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Divorced from Reality on Child Support

Article here. Excerpt:

'Article originally appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger - September 6, 2002.
In highly publicized raids, federal agents have hauled in 69 "deadbeat dads" from 29 states over the past few weeks, and are still hunting for 33 more. The Bush administration boasts that it is sending a message to deadbeats. However, the high-living deadbeat dad who stiffs his kids is largely a mythical creature.

Arizona State University researcher Sanford Braver, who over an eight year period conducted the largest federally funded study of divorced dads ever done, found that unemployment was the largest factor behind nonpayment of child support, and noted that his findings were "consistent with virtually all past studies on the topic."

According to a US Government Accounting Office survey of custodial mothers who were not receiving the support they were owed, two-thirds of the mothers themselves admitted that their children’s fathers do not pay their child support because they are financially unable to do so.

Most "deadbeat dads" are actually "dead broke," either because they have low-wage jobs, are unemployed, or are deep in arrears on unrealistic and crushing child support obligations. According to Bruce Walker, the Oklahoma District Attorney who ran the state’s child-support enforcement program for three years and jailed hundreds of fathers for nonpayment, these men are "seldom the mythical monsters described by politicians."

"Many times I prosecuted impoverished men," he notes. "I prosecuted one deadbeat dad who had been hospitalized for malnutrition and another who lived in the bed of a pickup truck."

Other "deadbeat dads" are victims of child support enforcement agency errors, which studies have shown account for as much as a third of all alleged arrearages in some states and counties. These errors occur in part because the federal government funds the states’ enforcement efforts based on how much money in child support they collect, thus strongly encouraging states to grab and hold every dollar they can, even if it is collected in error.'

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