THE TRUTH ABOUT CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT: (SOURCES: INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS RESEARCH CORP.,INDEPENDENT RESEARCHERS AND CONSULTANTS, EXPERT WITNESSES IN FEDERAL CASES, PUBLISHED ARTICLES)
the record of voluntary payments by fathers who are fully employed, when there is a valid child support order is extremely good.
Specifically, divorced fathers who have developed an emotional bond and are allowed continued contact with their children do not choose to abandon their children personally or financially.
When there is no support order, and the mother does not wish to report the amount of money being received from the father,of course there is no way of knowing what is being paid or what role the father is playing in the family.
unwed fathers were very interested in their children. Together with the repeated evidence that fathers in the system, with great consistency take responsibility as much as they are able.
unemployment is a big reason for non-payment of child support and that statistics on non-payment include the almost 50% share of mothers who DO NOT have a support award.
Since 1988, federally mandated presumptive child support
guidelines have been responsible for award levels that are more than obligors can pay, and therefore have created a large portion of the non-payment problem that did not previously exist.
setting child support awards "presumptively" is a violation of constitutional rights.
public support was generated by a promise that taxpayers would benefit from stronger enforcement measures.
Federal government (U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement) reports annual losses in child support enforcement as low as $200 million. The Federal government did NOT count over $300 million in federal transfers received by states. Therfore, the loss to taxpayers stands at least at the $526 million annual amount. Meanwhile, while you're reading this, there are proposals to spend BILLIONS more.
Regarding child support and welfare, Congress takes the role of deciding cases in the worst way possible; not individually, but on the basis of cultivated group prejudice. The blame shifts back and forth from so-called "deadbeat dads" to "welfare queens." This approach to policy development has NOT served us well. The last thing we need is another decade of Congress representing itself as a pseudo-judicial branch of government.
According to the Federal government, when the Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Establishment program was enacted, such a program could:
(1) reduce public expenditures on welfare by obtaining support from non-custodial parents on an ongoing basis and by helping nonwelfare families get support so they could stay off public assistance, and (2) establish paternity for children born outside of marriage so that child support could be obtained for them. These same goals were reemphasized with the Child Support Enforcement Amendments and The Family Support Act.
Voters and taxpayers should be asking why, after the most expensive child support enforcement experiment in U.S. history, doesn't so much evidence of failure lead to a change in direction? Also, why instead is it leading to suggestions of even more spending on more of the same?
It doesn't train, educate or employ the young father so he can gradually take more responsibility for his family. What the child support reforms accomplished, was to provide BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to enforcement agencies to count payments that would mostly have been made without their involvement, and then provided additional funds under federal incentive programs if they could do that efficiently.
If the goal is to develop a bill to change child support aspects of the welfare system into something that reduces poverty, then it is necessary to rediscover the link between poverty and the child support problem: There is a presumption that non-payment of child support is one of the greatest causes of poverty, especially children. The INVERSE is far closer to the truth; that a case of non-payment is caused by unemployment and poverty.
There are ways to conveniently reduce the statistics on non-payment of child support. The two information sources that are most widely used are the Census Bureau survey of single mothers and records kept by states. Reports from single mothers obviously have a bias. Why don't they survey employment information of non-custodial parents? From this information alone they could easliy justify the need for national job training programs and other educational system reforms for example, as better alternatives to spending on child support enforcement.
Also, state records recently reported that a substantial number of invalid cases were showing monthly accrual. Anyone who studied this issue, know that states have always done a great job adding people to their systems, but a completely inadequate job of taking them out when appropriate. Throughout a childhood, the state of jurisdiction can change many times, and each time a new record is started in a different state. The problem is that all previous states will still show an accumulation of an arrearages. In addition, states need to remove records when a child reaches the age of majority, and under any other circumstance that causes the order to become invalid. Obviously,
scaling such a system up nationally would result in a
dramatic decrease in the amount of child support arrearage reported by states (and owed by non-custodial parents).
The shift to federal control of domestic relations law should focus on improving the technology used to calculate
a child support award, create a national child support guideline, and improve child support award decision technology.
