Child Support and Custody for Unmarried Parents

Involving dads in the lives of children born out of wedlock, By Sarah Breitenbach, September 29, 2016, Stateline: “When an unmarried couple with children breaks up, it is often a matter of packing boxes, divvying up property, and maybe getting an order for child support from a local court.  Unlike a divorcing couple, their split is not typically guided by legal standards that dictate how much money they owe each other, or how much time they get to spend with their kids once they separate. And, particularly for unmarried fathers, that lack of legal oversight can mean a long fight for custody of their children.  States are starting to more closely examine custody arrangements for children born out of marriage, which have traditionally favored mothers, either by law or default, to give fathers a greater role in raising their children. Studies indicate that consistent paternal involvement can result in more child-support payments, and better mental health and academic results for the children…”

SNAP Job Training Program – Baltimore, MD

New job training program targets food stamp recipients, By Lorraine Mirabella, August 15, 2016, Baltimore Sun: “A new state program aims to help Baltimore residents reduce their dependence on food stamps by training them for jobs that can lead to careers in manufacturing, green construction and health care.  About 260 low-skilled and under-educated people in the city are expected to receive training through a network of six workforce development groups in fiscal year 2017, officials with the state Department of Human Resources announced Monday…”

Child Support Enforcement

  • Not just a deadbeat dad, By Dwyer Gunn, July 12, 2016, Pacific Standard: “On a sunny Tuesday morning in February, Lewis Griffin walked into a meeting room in the Arapahoe County Human Services Building in Aurora, Colorado. Griffin, a barber and ex-convict who’s also the co-facilitator of a fatherhood class, is a tall black man with closely cropped silvering hair — on the day I met him, he was sharply dressed in grey jeans, a neatly pressed grey-striped button-down shirt, and sleek, modern glasses. Griffin has an open, friendly manner and a disarming sense of humor. When he introduced himself to me, he clasped both hands to his chest, inhaled sharply, and said with exaggerated anxiety, ‘I’m nervous!’  The men (and one woman) gathered in the meeting room that morning all had one thing in common: They were non-custodial parents who had fallen behind on their child support payments…”
  • Wisconsin’s grand child support experiment, By Dwyer Gunn, July 13, 2016, Pacific Standard: “In 1997, the state of Wisconsin decided to experiment with the way it handled child support payments made to welfare recipients. In previous years, under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, recipients who also received child support payments from a non-custodial parent were required to relinquish the bulk of what they received in child support to the state — states only ‘passed through’ the first $50 of child support in a given month. The federal welfare-reform bill (formally known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) of the previous year gave states room to experiment with and set their own policies…”

Incarceration and Child Support

For men in prison, child support becomes a crushing debt, By Eli Hager, October 18, 2015, Washington Post: “Earl L. Harris did not owe child support when he was sent to prison in 1997 for selling marijuana. He now concedes that dealing drugs may have been a stupid move for a new father. But Harris, then 19, had grown up poor and dropped out of school, and the only legitimate work available to young, black men like him, he says, was a temp job without benefits. ‘Nobody was hiring,’ he said. ‘I got into hustling because I wanted to support my baby.’ The state of Missouri sent Harris to the penitentiary in Boonville, 250 miles from his home and baby daughter. His girlfriend moved on, later marrying someone else. After just two months in prison, Harris started getting the letters.  Child support. You owe: $168.  They came once a month, piling up debt.  Child support. You owe: $168. Arrears: $336. Arrears: $504. Arrears: $672. Plus interest and other fees. Of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child support obligation…”

Child Support Enforcement

Skip child support. Go to jail. Lose job. Repeat., By Frances Robles and Shaila Dewan, April 19, 2015, New York Times: “By his own telling, the first time Walter L. Scott went to jail for failure to pay child support, it sent his life into a tailspin. He lost what he called ‘the best job I ever had’ when he spent two weeks in jail. Some years he paid. More recently, he had not. Two years ago, when his debt reached nearly $8,000 and he missed a court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. By last month, the amount had more than doubled, to just over $18,000…”

