Child Support: The “Deadbeat Dad” Predicament
With the unemployment rate at 8.5 percent nationally, and the underemployment rate fluctuating around the 19 percent mark, divorced dads who fit into either of these categories are still being hauled off to jail in handcuffs for failure to pay child support.
The issue with jailing so-called “deadbeat dads” is more often than not Dad is not a criminal; he is just broke.
The Sixth Amendment, which is the right of a criminal defendant to counsel, does not extend to a nonpayment of child support action. Failure to pay child support is civil contempt, not criminal.
So Mom gets the state to prepare her court documents and argue her case, but indigent Dad gets nobody. In fact, a dad can be jailed for as long as a year at a time, without the state providing him any legal counsel.
If the tables were turned – and occasionally they are – it’s doubtful that you’d see very many moms being escorted to the holding tank and shuttled off to County Jail for a year of incarceration. The gender bias in the family courts favors women, not men.
When child support payors owe support, the state will try to collect from the children’s father by garnishing his wages, taking away his driver’s license, and intercepting his income tax refund.
When all of the above interventions failed to garner any money from the dad, a court hearing was scheduled. Usually a child support prosecutor would represent the mother and the state. The father would generally represent himself.
Fathers Face Gender Bias In Family Courts
The Daily Policy Digest of the National Center for Policy Analysis reiterates the obvious:
“Fathers are far more likely than mothers to suffer gender bias in family courts. Once custody is lost, divorced dads are often at the mercy of both custodial mothers and family courts, say observers.
Among the problems faced by noncustodial dads are blocked or unenforced visitation orders. Uncorroborated accusations are also often used to deny fathers sole or shared custody. Often a custodial mother moves away in order to use geography as a means to distance her children from the father. In addition, rigid, often excessive child support paymentsand expensive legal fees often leave a father ill-prepared to fight for shared custody…”
The Guidelines are Wrong
Cynthia A. McNeely, in “Lagging Behind the Times: Parenthood, Custody, and Gender Bias in the Family Court,” wrote:
“Although the very troublesome topic of child support is beyond the scope of this Comment, courts should note that United States General Accounting Office statistics demonstrate that two-thirds of all fathers with child support arrearages are incapable of paying the amount ordered.”
Finally, there was a test case. The next article on fathers rights in child support cases will look at the landmark Supreme Court case Turner v. Rogers.
Read Related Article: “Child Support Case Study: Jailing Dads Who Can’t Pay.”
If you need help with a child support modification, contact the divorce lawyers for men at Cordell and Cordell. Use the Child Support Calculator on DadsDivorce.com for an estimated amount of how much child support you should be paying.
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.