Resolving the Child Support System in America

The strain on a custodial parent is enormous. They bear the greater responsibility for the emotional, physical and psychological well-being of their children. They are after all, the one who touches their lives on a daily basis. They also have to provide adequate housing, food and clothing at enormous expense. A price far greater than one average income can afford. Which explains why 80% of the poverty stricken in the USA are women and children. Get your child support to ease some of the financial burdens and enable you to actually enjoy raising your children alone. The financial benefit to your family is obvious but may not be the most important reason.

In my opinion (based on my personal experience) the most important reason for pressing the issue of child support isn’t financial, but emotional. Your children will benefit from your stand. When you hold the non-custodial parent accountable, you show your children that you care about their well-being. The kids will see that you’re fighting for their rights as well as your own. It won’t matter when they are young. But once they’re old enough to grasp the significance of what your ex’s noncompliance means, it will matter greatly. Especially if the other parent isn’t a prominent force in their lives.

You also teach your children the importance of following through. When you pursue your legal rights, the example shown is that no one is a door mat on which anyone can wipe their feet. Justice is important. Kids also learn that for every action, there is a reaction; and that there are consequences when one doesn’t live up to their responsibilities. You are fighting for them; for their rights as well. As their primary care giver and the one they look to for guidance and support, the relevance of the stand you make on their behalf cannot be over- stated.

There are many custodial parents who seem to have no problem enforcing their rights. These lucky single parents either have good lawyers or responsible exes. Child support checks arrive on time and in the agreed upon amount. But for every one of those fortunate souls, there is an alarming number who receive nothing. Armed with no representation except state agencies, they rarely receive a check. When they do, it’s usually grossly shy of the court-ordered amount. Overdue support, known as arrears keeps accumulating unchecked while the parent with custody works three jobs just to keep a pitiful roof over their children’s’ heads.

Often we hear of a certain state’s hardcore policy on deadbeat dads. I have lived in three of those states since my divorce. I can tell you that there is no such thing. If in fact, there are parents being punished for non-payment, they are few and far between. The less we require of state agencies and the non-custodial parents; the longer the plight of poverty-stricken, single parents will go on and on. Apathy towards our children, as parents, and as citizens must come to an abrupt halt.

The better chance we give our children, the more likely they will grow up to be productive members of society. It’s impossible to accomplish this feat when a custodial parent is never home to be with their kids because they are working day and night. When children are unable to be fed and clothed with satisfaction (emotional and physical) they suffer. Malnourished children, or those whose diets consist of cheap carbohydrates instead of healthier, more expensive fare don’t grow, learn or thrive as well as they could. The stigma of wearing clothes that fit improperly or are worn out and unstylish can be devastating to teenagers. These poor kids are the butt of jokes, bullied and largely ignored in social situations. These are the children who take hand guns to school and murder their peers.

Extreme poverty isn’t a class or social issue; it’s a disease in desperate need of a fast cure. One way to alleviate some of the pressure is for custodial parents to ban together and help one another get what they need. I for one, am going to do my part by giving you some tips and insights. It’s easier to win the battle when you’re properly armed.

There is no time limit for collecting your support. Even when your children turn 18, if arrears are still owed, they can be collected until the non-custodial parent pays up. Even if it takes decades.

You have the right to amend your support amount when the cost of living goes up. This means more money for you and the kids. You can also have the amount increased if your ex receives a significant raise or some other windfall, like lottery winnings for instance.

State agencies will handle your case free of charge, but you have to do the leg work. Always fill out every page of the packet(s) sent to begin your case. Copies of court-ordered petitions for support and the exes social security number and current address are helpful. Internet access is a godsend for some information. Use a computer at your local library and google him/her if you have to; it’s free to use.

Keep records of any and all payments they have ever made to produce as proof of any support NOT paid. And the correct amounts paid. Some non-custodial parents resort to lying about amounts paid to get their arrears lowered by thousands. Or, as I learned the hard way, tens of thousands.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. At one point I had to call the office of support enforcement every other day until they put my case at the top of the pile. You can’t get what you don’t ask for right? So be a pest. Yes they have too many case loads. That isn’t your problem, it’s theirs. You still have to feed your kids, they don’t. If something is unfair schedule a hearing.

Insist that the agency garnish wages if he/she is significantly behind, or constantly pays late or the amount is never consistent.

Always be polite and empathetic with your case worker, but never, ever apologize for asking him/her to do their job. Be firm, get action and don’t relent until you’re satisfied. If the ex misses even one timely payment, complain. If you don’t bring this to the agencies immediate attention, they won’t notice. Two years went by without payments or a word from the agency. I finally had to call and gripe and threaten until I got what I needed.

If he/she lives in another state, call that state’s agency and get them working on your case with your home state. The more the non paying parent is on the radar, the better your chances of getting prompt action.

Enforce your rights; for your sake, your children’s sake and that of the community. It takes a village to raise a child-let’s all do our part!