Today, many children grow up in single parent homes. This could be the result of a separation, divorce, or a casual encounter. When two create a child, they must then become responsible for the child. This includes financial and emotional support. Parents who do not live with their child full time are referred to as non-custodial parents. Sometimes, non-custodial parents may not provide for their children voluntarily. To help children and single parents, the government has made non-custodial parents financially obligated to provide for their children. While people might enter child support agreements voluntarily, others are forced to do so by law. However, parents are not required to provide or receive support through a government agency. Two parents can work together to create their own financial arrangement that best suit their needs and ability. Many parents do this throughout the country. However for parents who require or seek the support of the government, they are able to utilize the service of the Division of Child Support Service. It is important for parents and citizens to be informed on child support and child support enforcement. While, many are not required to mediate through state services, child support enforcement provides a medium for custodial and non-custodial parents to meet their financial obligations required by law.
Parents are financially responsible to take care of their children, this means providing food, clothing, shelter, and access to education among other things. Therefore, parents have a financial responsibility to provide these things to their children. When President Franklin D Roosevelt implemented the New Deal and the Aid for Dependent Children Program through Social Security Act of 1935, he did not expect this program to provide services for child support enforcement. However, in 1974 Congress passed and enforced the Child Support Enforcement Agency serviced through the Family Support Act FDA. At the time, Congress recognized the ease of delinquent fathers and the financial stress of FDA funding. FDA was used to provide funding and support for children and their families. However, because of the rate of parent delinquency, money from this program was used to care for children with absentee, non-custodial parents. Incidentally, the program was to save cost. To “reduce the federal cost of the AFDC program”, Congress sharpened financial obligations to non-custodial parents, (“CSEA.gov”, 2012). From this, the government has made non-custodial parents financially obligated to care for their children through law and public policy.
Parents are obligated to pay child support some do this through the child support system. It is estimated and only 50% of non-custodial parents have legal or informal child support agreements. This number indicates that the other 50% do not provide financial support their child. The statistic represented here demonstrates the increasing need for child support enforcement. Research indicates that child support and non-custodial parents are predominating among African Americans. In a recent report, it is estimated that 49.2% of African American children live in single parent homes, (Grall, 2011). The national average of children receiving child support is 26.6%, (Grall, 2011). This leaves many parents caring for children alone without sufficient or adequate support. It puts a lot of stress on the custodial parent as well as the welfare and family assistance programs. “While there is fairly strong evidence that more stringent enforcement of child support policy raises child support payments to families and reduces participation on welfare, we have had less clear evidence on its affect labor supply”, (Holzer, Offner, Sorensen, 2004).
In the state of Georgia there are various laws in support of child support and child support enforcement. The government department for child support enforcement is known as the Division of Child Support Services, DCSS. This division is operated through the state Department of Human Services. DCSS provides programs and services for custodial and non-custodial parents. Their mission is to, “help children by enforcing parental responsibility to pay financial support”, (“DHS”, 2012). The division provides a long list of services for parents and children. This includes, “assistance with locating non-custodial parents, confirming paternity, establishing and enforcing child support and medical support orders, and collecting and distributing payments”, (“DHS”, 2012). Through this division parents can get the support and resources needed to enforce or pay child support. It also provides assistance to fathers as well. For parents who are unable to meet this obligation because they lack the ability, DCSS helps them find employment and employment assistance. In addition, the division also helps make arrangements for visitation.
Georgia has a continuing problem with child support obligation and enforcement,as seen in different states across the country. In the state of Georgia, DCSS handles almost half a million child support cases, where the average agent carries an average load of 777 cases each, (“DHS”, 2012). This number suggests a large epidemic of non-custodial parents. By law, parents are obligated to provide financial support. Therefore, when parents do not meet these obligations, the law has consequences in place to discourage delinquency or nonpayment. A parent becomes delinquent when “the amount unpaid is equal or greater than the amount payable for one month”, (Gordon, 2006). An example of the delinquency amount can be recognized in the Georgia case law, Morgan vs. Morgan (1980), (Gordon, 2006). Once a non-custodial parent becomes delinquent due to nonpayment the law is able to enforce child support through sanctions and consequences. DCSS has the power to, “intercept federal and state income tax, report status to the credit bureau, suspend or revoke any state licenses, intercept lottery winnings, levy property, deny passport applications, and seize bank accounts”, (“DHS”, 2012). Consequently, the government has strict penalties for non-custodial parents who do not meet financial obligation. This can have negative effects on the non-custodial parent as a result of non-payment that can also lead to incarceration.
