The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) says that Child Support is “good” for children and their most successful program to date. And one of the writers on the ABA blog writes that child support “IV-D only exists because of deadbeats…” But they don’t take a look at the destructive practices that this accomplishment drives.

What Behaviors Does Title IV-D Drive in the States?

The OCSE claims that the child support program solves just about everything. They say that it lifts children out of poverty, keeps others out of poverty, supports their social programs, encourages mothers to work more, and discourages mothers from cohabitating with new men. They say that the child support program is “so that children can count on their parents for the financial and emotional support they need to be healthy and successful.” They brag that this program is their most lucrative. However, what they don’t talk about is that the program drives certain behaviors in the states in order to receive the incentive funding from this program. One of these behaviors is labeling parents and calling them names, like deadbeats.

Carol Rhoades, a former Friend of the Court employee in Michigan confirms bad practices. She states that “no one wanted to improve services or hear about abuses within the system because every worker in these huge bureaucracies was trying to keep his/her job by covering up any errors or problems.” She says that her director would frequently say that they were not a Friend of the Family but a Friend of the Court and that they were the favorite of the court because they make the court money, unlike the bailiff’s and sheriff’s departments. The OCSE’s most recent FY 2016 publication confirms Carol’s statements claiming that the child support program is one of the most successful and profitable program.

And Marsha Maines, speaking at the U.S. Capitol at a Father’s Rights event, reveals that the State of Virginia’s “…purpose is to divide families and promote divorce because it brings in over a half a billion dollars to the State of Virginia and they obtain millions of dollars of federal incentive dollars based on the number of cases that they can create.”


Is the Child Support Program Good for the Children?

Health and Human Services looks at how many fathers it drives into poverty and counters that negative effect by saying, but our program has lifted more children out of poverty, so since millions of children have been lifted out of poverty and only 245,000 fathers driven into poverty, it is a net positive. Poverty isn’t the only metric that is measured. They acknowledge that there are other metrics that are important like how many mothers have been able to work more and therefore have health insurance available to them. However, it appears that their metrics are very gender biased. They focus quite a bit on the needs of the mother which can cause these statistics to not be truly representative of the needs of the children.

HHS claims that the child support program is “…lifting one million people out of poverty every year, and reducing the need for public assistance, at little cost to the federal government.”

  • 16 million children are directly affected by this program.
  • Over 38 million individual parents are affected by this program.
  • Total child support collections in 2016 were $32.7 billion dollars. (hhs) 

What are the Child Support Effects on Equal Parenting?

Health and Human Services and their Office of Child Support Enforcement department are very aware that their incentive programs drive the behavior of the states regarding custody of children. That would be the point of an incentive program. This is like having a bonus incentive in your company to sell more product to bring up the company’s bottom line. In this case, the federal government is incentivizing the states to issue child support orders so that the welfare programs are not costing them. But that wasn’t enough incentive for the states. What did the states care if money came out of the federal government to support their poor? So the Social Security Title IV-D program had to create enough incentive where the state’s could be profitable. But did this also result in driving corrupt practices.

And what are the states willing to cost the children and the parents?

What is the cost to the children?

What the Child Support Proponents Claim (OCSE)

What the Data Reflects

Equal Parenting

Primary Residence

Child support reduces conflict. 40% of the post divorce/SAPCR enforcement filings in court today are Title IV-D child support enforcement. (TX OCA)

The number of new family cases increased to the second highest level ever, driven mostly by post-judgment suits for modification or enforcement. (TX OCA)

Post-judgment cases increased 16%. (TX OCA)

40% of the 337,387 family cases filed were Title IV-D. (TX OCA)

Analysis of 50 North American studies conclude that equal parenting was associated with less parental conflict and less relitigation (Bauserman 2012)

Equal parenting counters the harmful effects of parental conflict (Fabricius, Diaz and Braver 2012, Pruett et al 2003

Parental conflict increases with primary residence arrangements (Bauserman 2012 and 2002, Melli and Brown 2008)
Child support discourages divorce. The number of new divorces filed in Texas alone was the second highest number of filings to date ever. (TX OCA) In Australia, after equal parenting was implemented, 72% of parents now settle divorces without legal services (Kaspiew et al 2010; Kaspiew et al 2009) Rank ordering of parents fuels discord (Warshak 2007)
Child support reduces nonmarital births and divorce Fewer than 46% of children live in first time marriages. This number has been steadily dropping from 73% since 1960. Child support was enacted in 1970’s. (Pew Research Center) “Americans are delaying marriage, and more may be foregoing the institution altogether. At the same time, the share of children born outside of marriage now stands at 41%, up from just 5% in 1960. (Pew Research) Unequal parenting arrangements are perceived as unfair and thus more likely to break down than equal parenting arrangements (Warshak 2007; Melli and Brown 2008; Brinig 2001)
Child support strengthens the father-child relationship. Child support orders encourage unequal parenting time and designation of noncustodial parent. With equal parenting neither parents relationship with their child or their parental identity is threatened (Kelly 2007, Kruk1993b)

