The child support topic is certainly one of the hottest-button issues around these days where people tend to see things in extremes. People caught up in child support issues get very heated on the topic, as do their friends and relatives. If we are talking about someone who is owed the support, they are likely to feel that the collection system is inadequate and useless. For those who are racking up large child support bills by evading their support obligations, the court system becomes an evil bogeyman that is treating them unfairly.
In a recent article entitled “When Beating Up on Deadbeat Dads is Unfair,” attorney, Jeffrey Leving notices “The television station shows three general laborers, three construction laborers, a landscaper, a salesman and two tradesmen, most of them Latino men with dour expressions on their faces. Are they the featured men in a report about hard times for blue-collar workers in the state of Texas? The hopefuls for a local job training program? No–they are Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s ‘Top 10 Most Wanted Child Support Evaders’. The 10 men collectively owe nearly $700,000 in back child support.”
He then goes on to wonder why: “Not one appears to have an education, and the big wage earner in the group is a plumber. Abbott says he ‘singled out’ these men because they ‘have the ability’ to pay their child support but ‘refuse to do so’. One wonders what the financial condition of those not ‘singled out’ is.” Mr. Leving muses: ” Few, if any, are asking the obvious question–how did men of such humble means end up owing so much money?”
Well, I really don’t wonder myself. In the first place, I know that it is possible to rack up large child support debts for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason, as many ex-wives will tell you, is not paying a nickel. If you don’t pay your child support for a few years, you’re going to have a hefty amount of arrearages. It’s basic math so why should that come as a big surprise?
I don’t believe the court has either the time or the inclination to look into people’s excuses as to why they didn’t obey a court order years after the fact, and if I were a child enforcement officer, I would figure the bill wouldn’t be so large if the person who had to pay the money made a diligent effort to send in some money every week, even if it was only $10.00, to at least demonstrate good faith.
Mr. Leving, on the other hand, seems to think that there must be some good reason that most of these men can’t pay at least part of their obligation, and just ignores the situation that they are putting their ex-wives and children in. He doesn’t ask what kind of education the wives of these “poor” fellows have, and how they might be faring in a poor economy. It’s okay in articles like these to dump the whole responsibility of struggling through bad times on the custodial parent.
I asked four people of different ages and income levels whether this issue has ever affected their lives and what their thoughts were. I asked everyone to just tell me their own opinions based on their own experiences, and to leave out the hair-raising tales of what happened in cases where their knowledge is basically hear-say. Here are their most cogent thoughts:
Sarah is a woman who is out of the work force now and never was able to collect her whole child support judgment. “My ex died owing me over $50,000 and there was no such thing as interest on child support judgments back then so that was plain old support money,” she says. “We had a settlement agreement where he only had to pay me $7,000 a year for the support of 2 children. He wouldn’t work, even though he could make $35 to $40,000 a year. That certainly had an impact on my life and I never had a dime of my own money to spend on myself or stash away and earn interest on. I don’t think it’s wrong at all to charge interest on child support arrearages. Believe me, all the creditors I had to pay charged me interest and late fees whenever I was late. The childcare center charged me a late fee whenever I couldn’t make ends meet. Then they had to the nerve to ask me for a donation to help needy people.”
Miranda, a teenager whose father is rarely timely in making his child support payments, told me how it makes her feel: “I wish he would pay it just to make our lives easier. We had to go on welfare because of him. Now my mom works two jobs, but we hardly ever see her.”
A real estate agent, Jack, pays child support for 2 children. “Sure it’s hard for me sometimes,” he says “I work on commission. But I send in $30 to $50 extra when I’m doing well and that helps out in the lean times. I can’t see how these guys can ever pay back the outrageous amounts of money that these websites say they owe, and adding interest on top of that – I don’t know. But I agree that they could pay something every week. Hell, I do it. I love my kids.”
Marty loves his kids too. His wife is remarried though and Marty doesn’t see why he has to pay child support when she’s not only doing quite well, she’s a stay-at-home housewife. “She doesn’t need the money,” he says. I asked Marty if he realized that he was in essence saying that his ex-wife’s husband should support his children. “Don’t act like I don’t spend any money on my kids,” he said. “I take them out and buy them meals and stuff when they’re with me, and I send them birthday and Christmas presents, and on top of that I have to pay child support. I’m all for being reasonable but I still think they’re just greedy.” He means his ex, not the kids. As for the interest issue, Marty says “It’s ridiculous.”
How about you?
- Has nonpayment of child support ever affected your life?
- Do you think states should charge interest on arrearages?