or buys a house, you can see what you are getting,
and where the money is going. While there are laws on the books mandating
visitation rights in many states, those rights are seldom enforced by
the courts--without a lot of expenses having to be paid by those already
'on the hook' for child support. Add to this the fact that, according
to federal guidelines, up to fifty percent of one's income can be ordered
'garnished' by the court to satisfy a child support obligation. Thus,
if a noncustodial parent gets a five dollar a week raise on the job, and
the custodial parent gets wind of it, they could order the noncustodial
back into court for a new child support order--and still not grant visitation
rights to that parent.
America's child support system has been called by many: 'The modern-day
resurrection of the debtors prison system.' Dozens have been jailed or
imprisoned--for anywhere from six months to three years or more--over
this type of debt, and have had FELONY convictions tacked upon
their records. With an already tight economy, just try to apply for a
job with a felony conviction on your record. More than a few attorneys
have remarked: 'A murderer has more rights than one who is behind in
or her child support.' More than a few new spouses have watched their
spouses have to run back to court and wrestle with financial obligations
from a previous failed marriage. More than a few politicians--a few whom
I personally know who help 'craft' tough child support enforcement legislation,
learned a painful lesson through divorces of their own. Yet, they did
not go back to correct these laws, nor did they go public to support
caught up in the web they helped to create. They merely had their cases
quietly transferred to non-political jurisdictions where friendly judges
who owed 'the party' a political favor or two, kept their cases quiet,
and their support obligations low.
THE SOLUTIONS IN A SEA OF POLITICAL APATHY:
If President Bush, and the Capitol Hill gang want to see collections increase,
those who pay support should storm the Hill with letters, cards, and personal
testimony before House and Senate Committees about the unfairness of the
system. Here are a few that I can think of, right off the bat:
*Make child support payments taxable
income to the recipient, and a deduction to the person who pays it. Right
now, child support is regarded as 'free money'. It does not have to be
reported as income at the federal, state, or local level.
*Have local or state prosecutors or
district attorneys publicize those parents who have denied visitation
rights. Put a few of them on posters, milk cartons, and billboards. Take
away their driver's licenses, professional licenses, and passports.
*End the 'bounty system' of collections--that
is, those states where child support collections are highest, bounties
are paid by the federal government to state and local coffers, based upon
the level of collections. Your county could be raking in millions while
payers are paying, but not getting to see their kids.
*Make public those custodial parents
who have 'fled' jurisdictions and 'disappeared' with the children, all
the while noncustodial parents don't have the legal resources to fight
to win either custody, or visitation rights enforcement.
*Next, it is up to those who are paying
to alert the mainstream press to the inequities of the system. There are
more than a few journalists, judges, and prosecutors who have been through
a divorce, and now stand on the edge of a financial and emotional abyss
because their income has been cut to shreds, with no visitation rights
*Lastly, teach the young real responsibility.
Young men don't need to learn how to 'carry' a computerized baby, diaper
bag or stroller to learn how to be a parent; give them a child support
payment book and a tour of the child support courts. Once a young man
learns that up to fifty percent of his earning power is going to be gone
for a period of eighteen to twenty years--with every child produced out
of wedlock--teen pregnancy rates will drop to zero overnight!
Lip service is paid to the phrase: 'Every child
deserves two parents'. If the courts can break up a family based upon
a divorce decree; if the courts can be used to enforce payment of child
support; then the same courts ought to be used to bring the two sides
back together and enforce visitation. It's time to quit putting noncustodial
parents in the roles of 'Uncle Daddy' or 'Aunt Mommy'. If you want to
see a drop in juvenile crime, and teen pregnancies, let's get the courts,
the politicians, and the press to wake up and smell the ink of the payment
book. Yes, there are consequences to nonpayment of child support. But,
there are greater consequences to allowing children not to see BOTH parents.
It took two to make a child. It takes two to train a child in the way
he, or she, needs to go. Take off the judicial handcuffs from
noncustodial parents and repair the damaged image of fathers--and mothers--who
have been taking responsibility; but not being allowed to share in the
visitation of their children.
As I close, let me share this from personal
experience; one of the worse pains a noncustodial parent faces is to get
a call from a juvenile corrections facility concerning the actions of
a child they have been paying for; but not allowed to see because of the
actions of hard-headed, money-hungry, and bitter custodial parents. The
system says: 'Be responsible and pay for your kids!' Those who are paying
are now starting to tell the system: 'We've done our part, now let us
start SEEING our kids!'
If it's not about the money, then why can't
more than several million paying, working, and praying noncustodial parents
be allowed to have their visitation rights granted. Are we not citizens?
Are we not parents? Are we not--human? Even Jesus Christ gets more respect
and reverence from the courts, the press, and the politicians than a noncustodial
parent. At least it is admitted by those institutions that He exists.
Noncustodial parents, it seems, do not.