For all interested in the issue of child support, I recommend reading this article the New York Times showcased “Forgiving $38,750 in Child Support, for My Kids’ Sake.”
There are many things that I agree and disagree with Ms. Aller’s article.
Things I Agree With:
- “We have too often reduced nonresidential fathers to being weighed and judged by a financial transaction. If you don’t pay, you’re a “dead beat.” End of one story, beginning of a new one, one that can mean suspended drivers’ licenses and professional licenses, seized bank deposits and tax refunds, and the very real risk of jail time.” I agree that financial support is one facet of the value of fathers, however the law does not deal in subjectivity and intangibles. This is a weakness of the legal system and social services.
- “Studies prove that school-age children of involved fathers have better academic success, higher grade point averages and go on to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement. We focus on money, when “child support” also means emotional support, academic support and the supportive power of a male influence in a child’s life. Negating that value is dangerous to our children. Regardless of what I think of him, my children love their father and doing my part to keep that feeling alive is priceless to me.” Again, I agree with this premise. Children do far better when they feel love and spend time with both parents. Plenty of visitation time between fathers and their children should be the norm, not the exception. Parents who engage in parental alienation by trying to circumvent visitation should be punished harshly.
- “In the seven years since my divorce, my ex-husband (or “wasband” as I like to call him) has always given our children his time, whether he had money or not. He currently makes payments to me directly when he is able.” I think that’s great, however this woman should have established a parenting plan with a low, base amount with direct payment to the mother and allowed the judge to sign it, rather than getting Child Support Enforcement (CSE) involved. CSE only gets involved when you submit a case. In many states, this is a viable option.
Things I Disagree With:
- “I’m financially stable now. I’m lucky to be able to forgive the arrears, but it is money I would likely never see anyway. Hanging onto that debt is like hanging onto other things that went wrong for us, and it gets in the way of what’s best for our children. It will have been three hours and $38,750 well spent.” This is the crux of my disagreement in Ms. Aller’s argument: that this woman is “lucky to be able to forgive arrears, but it is money I would likely never see anyway.” This money DOES NOT BELONG TO THE HER. By definition, child support is for the children, where the custodial parent acts as a responsible party to help pay for things that are in the best interest of the child. The woman who writes this article fails to realize that her spouse bilked almost $40,000 from his child, not his ex wife. That’s a pretty nice chunk of change that could go to a college education.
All other arguments were mostly concrete until I read that the judge actually agreed to forgiving her child’s much needed support. The decision is for her to make as the responsible party, however I don’t think she acted in the best interest of her child, even though her intentions sound honorable. She misunderstood the entire premise of child support- better named “the child’s support.”
I don’t believe criminalizing men who are unable to pay versus unwilling to pay is the answer, however the law deals with compliance and fairness, not emotions, for a reason. Asking the judge if they could create a parenting plan that includes setting a low amount for a college trust fund would have been a better, more responsible answer to this divisive issue.
At the end of the day, child support is the CHILD’S SUPPORT and not the parent’s support. When we acknowledge and educate individuals on the difference, I hope our legal and social services will create more supportive services to custodial and noncustodial parents to favor parenting plans over Child Support Enforcement and legal battles, provided an amicable divorce/child custody arrangement.
I previously wrote about this topic here: Recalibrating The Term “Child Custody Battle”:Lessons And Tips I’ve Learned