LAL 102: 02
11 May 2011
Child Support Enforcement: One Law Does Not Fit All
Single parents are becoming the norm these days and the government has stepped in to assist these custodial parents to make things fair. It takes two people to make a child so it seems only fair that two people support the child financially, right? I am a single mother. My daughter’s father, Donnie, and I were never married and weren’t together at the time of her birth. He wasn’t around to sign the birth certificate so I had to go through DFS to fill paperwork out to get support payments from him after our daughter (Nathalia) was born. When I filled out the CSE (Child Support Enforcement) paperwork the case was being handled by a caseworker in Jefferson City, MO. I gave the caseworker Donnie’s address about four months after our daughter’s birth. Nothing was done and I assumed they were having trouble getting hold of him. When Nathalia was five years old my case was moved to a caseworker in Columbia who called and got the information from me again and I received paternity paperwork within the month. The way it works is the noncustodial parent only has to pay from the time the paperwork showing paternity was sent. I had tried to contact Nathalia’s father to start visitation. He came around for one hour a week for about two months then just stopped. He paid the arrearage for support payments after facing criminal charges for non-payment of support payments, and being threatened with a year in jail if the support was not paid. I feel no sympathy. Now he is back to not making the payments. On the other hand I have a friend (Jessica, fictional name) who has a five year old daughter (Hannah, fictional name) whose father has been in and out of jail for child support non-payment. He has a relationship with Hannah and has care of her fifty percent of the time. The government wants to put him back in jail for arrearage on Hannah and two of his other children. Jessica has lost her health insurance due to not signing papers that would have him arrested. With these two cases the fathers are very different. One is an absentee father who quits jobs to avoid paying his support payments, the other a father who is very much in his child’s life and is a positive influence. Both fathers are being treated equally in the eyes of the State. But which father deserves the jail time? In an article by Jeff Minerd, “A Kinder, Gentler Look at ‘Deadbeat Dads’,” he states “In 1950, about 20% of children lived apart from their father; that figure is now approaching 50%” (8). This article was printed in 1999 so the percentage of children not living with their father has likely increased. The increase is due to many reasons. Some of the reasons may include death, divorce, and never-married couples. With the number of children who do not live with their fathers rising it only stands to reason that the number of cases the CSE (Child Support Enforcement) is handling is increasing as well. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Support Enforcement, one of their goals is “. . . to emphasize that children need to have both parents in their lives. . .” (Handbook). If this is true then why is the father who is a positive influence and is present in his child’s life having to deal with the possibility of going back to jail for past child support non-payment, but the father who wants nothing to do with his daughter and doesn’t pay his child support as ordered gets off with a slap on the wrist? Child support enforcement should look more in depth at each case before taking actions against a non-custodial father. The Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Support Enforcement states “Although the function of the CSE program is to collect and distribute child support payments, throughout the Handbook...