If child support guidelines are to remain a component of a national family policy, then that technology needs to be of absolutely the highest quality that can be created. So far, government has shown no interest in developing technology that can honestly be considered adequate, let alone high quality. Due to the absence of sufficient data on parental spending on children, deficiencies in child support science, and a complete lack of funding for engineering research on this problem, adequate child support technology has not been developed even to provide support for reasonable aggregate or macro-level decisions, let alone appropriate decisions in individual cases.
A report distributed by the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement titled "National Child Support Collections Potential and the Income Security of Female-Headed Families" determines the majority of state guidelines along with federal financial incentives which all have an enormous political influence.
This contradicts the child support doctrine in most states which was based on the equal duty principle; the idea that BOTH parents have an equal duty to provide financially for their
children. Further expression of this principle was found in the idea that had been expressed in the vast majority of state statutes; that award amounts should be based on actual needs of children, and the relative ability of the parents to provide financial and other resources to meet those needs.
BUT..the Federal government decided that child support orders decided under state law were too low; a conclusion that was actually well beyond the scope of their study. The higher awards recommended to states resulted from implicit changes in child support doctrine. Those changes are contrary to the recommendations of the national panel on child support and there are great differences between the implied doctrine and existing state "Income Shares" method which involved dramatic departures from existing law. States applying Federal recommendations later had to reduce some portions of their schedule after discovering that the method led to support awards that were actually MORE than the obligor's income. The corrections that have been put into place were only arbitrary and limited to the most obvious
problem areas. No state has really fixed the fundamental problems of the Income Shares model.
The Income Shares model does not consider spending on children to
be an important factor. Consideration for the "needs" of children was replaced by an arbitrary function for allocating non-custodial parent income between family members. In addition, the current methods do not account for the large percentage of support that had traditionally been provided by non-custodial parents in direct support of children while the children are in their care, usually during periods of visitation. Under the majority of current guidelines the non-custodial parent must pay this share directly to the custodial parent, even though
the custodial parent has been relieved of the actual expense. This usually leaves non-custodial parents without sufficient funds to support their children during visitation; therefore in practical terms, eliminating the possibility of obeying the support order and exercising visitation rights.
these situations have been carefully studied and there should be absolutely no legitimate government interest in redistributing income this way; especially at the expense of contact between the children and one of the parents. Before any collection effort can have legitimacy, the current system of presumptive award setting according to guidelines, whether implemented at the state or federal level, must be fixed. In many situations, it has led to awards that are too high, and at times the
non-custodial parent cannot pay what is ordered even if visitation is given up. I should point out that this worsens the statistics on non and under-payment.
It is obvious that existing policy encourages the disenfranchisement of the non-custodial parent; something everyone seems to agree is terribly wrong. understand the goals of a national child support guideline, they are to increase award levels even further and make them uniform between states.
That would be an expansion of the very destructive family policies implemented as a result of the mandates of the 1988 Family Support Act. It is extremely important for the underlying philosophy of child support guideline development to shift from uniformity and politically motivated increases, to a system of uniform JUSTICE.
Also there's a very serious problem that Congress must correct immediately. The Family Support Act of 1988 imposed a mandate on states to apply child support guidelines PRESUMPTIVELY. This has led to a system that sets awards arbitrarily, in which no serious weight is given to evidence presented in court. Such a
system is unconstitutional; if we took a poll on the principle involved, we would have no trouble finding a majority of Americans (taxpayers, voters)not in favor of such an approach, no matter what the issue. Americans believe in the BILL OF RIGHTS.
Also, studies have proven that the Family Support Act significantly benefits middle and upper income custodial parents. There is little economic reason or legal authority for Congress to support such reforms. Low income mothers, the critical group, would gain very little, and in fact could stand to lose alot. Data on payments in Washington, DC show that average support payments have more than doubled since 1988, mostly to middle and upper income mothers. Data from Indiana, show that the percentage of young unwed fathers who abandon government collection programs has more than doubled since the Family Support Act, from under 30% to more than 60%.
The current policies are built on the same assumptions regarding the cause of those problems, and continues to build on the mistakes of the past. Congress also needs to reconsider the majority of families that don't receive public assistance. Many of them haven't asked for and don't need federal involvement in their post divorce family. I think it is apparent that it is poor policy to spend BILLIONS keeping track of these families and completely repugnant for the federal government to intrude so aggressively in the affairs of families that don't need or want their involvement.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina