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The True Cost of Unpaid Child Support

This piece was submitted to our 100k Stories Project by Alana K. Haase. Alana has been a nurse for 27 years and a Mom for 18, you can visit her online at AlanaKHaase.com 

This piece was submitted to our 100k Stories Project by Alana Khaase. Alana has been a nurse for 27 years and a Mom for 18, you can visit her online at AlanaKhaase.com I got home one morning after a 12-hour night shift and the weather had turned from summer to winter overnight. I waved bye at my neighbor and yelled at my 10-year-old son to “Hurry up, grab your jacket, we are going to be late for school.” My son appeared out of his room in jeans and t-shirt. “Come ON! We’ve got to go! Get your jacket.” My son would not look at me and mumbled, “It doesn’t fit, I can’t wear it.”

My stomach started a sick tumbling motion as I said, “What do you mean, it doesn’t fit?”

My son pulled on one sleeve and sure enough, the cuff barely came below his elbow.  The pain in my belly ramped up 5 notches. “Son, we’ve got to go, you will have to wear mine.” I yanked off my sweat jacket and tossed it to him. “Mom… I can’t.”

He looked at me with pure anguish welling up in his big brown eyes. “It’s pink”

I stared at my son whose jeans that I had bought in August during a back to school sale were already “high waters” exposing the fact that he desperately needed new shoes as well. My son, who had given up baseball because I could no longer pay the fee and uniforms, much less sacrifice time off of work to get him to practice and games. My son, who had not been invited to a single sleepover or birthday party since giving up his spot on the team. My son, who looked like a ragamuffin in his too-short jeans and beat up shoes. No, I could not make him put on a pink jacket and go to school in it.

“Come on, put it on and let’s run to Target and get you something. If we are late for school, I’ll walk you in. It’s ok.”

On the way to the store, I was frantic. The thoughts zipped across my mind like comets. “I can’t use my debit card, I don’t get paid until Friday and I’ve only got 10 bucks that I have to put in the gas tank to get to work. I used the Visa card last week for groceries and can’t use it again till I make a payment. I had used the MasterCard for school supplies and clothes – did I have enough room? I had only made the minimum payments since August. It was Tuesday, maybe I could write a check and pray that it wouldn’t hit my bank until my paycheck went in? What should I do? If my card is declined will the cashier let me write a check?”

We found a jacket for $19.99 and my MasterCard went through. I breathed out an audible sigh of relief and yanked the price tags off flashing my son a huge smile as I zipped him up.

He did not smile back. The fear I felt over yet another item he needed that I had no money for was all over his small face. His eyes reflected the misery and anxiety I felt constantly.

I was looking into the face of unpaid child support.

In the 2015 Report to Congress, published in 2016, the national arrears for child support was over $115 Billion dollars.

The percentage of custodial parents who do not receive any or all of court ordered child support is 59%, per Lawyers.com in a 2012 article on the National Crisis in Unpaid Child Support. Around 80% of those parents are single mother households.  The national statistics on poverty differ depending on the study you read, but between the census bureau and USDA the number of single mother’s living below the poverty line is consistently in the 40th percentile with some states as high as 48%.

Let’s break down the figures by two states:

The 2015 Report to Congress is the most current data available online. The 2015 Report was published in 2016.

Arrears: Table 85: Colorado 1,176,711,492.00     

Texas 14,995,391,826.00

If you are doing a double take at those numbers, yes, it is billions of dollars.

Unpaid child support is in the billions of dollars in almost every state. Money owed by court orders to provide for children’s need for food, housing, medical care, clothing, school supplies and child care.

Total Caseload per State with Arrears: Table 87: Colorado, 134,885 cases.

Texas 1,113,027 cases.

How is this possible?

Table 80 gives us the number of full-time staff per state:

In Colorado 718, in Texas 3014 staff members charged with protecting the best interests of our children.

Yet most single mother’s I speak with can show you arrears statements that are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Single parents live with the stress of raising children alone coupled with crippling financial stress.

In the Mom’s Fight Back 2016 State of the State Report this question was asked of Colorado moms: What do you think are the three most pressing issues generally facing our family’s today?

The report states that: “One theme that rang clear was financial/economic issues as it relates to families.”

To relieve this issue, 19 years ago, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998. Why is this law not being enforced to protect our most vulnerable citizens? This is not only a raw deal for custodial parents but for American taxpayers as well.

Table 11 in the Report to Congress shows the amount of TANF payments distributed per state to children who should be receiving child support:

Colorado 14,729,466.00        

Texas 36,239,909.00  

Over 50 million dollars in two states alone when these children should be supported by parents, not taxpayers. But the laws are not enforced.

The Federal Commissioner of Child Support Enforcement, Vicky Turetsky, has stated that “child support enforcement is solved.”

I think that these numbers show otherwise. She has also stated that arrears are falsely inflated by interest charged on arrears to prison inmates and other obligors who “are unable to pay”.

She published in December of 2016 her “Final Rule” that states she plans to implement “due process standards” to ensure that the obligor parent has the ABILITY to pay child support and any purge amounts. (arrears)

I see no safeguards in her Final Rule for the custodial parents, only inmates and deadbeat parents.

I have been to IV-D court several times. I have seen obligor parents stand in front of the judge, a pack of cigarettes in one pocket and an iPhone in the other, $400 pair of designer sunglass perched on their head and insist they are unemployed, and cannot pay child support.  They walk out of the courtroom with a smile and an order to “get a job and report back earnings”.   

Tens of thousands of custodial parents are voicing these complaints on social media platforms with eerily similar stories of non-custodial parents who take to working in the underground economy for cash, use a different family member’s social security number for employment, vehicles and property are registered in other names and process servers are lied to about the location of these parents to avoid further court and enforcement proceedings. In Texas, according to the legal department in Fort Worth, 66% of enforcement cases are thrown out for “non-suit of service.” If you can dodge process servers, you legally get out of paying your child support. So how does the Final Rule address this fact that almost two-thirds of cases in ONE state are not even reaching a judge for enforcement? These parents are not in jail or they would be easily located and served!

I see nothing in the Final Rule that addresses this willful evading of child support or enforcing the Deadbeats Parents Act.

This law makes it a federal crime to willfully avoid paying child support, moving to another state to avoid prosecution and arrears amounts of greater than $5,000. But this law is being ignored by the state agencies.

Service procedures in enforcement cases need to be strengthened so deadbeats cannot avoid court and enforcement of orders. Parents who consistently worked and earned for years prior to divorce and child support orders should not be able to stand in front of a judge and simply state they are unemployed or “can’t work” without proper medical documentation and thorough investigation of these claims, this is a violation of the law and the tax code.

Our children deserve better than this. Our children deserve to have jackets that fit when they need one. Our children deserve to play baseball. Our children deserve to have a custodial parent at home, who is not working two jobs to survive. Our children deserve to know that both parents are working to ensure they have the best start in life, no matter what the relationship between them.

If $115 billion dollars in unpaid child support offends you, as a parent,  a grandparent, as a taxpayer, I urge you to contact your state senators and representatives. Contact the President and his staff members.  Contact the Health and Human Services Secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Contact your state’s governor and attorney general. Tell them that $115 billion dollars nationally and the amount in your state is unacceptable and despicable, we want answers now.

Because the true cost of unpaid child support is reflected in the sad eyes of our children.

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15 responses to “The True Cost of Unpaid Child Support”

  1. Angela Davis says:

    This is a sham that keeps getting worse. I am shocked that more taxpayers aren’t up in arms, because if an able-bodied man is using the system, refusing to pay child support, or financially crippling his ex, guess who gets to support the kids? Even though he is able, the government and community will be providing him with welfare by taking care of his kids. I am so sad reading your story, Alanna, and so glad you spoke up. Too many people are afraid to say anything. It’s time to stop letting these guys off the hook so easily. Our children deserve lives free of abusive poverty.

    • Alana K. Haase says:

      Angela, I believe you hit the nail on the head. Most taxpayers are unaware of this situation and most single parents are afraid to speak up. I plan to do all I can to change this dynamic. ALL our children deserve better than this. Thank you!

  2. Jason Smith says:

    We see far too many mothers withholding custody for child support. Studies show that with more parenting time come timely payments, although with shared parenting there should not be any child support.

    Recent data also shows that child support payments are set too high. This makes sense, because 80% of the child support owed is those parents earning less than median income.

    Let’s make shared parenting the norm so that support is not just about money as mentioned in this article, but loving relationships between both parents and fair child support for the actual costs of raising a child.

    This is coming from a father who has paid his child support ($800 a month, plus medical), mom and I both earn the same. We share parenting, but mom keeps it just under the amount to use our daughter as a cash machine. 7 more days a year and there would be no child support. However, some make it all about the money vs. the happiness of the child.

    • Angela Davis says:

      I congratulate you for paying your child support. I think the point in the article is men using money as a way to control a mother, and make her suffer. I disagree that there should be no support with shared parenting time. Expenses are expenses no matter where a child is, and some men use this as a way to not support their children. I guarantee that your daughter is no cash machine at 800 a month. That doesn’t go far in raising a child.

      • Jason Smith says:

        The USDA just released their numbers on the cost for raising a child…..I beleive they are inflated, but that is another arguement. Anyway, the average cost is a little over $1,000 a month. You say $800 doesn’t go far? That is 80% of the financial responsibility for raising a child, not to mention, I pay for health insurance…we also share custody. So, I am giving mom basically 90% of the cost to raise a child, and have the child approximately 50% of the time….not sure your logic.

      • Patricia Ann says:

        My ex, was asked why he refuses to pay CS and the mediator went on about how its for the child, and he told her that his money will not go to my EX for her nails and hair. Have you seen my hair and nails? I go to the cheapest place in town for a hair cut and I do my own nails…. I even told him that I am willing to print out receipts for the purchases that I buy for her. Nope, not good enough. He just doesn’t want me to look beautiful LOL

    • Rakae Romm says:

      Its sure funny how guys get so angry over paying what they are court ordered to pay. Yes, I do believe some child support amounts are outrageous and that isn’t right. I for one am living the life of having a deadbeat as my sons father. I work a full time job, do not get state aid AT ALL! I’m suppose to get $360 a month and to date He owes 11,000 and my son is only 5. We live in different states and he job hops, made a fake LLC to filter his money through, worked under the table (been caught red handed) and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! He gets new trucks, motorcycles, tattoos and proudly posts everything! I have brought contempt charges on him twice and guess what? He never showed up either time! Warrants has been issued and guess what? The warrants issued in my state have no effect in his state.. I have NEVER with held visitation from him (I encourage him to be a part of his sons life) I drive my son to see him (3.5 hrs away) even though he is responsible for all travel as per our custody agreement. I use my money for gas just because I know it’s the right thing for my son to know his dad. I try and do everything honest and right for the sake of my son and I get shit on by his dad and worse he gets away with it! I struggle every month! I have to use credit cards EVERY MONTH to make ends meet but his dad thinks that he shouldn’t have to pay his child support? Why should he when nothing happens to him if he doesn’t! It’s completely and utterly sickening to see how easy it is to get out of being responsible. Almost half my check goes to daycare and then I have to worry about food, clothes, rent, etc. I am not looking to break my sons father – I want him to be able to live as well and not struggle- I am just asking he do his part and if he isn’t willing to do that on his own- The law should do something! I have just learned to not expect anything and work with what I have. It’s not fair to my son- he deserves a lot more than what he is getting from his dad. Not all moms are out for blood and use there kids against the father. I for one have not and will not EVER!

      • Patricia Ann says:

        Yea, I am dealing w/ the same issue. He says he is broke but he drives a Lexus, took his flavor of the month on a 10 day cruise…. while, I am trying to keep a roof over our head and on food the table for our daughter. He always hires and fires attorneys so when we do get a Court date for Contempt for non child support, he will cry foul to the Judge and ask for a continuous. I have been dealing with a dead beat now since 2009 and he is in arrears of over 30 grand. He knows how to have the financial ability to keep going back and forth to Court. I am like you, its not fair for the child because the father is a deadbeat, my ex refuses to pay because he doesn’t want HIS money to go towards my hair and nails…. exactly what he told the mediator….
        I always make certain he gets has his Court Ordered PT and then some. We live in different states and I always go above and beyond for our child to have time with her father. I agree, not all mothers are out for blood… I just what a little help, that is all I am asking….

      • Alana K. Haase says:

        Good for you Rakae, well said. Our kids deserve the love and financial support of both parents.

    • Alana K. Haase says:

      Jason there are situation involving abuse, addiction and other issues where shared parenting is simply not an option. Also even in 2017 the fact is most men make more money than women. My ex-husband earned three times the income I did so even if we had a situation where shared parenting would have worked there would have been a huge financial gap between households affecting the children. Most states use the percentage model of calculation, and this is fair as someone who makes 10K pays the same percentage as someone making 100K. It is about the WILLINGNESS to support your children, not the amount of dollars. Love covers all sins.

      • Jason Smith says:

        I understand there are some situations where shared parenting will not work, but they are not the norm and the current anti-shared parenting laws only support these abnormal situations.

        The gender wage gap is simply a myth. This has been proven time and time again. In fact, the wage gap mostly comes down to personal choice and parenting. The wage gap that exists is because women have raised children more often than not and until we allow fathers to step up, the wage gap because of these choices will continue.

        The issue is, what you are saying is that your ex-husband earned three times the income you did, when he pays child support it is to support a lifestyle of the household, not just the children. When your children benefit from “shared income” model for child support, you also benefit. It is back handed alimony.

        Furthermore, USDA economic costs for raising children (what many states use) are just that. Economic costs. Economic costs consist of monetary costs + opportunity costs. The issue is, the monetary costs (according to the US Census Bureau) are 300% less in the major spending categories like housing, food and transportation. Some how the USDA’s opportunity costs actually cost more than the monetary costs. This model is false and one cannot explain why the economic costs are 300% higher than the actual monetary costs.

        The issue then is, there is a financial incentive to withhold custody for child support, because child support is exceeding the actual monetary costs for raising a child.

    • Hafizan says:

      I am happy that you pay your child support. The NCP does not. He pays a small amount every month . He refuses to see his children. There has been no contact in 8 years. So it’s crap that mothers withhold children. I hear fathers encourage parent alienation. My kids want nothing to do with their father they just want their stuff.

  3. Rebecca Mckeown says:

    I love this article!! Yes i agree if coparenting and dad in the picture child support should not be an issue. My situation where dad is a deadbeat. No calls since 2012, no visiting since 2009 when he left the state and no birthdays or christmas acknowledged. I was in a car crash at 32 weeks pregnant with my youngest. Dad provided 2 packs of diapers, socks and bottles in 3 years. Not a dime while i went through 24 surgerys in 10 years. He has paid about 1k in 10 years. I was told my case was not a priority since our son recieves ssi. I have been my sons voice since deadbeat dads and moms need to be accountable. I have gone without food and needs to make sure our son did not. There needs to be a solution for our children. We are faces not just case numbers.

    • Alana K. Haase says:

      Rebecca thank you and please consider sharing your story too! We are faces, not case numbers and we ALL need to speak out.

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