Resolving the Child Support System in America

As a mother of three children, I have been able to view many sides to the child support debate. Being the wife of a man who was forced to pay child support not only on a child from a previous marriage, but also a child from a “one night stand” that he had met twice, meant that I was the bread winner of our family. When we split up I refused to go after him for child support and continued to take care of my children alone. After quite a few bad mistakes, I ended up jobless, homeless and without transportation. That is when my children went to live with their father.

Now ‘I’ pay child support. I make 9 dollars an hour and pay $120 dollars a week toward the care of my children. I bring home less than $168 a week. Fair? Sure, one hundred and twenty dollars is a small amount compared to what many people pay for just one child. Though, at nine dollars an hour, my yearly income is merely $8,736. That is $728 dollars a month for those without a calculator handy.

Child support is a wonderful idea. Both parents should pay for the care of children they agreed to bring into this world. Notice I included the “agreed” to part. The first problem I see with the idea of child support is the fact that the man/father has no choice in the matter. In a country that gives a woman the right to decide whether or not she wants to raise a child or abort/give up for adoption, forcing a man to pay child support regardless of whether he wanted to be a father or not is hypocritical. Both biological parents should be allowed the choice of whether or not they want to be a parent, which includes whether or not they pay for the care of that child.

The second problem I see with the child support system is people living below the poverty line. Child support, by law, is allowed to take up to 60% (55% if you have other children living in your home) of a person’s income. For a person who brings home $50,000 a year, that would still leave (taking the max. out of their check) $20,000 to live on. It would be a change in lifestyle for that person, but they would still be able to live on it. Taking just 50% of a person’s income that makes a measly $9 an hour (18,720 yearly, before taxes; 14,976 after taxes) is another story.

I hear people complain about dead-beat dads (and mothers), child support arrearages and how something has to be done about it. I often wonder if they look on both sides of the issue before deciding to tar and feather the person who isn’t current on their child support or hasn’t paid. I don’t know many people who can pay the normal bills of a household on $8,736 a year. I can’t. I know many people (men, mostly) who are behind in their child support not because they don’t pay, but don’t make enough to pay the full amount. People who have missed a day of work, or have been sick for a short period of time or have lost their jobs and have went into arrearage while looking for another.

This country doesn’t guarantee jobs, nor is it populated with middle class people who make a decent salary. I believe, should the child support system be rearranged to use a percentage of a person’s income, as opposed to a set amount, would benefit both parties (custodial and non-custodial). For example: in my case, should they decide to take a strict 25% of my income (after taxes) the custodial parent would receive support for the child while allowing me (non-custodial parent) to support myself and my household. The 25% would also include any overtime that I would earn, plus the usual bonuses. It would also prevent unintentional arrearage. Should I change jobs/receive a raise, it would automatically raise/lower accordingly.

In cases of unemployment, the non-custodial parent should be allowed a certain amount of time to find another job without risk of arrearage. If that person exceeds the amount of time allocated, then the child support agency would be allowed to tack on a set amount for each extra week that person remains unemployed.

A non-custodial parent is not always the bad guy in these cases. They should not be considered such by society and the child support agency. Everyone in the United States of America should be allowed the cost of living. The way child support is handled now, many people are not afforded that luxury. Until these problems are resolved, child support shall remain a faulty system with the children being the ones who ultimately suffer. People (men and women) who can not afford to live aren’t going to continue to work to support their children.

By the way, I am and have always been current on my child support payments.