Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NOW wants to imprison more poor fathers...

Sensationalist headline....I know, but hear me out. Some quotes about "deadbeat" dads via Glenn's blog:
More than 90 percent of fathers with joint custody paid the support due, according to a Census Bureau report (Series P-23, No. 173). So deadbeats are in the minority. Also, most so-called deadbeat dads actually are dead broke. Two-thirds of men who fail to make child-support payments earn poverty-level wages, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. Most of the others are unemployed...
The largest federally funded study of child-support payments was led by Arizona State University researcher Sanford Braver over an eight-year period. Mr. Braver found that fathers with joint custody pay 90.2 percent of all child support ordered. Fathers with visitation rights pay 79.1 percent of all child support ordered. However, fathers with no access or visitation rights to their children pay just 44.5 percent of the court-ordered child support. Much of Mr. Braver's data was backed up in the Census Bureau report (Series P-23, No. 173).
Another study, "Visitational Interference: A National Study" by J. Annette Vanini and Edward Nichols, found that 77 percent of noncustodial fathers are not able to spend time with their children, as ordered by the court, as a result of "visitation interference" perpetuated by the custodial parent. This would mean that noncompliance with court-ordered visitation is three times the problem of noncompliance with court-ordered child support. In short, lousy moms outnumber deadbeat dads 3-1. - from here
This 2004 study by the Office of Child Support Enforcement shows that, according to their figures, 63% of all people who are behind on their child support report earning less than $10,000 per year. That accounts for 70% of all the child support owed in this country. The same figures show that 34% of child support obligors report earning no money at all during the year.
84% of non-custodial parents are fathers
Sanford Braver found that, when obligors who had lost their job were removed from the database, between 80% and 100% of child support was paid in full and on time. - from here
By federal law, child support orders cannot be retroactively modified, no matter how mistaken, misguided or ridiculous. Even men who fell behind on their child support because they had heart attacks, broken legs or cancer cannot have their arrearages eliminated. And much of the arrearages owed by Abbott’s “Top 10” accrued before 2002, when Texas charged obligors 12% interest, one of the highest interest rates in the country.
Also, under Texas law, an obligor who owes only three months of past-due child support can have his driver’s license or other professional licenses suspended, interfering with his ability make a living.
Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data shows that two-thirds of those behind on child support nationwide earned poverty-level wages; less than four percent of the national child support debt is owed by those earning $40,000 or more a year. - from here

A 2007 study by the Urban Institute showed that eighteen states routinely charge interest and those states have seen their arrears increase from $5.4 billion to $58.7 billion over a 10-year period. States that did not charge interest over that same period only saw arrears grow from $2.8 billion to $19.5 billion during the same time period. - from here

a few weeks ago, the State of New Jersey conducted a statewide sweep of those behind on their child support payments. Hundreds of people were picked up and given a choice - pay up or go to jail. Most of us would pay if we could, but what New Jersey actually collected in that sweep was six cents on the dollar. In one county, it was two cents. Stated another way, when faced with paying what they owed or going to jail, six parents in 100 paid. - from here

every dollar of child support collected by the state is matched by $0.66 from the federal government. - from here

even the Office of Child Support Enforcement admits that family court judges routinely order support levels that the non-custodial parent can't pay.

we care so much about the wellbeing of children that we take their fathers from them and put them in prison. That's sensible only if you believe that fathers have nothing to offer children except money. And that, come to think of it, is a pretty fair description of public policy with regard to fathers and children.

The sensible approach to all of this is equally shared parenting in which parents have equal time with children and share the expenses of childcare equally. But until we get there, family courts must (a) start establishing support orders that parents can actually pay, (b) start enforcing visitation orders (that's the main cause of refusal to pay), and (c) establish summary procedures for child support modification that reflect changed circumstances.

Oh, and (d) only send people to prison who can pay but don't. - from here

According to a September 2006 issue of “Children’s Voice” magazine, while the government spends some $4 billion on child support enforcement, it spends only $10 million on visitation enforcement. In essence, we spend 400 times more on child support enforcement than we do visitation enforcement. - from here

According to an Urban Institute study, less than one in 20 non-custodial parents who suffer substantial income drops are able to get courts to reduce their child support payments.

According to a California Judicial Council report, 80% of California child support debtors earn poverty level wages, and over a quarter of the arrears total is interest. - from here

In reality, much if not most child support enforcement funds are frittered away in misguided attempts to collect artificially inflated paper arrearages from low-income men who couldn’t possibly pay them. Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data shows that two-thirds of those behind on child support nationwide earned less than $10,000 in the previous year; less than four percent of the overall national child support debt is owed by those earning $40,000 or more a year. According to the largest federally-funded study of divorced dads ever conducted, unemployment, not willful neglect, is the largest cause of failure to pay child support.

For example, a recent Urban Institute study found that only 25% of California's $14.4 billion child support arrearage will be collected over the next decade because the support amounts demanded of noncustodial parents are not realistic. The average arrears owed per debtor is $3,000 higher than the median annual earnings of employed child support debtors. Those in the poorest category have a child support debt amounting to their full net income for seven and a half years. - from here
Even though I repeated myself I want you to keep that all in your mind. Most fathers pay child support. If they are not able to pay this is most likely due to unemployment. If they are unemployed they face the problem that the child support payment rates don't get reduced, even more so, the state ads another 66 cent for every dollar not payed and puts the fathers in prison if they can not pay. Most of those earn poverty level wages, or are unemployed and can surely not pay while they are in prison, so there is even more to pay. Not even thinking about the felony or possible revoked drivers licences which makes it even harder to pay at all. This of course doesn't help children.

Now we come to NOW, more specifically the Rhodes Island chapter:

RI NOW Supports
Promoting Economic Justice
Would decrease the amount of child support arrearage constituting a felony from $10,000 to $5,000
Would decrease the amount of child support arrearage constituting a felony from $10,000 to $5,000

And there is nothing more to say...


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