October 25th, 2012 by Michael Sherron
In this article, we are going to focus on the federal program of child support enforcement that every state in the United States adheres to in an effort to secure money from non-custodial parents and diverts it to custodial parents so that these parents can then use the money for their children. Well sorta. The problem with child support enforcement is that this agency has a forward facing public side that most people have been socialized to accept. When thinking about child support, and the enforcement of non-custodial parents, we surmise that most people believe that enforcement is a wonderful program that has the SOLE purpose of taking care of children. And, it most cases this is true. Nobody at Fathers and Fathers has any problem with both parents supporting their children, and if one parent is purposefully absent then enforcement of child support is a good thing. However, there is a rear facing side of child support enforcement that is not well known or talked about much by Judges, Politicians, and many special interest groups; this fact being that there is an industry surrounding enforcement that is replenishing money for Welfare, TANF, and other Low Income Assistance Programs. In looking at the Federal Social Security Act, Title IV, Part D, Section 458, you will see language that allows the US Federal Government to give back “Incentive Payments” to US states for performance based child support collection, paternity establishment, and administrative costs. Typically, these incentive payments go back to social services programs because the thinking is after a divorce many women will end up using programs like TANF and Welfare for which US States have little money in their budgets for. While the exact amount of money is hard to define because of performance, and the fact that different states get back different amounts, many studies show that the average is that for every one dollar collected in child support, one dollar is released from Social Security Coffers that can then be given back to US States.
In our thinking, there are several problems with child support enforcement. If US States are dependent on this federal money from the collection of child support, then there is also a dependence on the non-custodial parent not having equal access to their children so that they pay greater child support which triggers the release of more federal money. Fathers and Families has serious concerns that enforcement of child support is in direct conflict with equally shared parenting for all parents and extended families. Under equally shared parenting, many non-custodial parents would pay considerably less child support because of increased time with their children, or they would pay no child support at all. Under equal parenting, there is significantly less federal money available for Welfare programs and most US States would be in financial crisis trying to solve funding of Low Income Programs because of it.
Another issue that is very frightening for our organization is that most child support enforcement programs are housed under US Health and Human Services Agencies like Social Services. Typically, these agencies investigate cases of child abuse, neglect, and dependency, and they often have legislative immunity for any wrong they may commit. Historically, Social Services agencies have been about providing services for women and children, and we are concerned that in many cases, especially those involving child protective services matters, that social services policies and procedures have enforcement mentality in mind when dealing with non-custodial families, while being geared towards services provider with custodial mothers. Furthermore, Social Services knows that if a child abuse, neglect, or dependency case can be made on a father, then he will pay greater child support. Again, this will also lead to greater Title IV-D money being delivered back to the State. In essence, Social Services NEEDS for non-custodial parents to exist, and they need them having little visitation (if any) with their children so they pay greater amount of child support that can be enforced by the federal government.
Fathers and Families understands that domestic violence and child support enforcement are two completely separate issues, but many special interest groups and lobbyist are starting to collaborate on how domestic violence and child support groups can benefit each other. Unfortunately, the lions share of combating domestic violence has focused only on male on female violence despite many federal statistics that women hit, use intimidation, and control at the same rate as men. And, in domestic partnerships involving women, the rate is sky rocketing. But you will not hear much talk about this because unfortunately domestic violence in itself has become an industry that supports many jobs, infrastructure, programs, and services that needs more and more federal money. Like child support enforcement, the higher the statistics on violence, the more federal money will be delivered to groups that administer domestic violence programs. It seems weird, but one could say that these groups NEED for statistics to remain high so that they get more money. So how does this fit in with child support enforcement? If you are part of a non-custodial family who’s child custody case was heard in the Family Courts, you likely experienced an allegations of domestic violence that is becoming almost routine because hopeful custodial mothers realize that it brings them lots of attention, and immediately puts a father on the defense. These allegations are a perfect tactical weapon that brings about favor in the Family Courts. Unfortunately, many of the false allegations will immediately lead to the complete alienation of children from their non-custodial fathers, step-mothers, paternal grandmothers, and other family members for an indefinite time. So what happens when a non-custodial father has ZERO time with his kids, he pays greater child support. And what happens when one pays greater child support? You got it, more Title IV-D money is released back to the US States.
So if both the child support enforcement folks and domestic violence folks get greater federal funding when fathers’ are falsely accused, thereby causing them to also trigger even more federal money, why not collaborate?
Fathers and Families has also noted that US States who have brought equally shared parenting to the Family Courts, or for those about to, there is always a provision that if a parent has been convicted of domestic violence, then equally shared parenting is out of the window. Since just about every Domestic Violence special interest group has come out opposed to equally shared parenting, we fear that many more women will be coached into remembering an incident years back that caused fear, even if she helped create it, so that domestic violence can be a factor in custody matters. In short, we fear that the Domestic Violence and Child Support Enforcement Agencies via Social Services will overlook and not address false allegations so that the shared parenting movement can be quashed.
Fathers and Families believes that far greater resources, opportunities, emotional support, psychological support, financial support, and physical support for children is realized when both parents (and extended families) have equal access and parentage of their children, and that these are things that federal child support enforcement or social services agency can never deliver.
Fathers and Families believes that using non-custodial families child support efforts as a means to generate federal money for Welfare programs is misguided.
Fathers and Families has concerns that as more and more Welfare applications are received at Social Services Agencies across the US, there will be even more aggressive child support enforcement tactics used in the future that is designed to secure federal money from Title IV-D legislation to pay for these programs. And given the level of immunity that social services agencies have, we believe that a very wide open door exists for abuse and bias on non-custodial families and children.
In an effort to help Fathers and Families educate Legislators, Judges, and other groups, we hope that you will join our organization, as well as getting involved with others across this great nation using our social media sites like Facebook where you will have the opportunity to collaborate with us and others who are also in the child support enforcement system. Additionally, we ask that you extensively share this article with others via email and other social networking sites to help bring about greater awareness of our mission.
NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.