Child Support Enforcement

  • How our child support system can push the poor deeper into poverty, By Jeff Guo, September 26, 2014, Washington Post: “In the United States, nearly one in four children are due some sort of child support. But only 62 percent of the money owed is actually paid. To get a sense of who these deadbeat parents are, consider this chart comparing different states…”
  • Locking up parents for not paying child support can be a modern-day ‘debtor’s prison’, By Tins Griego, September 26, 2014, Washington Post: “Dwayne Ferebee, 36, father of four, has been sent to jail four times over the past 12 years on civil contempt charges for failure to pay his court-ordered child support. The first two times, he spent a couple months behind bars until his mom came up with the $3,000 the judge told him he had to pay. The third go-around, he stayed in jail six of the maximum 12-month sentence before he could scrape together the money. The fourth, he had to wait until his fiancée received her tax refund. All told, he spent about a year locked up…”

Child Support Payments

Billions of dollars in child support go unpaid yearly, By Emily Alpert Reyes, November 20, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “More than $14 billion in child support was left unpaid to American parents in a single year — more than 1 out of every 3 dollars that were due, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Wednesday. Millions of parents are awarded child support every year, but getting it is another story. Fewer than half of eligible parents received all of the child support they were due in 2011, according to a newly released report based on the Current Population Survey. About a quarter got none. Most parents were granted support through formal legal agreements established by the courts or other government entities. Yet a shrinking share of parents said they asked the government for help collecting child support.”

Child Support Services – Kansas, Ohio

  • Administration defends child support privatization, By Andy Marso, August 20, 2013, Topeka Capital-Journal: “A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families struck back at critics of the agency’s drive to privatize child support services Tuesday, saying the bidding process was completely on the up-and-up and state workers weren’t ‘set up to fail’ to pave the way for privatization…”
  • Counties’ efforts to collect child support find mixed results, By Laura Arenschield, August 18, 2013, Columbus Dispatch: “Almost a year into a statewide push to collect more child support from parents who owe it, Delaware County is leading central Ohio, recouping about 15 percent more than the state average. Other central Ohio counties, including Franklin, have not been as successful…”

Lafayette Journal and Courier Report on Fragile Families

  • Experts say births outside marriage grow out of changing norms, class divide, By Taya Flores and David Smith, January 27, 2013, Lafayette Journal and Courier: “Kionni Sheldon, a 22-year-old Lafayette single mom, is frank when discussing her decision to have a baby on her own rather than seek a long-term relationship with the child’s father. The McCutcheon High School graduate said she dated her baby’s father for about four months when she learned of her pregnancy, which was unplanned. She ended the relationship soon after, she said. ‘He got very controlling,’ Sheldon said. And while she agreed that being married is the ‘proper’ way to begin parenting, ‘you shouldn’t have to do it that way…'”
  • Fragile families challenge parents, children and support agencies, By Taya Flores and David Smith, January 27, 2013, Lafayette Journal and Courier: “As a young girl, Treecee Arnett says, she dreamed of her wedding day. She envisioned a fairy tale event in a large church adorned with ice sculptures and royal blue and cream decorations. She would wear an open back dress with a tiara. Arnett has yet to realize that dream. ‘I haven’t found the right one,’ the Lafayette woman said. ‘Some of them do have the potential to be great husbands, but they are caught up in that ‘thug’ life.’ As marriage plans failed to materialize, motherhood did not wait. Arnett’s first child came when she was 16. Now 35, she’s a single mother of and sole provider for three teens. Her children have three different fathers, none of whom is involved in his kids’ lives. ‘I do have a child support order on them, but they are not paying support,’ she said. Arnett’s family situation — and the pressures it brings to bear on providing everything from food and clothing to making sure her children get a good education — is more common than many might realize…”

Child Support and Low-income Parents – Wyoming

Wyoming committee recalculates low-income child support payments, By Kyle Roerink, January 10, 2013, Casper Star-Tribune: “The state House Judicial Committee passed a bill Thursday that would reduce child support payments for low-income parents in Wyoming. The bill’s intent seems counter-intuitive, but it should bring in more money for children. In many cases, parents obliged to pay child support won’t pay anything if they cannot afford the court-mandated amount, said Brenda Lyttle, child support enforcement director with the Wyoming Department of Family Services. Under the terms of the bill, the amount the parent is ordered to pay may be less, but there’s more of a chance the order will be enforced, she said…”