The state has guidelines for child support obligations. The amount of money a non-custodial parent must pay is determined by the court and calculator. The amount is determined by the gross monthly income of both parents and the most a non-custodial parent is obligated to pay can be as much as 50% of his or her monthly income, (Gordon, 2006). To ensure this obligation many parents allow the courts to garnish their wages or remove the amount owed directly from a bank account. Although this is common practice for child support enforcement, it is not required by law. As a result, wage garnishment and bank withdrawals are considered the exception and not the rule. For parents who become delinquent, the law is able to add interest rates on child support due to nonpayment. In Georgia, “the rate of interest on back child support is 12% per annum”. However this number can be as low as 7% if awarded by the court. This was determined from the Georgia case law, Souza vs Souza (1972), (Gordan, 2006). Either way, when custody and child support is handled through the state’s DCSS, the non-custodial parent must adhere to the law and requirements of the child support arrangement.
Although child support is required to help children and single parents, there is a down side to state mediated child support agreements. Researchers suggest that child support can have negative effects on non-custodial African American fathers. This is directly associated with the high incarceration rate of African American men including poverty and joblessness. It also includes, people who are unemployed are unable to meet their child support obligations. Furthermore, people with a criminal background record are less likely to find employment to meet their financial responsibility. As a result, this reasoning can be the suggested cause of the high amount of non-custodial parents within the African American community as well as their inability to provide financial support. One half of black women between the ages of 24 and 35 are mothers of children with fathers living elsewhere, (Holzer, Offner, & Sorensen, 2004). Therefore, although child support is a required by law, non-custodial parentage is a significant social issue facing America today.
Non-custodial parents are required to pay child support until the child becomes an adult. However, this is not always the case. A parent may discontinue child support if the child becomes married before the age of 16, (“10 Things”, 2012). Also, parents may also be required to support the child financially after the child has become a legal adult. If the child is a full-time student or disabled, the parent will be required to provide support until the child turns 22, (“10 Things”, 2012). The parent may also discontinue child support when the child receives their first post-secondary degree. Therefore, when parents mediate child support arrangements through the state enforcement agency both parents will be working with the agency until the child no longer requires financial support by law. The agency allows parents to meet their obligations as well as provide information and resources pertaining to child support.
Non-custodial parents are at an unpresidented rate throughout the country. This problem has continued causing government to intervene. Although this mandates that parents provide financially for their children, it does not reduce the rate of absentee fathers. As such, the enforcement agency does not service children who have no emotional relationship with the non-custodial parent. This is also a problem. Many parents associate child support with child visitation. However, this is not the case. Regardless if a non-custodial parent pays child support it does not mean this parent will have regular visitation with their child. A non-custodial parent can go months or years without visitation due to poor communication or a poor relationship between parents. Yet the non-custodial parent must continue to pay child support.. Consequently, child support enforcement only helps to solve just a fraction of the problem. Through law and enforcement, non-custodial parents are obligated to meet their financial obligation. With such policy in place, government should develop programs and do what they can to reduce non-custodial parentage prevalent throughout America.
Department of Human Services, Division of Child Support Services. (2012). Division of child support services. Retrieved from Department of Human Services website: http://dhs.georgia.gov/sites/dhs.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/DCSS Fact Sheet 5.12.pdf
Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Agency. (2011). The legislative history of child support. Retrieved from Child Support Enforcement Agency website: http://csea.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf_CSEA/en-US/CSEA-legislationHistory032509.pdf
Gill, T. U.S Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration. (2011). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2009. Retrieved from U.S Census Bureau website: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-240.pdf
Gordan, S. (2006). So what do i do now? child support services, issues and options. Manuscript submitted for publication, College of Law, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Ga, Retrieved from http://libguides.law.gsu.edu/content.php?pid=122238&sid=1050640
Holzer, H., Offner, P., & Sorensen, E. (2004). Declining unemployment among less education young black men: the role of incarceration and child support. Manuscript submitted for publication, Kennedy School of Social Justice, Urban Institute, New York, NY, Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411035_declining_employment.pdf
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