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January

Child Support and How it Affects Non-Custodial Fathers

By Jeffrey M. Salassa

child helping father in garden from the perspective of a Clinton Township child support lawyer

The nuclear family, which consisted of a husband, wife, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs, is a distant memory for many.

There are an estimated 46,523 divorces filed every week in the United States. While this may seem shocking, it should come as no surprise considering first marriages ending in divorce typically last only eight years, with an estimated 60% of second marriages ending in divorce.

Modern or blended family units, consisting of unmarried couples or step-parents and step-children, are now the new normal. Single parenting, described as an unmarried mother and father living apart, has also become increasingly common. Many child support attorneys and child custody lawyers, feel that family law needs to be reformed in order to reflect the new roles fathers play in modern families.

The child support system is nearly 40 years old, and a lot has changed during that time. Existing child support laws were created during a completely different economic climate, and were predicated upon a gender-based model where the mother was the primary caretaker and the father the primary bread winner. Fathers and child support lawyers alike feel that the support laws are overdue for an update, not only to ensure equity for the parents but also to uphold the best interest of the children.

Fathers make up a significant percentage of noncustodial parents, and are often targeted by the current child support system with stringent rules regarding collection and enforcement. For upper-middle class and high-income fathers who have the ability to pay, the regulations are fairly cut and dry; pay up or face harsh legal consequences. However, many families in the system have trouble making ends meet, often while living below the federal poverty line — a fact that many family law attorneys are trying to bring attention to.

When the current child support system was established, out-of-wedlock births weren’t as common and were often stigmatized. An unstable post-recession job market, in addition to crippling wage stagnation has put male workers in precarious situations. As such, there are a growing number of low-income fathers who find themselves unable to pay child support and entangled in an outdated system that only sees fathers as a paycheck.

A growing number of child support attorneys, policy makers, and academics are proposing a child support system that would balance parenting with providing financial support. One such person is Kathryn Edin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. Edin has spent years researching how low-income men handle unmarried parenting. In her research, she has found that the overwhelming majority of unmarried fathers are thrilled to be fathers and intend to provide for their children although they are financially unable to do so.

However, strides in child support law reform are in the works. Recently, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement released a list of proposed changes to bring the child support system into the 21st century, including, but not limited to, granting states the ability to use federal child-support dollars on professional development training programs for fathers. Studies in New York and Texas have already shown these programs to be successful.

While there is still debate over how to go about child support reform, everyone agrees that the child’s best interest should be kept at the forefront. If you are in need of a Macomb County child support attorney contact Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. for a free initial consultation.

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