Child Support Debt

Rule could leave child-support debtors no income, By Daniel Wagner (AP), February 27, 2012, Detroit News: ” Old child support debts could cost thousands of poor men their only income next year because of a policy aimed at reducing the cost to the government of mailing paper checks to pay federal benefits. The Treasury Department will start paying benefits electronically next March. It will stop issuing the paper checks that many people rely on to safeguard a portion of their benefits from states trying to collect back child support. States can freeze the bank accounts of people who owe child support. A separate Treasury Department rule, in place since last May in a preliminary form, guarantees them the power to freeze Social Security, disability and veterans’ benefits that have been deposited into those accounts. Once paper checks are eliminated, about 275,000 people could lose access to all of their income, advocates say…”

Child Support Formula – Illinois

Illinois may alter child support formula, By Bill Ruthhart, December 30, 2011, Chicago Tribune: “State officials for the first time in decades are pushing a major overhaul of a system that touches one of the most volatile of all family issues: how child support is calculated. The move aims at making the process fairer by considering both parents’ incomes and time spent with the child, but some advocates already are arguing to change – or scrap – the new proposal, which won’t be finalized until next spring. If Illinois switches the calculation, it would join 38 other states that already have adopted versions of what’s known as the ‘income shares’ formula…”

Incarceration for Child Support Debt – Georgia

Judge allows thousands to join child support lawsuit, By Bill Rankin, January 3, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Thousands of parents facing possible jail time for failing to pay child support can join a lawsuit that says lawyers should be appointed to represent them if unable to afford counsel, a judge has ruled. In a Dec. 30 order, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter granted class-action status to a suit filed last year against the state by five parents who had been jailed for child-support debt. Georgia is one of the few states nationwide that does not provide lawyers for indigent parents facing civil contempt in child-support proceedings. The state already struggles, because of budget shortfalls, to provide lawyers to indigent people charged with criminal offenses. The lawsuit contends Georgia is creating modern-day debtor’s prisons for those jailed when they have no ability to pay because they have lost jobs or are disabled and unable to find work…”

Child Support and Poverty

More custodial parents fall below poverty line as child support payment rates drop, By Marjorie Cortez, December 11, 2011, Deseret News: “A growing number of custodial parents fell below the poverty line in 2009 as fewer received the full amount of child support owed to them. A new Census Bureau report showed that nationwide, 41.2 percent of noncustodial parents received the full amount of child support owed them in 2009, down from 46.8 percent in 2007. The report, ‘Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009,’ also found that the proportion of parents owed child support and received either full or partial payments fell from 76.3 percent to 70.8 percent over the same period…”

Jail and Nonpayment of Child Support

Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars, By Mike Brunker, September 12, 2011, MSNBC.com: “It may not be a crime to be poor, but it can land you behind bars if you also are behind on your child-support payments. Thousands of so-called ‘deadbeat’ parents are jailed each year in the U.S. after failing to pay court-ordered child support – the vast majority of them for withholding or hiding money out of spite or a feeling that they’ve been unfairly gouged by the courts. But in what might seem like an un-American plot twist from a Charles Dickens’ novel, advocates for the poor say, some parents are wrongly being locked away without any regard for their ability to pay – sometimes without the benefit of legal representation…”

Incarcerated Parents and Child Support

Conn. to help inmates pare child-support bills, By Pat Eaton-Robb (AP), May 1, 2011, Denver Post: “Julaquis Minnifield was sitting in his prison cell last summer when he received a notice from the state of Connecticut that he owed more than $13,000 in back child support for his 8-year-old son. Minnifield went to prison knowing he must pay $55 a week in child support under an order obtained by his former girlfriend but said he had no idea the debt was accruing while he was behind bars. He expects to owe more than $15,000 by the time he is released next year. ‘What chance do I have to pay if I’m incarcerated? The longer I sit here, the higher the debt goes,’ Minnifield, a 31-year-old Waterbury man, said in an interview at the Carol Robinson Correctional institution in Enfield, where he is serving a 2-year sentence for drug possession. It’s a challenge faced by incarcerated parents across the country, the vast majority of them fathers. Just because they are in prison does not mean they won’t have to pay child support or repay the state for welfare paid to their families in lieu of child support. Experts say the debt can make overwhelmed parents less likely to pay when they are released, and potentially damage relationships with their children…”

Child Custody and Non-Resident Fathers

Dads who don’t live with their kids find ways to be involved, By Sharon Jayson, June 16, 2010, USA Today: “Half of all U.S. children won’t live with their father for part of their childhood. But just because ‘non-resident’ dads don’t live with their kids doesn’t mean they’re not involved with them. ‘There are fathers that are very involved. There are some that are not. We have this image of the non-resident dad, and for some, that’s the deadbeat dad,’ says Valarie King, a sociologist and demographer at Pennsylvania State University who just completed work on a five-year grant studying non-resident fathers. Decades ago, non-resident fathers were largely divorced, but King and other researchers say many non-resident dads today were in a non-marital relationship that didn’t last. Divorced fathers have been shown to be more involved, on average, than those who were never married to the child’s mother, King says. Such research findings (some yet unpublished) – along with changing attitudes and custody laws – are creating a new picture of today’s non-resident dads…”

Welfare Reform – Australia

Welfare change squeezes sole parents, By Adele Horn, May 5, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald: “Thousands of sole parents are worse off under rules that changed their child support entitlements and forced them to get a job or go on the dole, new research reveals. A typical sole parent with one child aged between six and 12 could be as much as $6700 a year worse off as a result of reforms initiated by the Howard government and introduced from 2006 to 2008. The study, by academics at Murdoch University in Perth, shows only when typical sole parents get a full-time job paying at least $45,000 can they be better off with the new arrangements. But this is unlikely for most as their youngest child is only seven or eight when they have to move off the Parenting Payment and into the workforce…”

Editorials: Child Support Guidelines – Maryland

  • A matter of fairness, Editorial, March 12, 2010, Baltimore Sun: “The last time Maryland updated its guidelines for calculating child support, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, ‘The Cosby Show’ was at the top of the ratings, and Corey Haim was at the pinnacle of his film career. The year was 1988, and under pressure from the federal government, Maryland developed a matrix of how much parents were expected to spend for their children’s food, clothing, housing and so on, based on their combined income level. The idea was that children should not have to suffer a lower standard of living just because their parents were divorced or separated, and that the parents should bear a responsibility for the costs proportionate to their income. The states were supposed to update their guidelines every four years based on changes in costs and spending patterns, but Maryland never did…”
  • Md. is behind the times and the cost of living on child support, Editorial, March 12, 2010, Washington Post: “The last time Maryland calculated what parents should reasonably pay in child support was 1988. That’s when the price of a stamp was 22 cents, the average cost of a new home was $138,300 and a gallon of gas went for $1.08. It is time Maryland stop shortchanging children and approve a long-needed update of the guidelines governing child support…”

Child Support Collections – Tennessee

  • TN child support collections drop, By Janell Ross, February 5, 2010, The Tennessean: “Natalie Conway came to court with a Bible in her purse and a manila folder under her arm. The folder was full of day-care bills and paycheck stubs listing her income and health insurance costs, evidence of what it costs to care for her 5-year-old daughter. Chuck Stewart, Conway’s ex-boyfriend and the girl’s father, came with a few records of his own. Stewart lost his full-time job in April and has been able to find only a part-time job that pays $9 an hour. He asked the court to reduce his $500-a-month child support payments and won – he’ll pay $400 a month now. Conway left the courtroom in tears. ‘I understand that he is having a hard time right now,’ said Conway, a data entry clerk for a Nashville health-care company. ‘And maybe he did need a reduction or something, but that $100 is a lot for me.’ Monday’s scene in Davidson County Juvenile Court is becoming more common. The economic downturn means fewer parents can pay their court-ordered child support, and Tennessee is marking its first decline in child support collections in almost 10 years…”