Attachment bonds are formed through participation in daily routines (Lamb and Kelly 2009; Fabricius et al 2010)

Primary residence arrangements highly correlated with parental alienation and parental disengagement (Kruk 2010a, Kruk 2010b, Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
Child support increases parental involvement Of 1,200 families studied, half had shared parenting plans. Three years after their parents’ divorce, the shared parenting children had better relationships with their fathers, and their fathers were more likely (90%) to be involved in school activities than the other fathers (60%). (Melli & Brown, 2008) There is a direct relationship between quantity of time and quality of parent-child relationships (Amato and Dorius 2012; Lamb and Kelly 2009; Kruk 2010a; Fabricius et al 2010, Fabricius et al 2011) Children of primary residence arrangements spend 30% more time in substitute care (Melli and Brown 2008, Lamb and Kelly 2009)
Child support increases the economic independence of single mothers. They are less likely to cohabit with unmarried male partners who are not the fathers of their children. There are fewer children living with two parents in their first marriage. (Pew Research)

245,000 noncustodial parents were driven into poverty by child support. (OCSE 2015)

Equal parenting increases children’s educational performance and therefore improving the economic independence of the future generations.

Children in shared-parenting arrangements achieve far better academic test results than those living in single-parent households where sole custody is in place (Bergstrom, 2015).

Closeness, warmth and mutual understanding are elusive within constraints of the traditional primary residence model (Smyth 2009)
Child support increases work and the quality of work among single mothers.

For college educated single mothers, increases in the amount of child support received increases the number of weeks they work and increases the likelihood that they have employer provider health insurance.

Child support enhances the financial well-being of children receiving SSI. (ssa.gov 2001-2002)

245,000 noncustodial parents were driven into poverty by child support. (OCSE 2015)

If this is about the children, then we need to be focused on the development of the future generation and not create dependent children on the system.

A meta-analysis of 33 studies also reported better emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning for children in joint physical custody compared to children in sole custody, regardless of the level of conflict between parents  (Bauserman 2002)

Scarcity of resources due to ongoing litigation accounts for much of the negative impact of divorce (Semple 2010)

Post-modification litigation increased in Texas over the past year. (OCA)

Child support reduces child poverty. Child support enhances the financial well-being of children receiving SSI. (ssa.gov 2001-2002)

Child support drives 254,000 noncustodial parents into poverty. (OCSE) 

Parents who have a relationship with their children are more willing to support their children. (OCSE) Child support lifted over a million children out of poverty. (OCSE)
Child support reduces public assistance use New TANF enrollments increased. (OCSE) Only previous and current TANF users have decreased.

The changing demography of US families has increased both generations’ need for family assistance among those already disadvantaged and has exacerbated differences between the socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged in the availability of kin support. (nih)

Equal parenting reduces parental alienation and thus reduces the number of elderly who become socioeconomically disadvantaged. Primary residence arrangements highly correlated with parental alienation and parental disengagement (Kruk 2010a, Kruk 2010b, Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
Child support benefits children’s educational outcomes. Increases in child support are associated with higher grades and fewer school problems. Shared parenting results in better academic performance than a primary residence visitation schedule (Holstein, 2015) Higher levels of paternal involvement in their children’s schools was associated with better grades, better adjustment, fewer suspensions, and lower dropout rates than were lower levels of involvement (Nord, Brimhall, & West, 1997)

When a child’s father is actively involved in his or her life, the child has better academic results. (Jones & Mosher, 2013)

70% of all high-school drop outs come from a single-parent home. (Holstein, 2015)
Child support reduces the risk of child maltreatment Children living in single parent households are over 3 times more likely to experience child abuse than the national average. (NIS-4) Children involved in shared parenting suffer less depression and exhibit less anger, hyperactivity, and delinquency. (Holstein, 2015) Custodial parents overwhelmed by the sole responsibility of care are less physically and emotionally available (Lamb and Kelly 2009; Kelly 2007; Kelly 2003)
Child support increases parental involvement among nonresident parents Equal parenting would reduce the number of nonresident parents.

Parents who have a relationship with their children are more willing to support their children. (OCSE)

There is a direct relationship between quantity of time and quality of parent-child relationships (Amato and Dorius 2012; Lamb and Kelly 2009; Kruk 2010a; Fabricius et al 2010, Fabricius et al 2011)

Of 1,200 families studied, half had shared parenting plans. Three years after their parents’ divorce, the shared parenting children had better relationships with their fathers, and their fathers were more likely (90%) to be involved in school activities than the other fathers (60%). (Melli & Brown, 2008)

Primary residence arrangements highly correlated with parental alienation and parental disengagement (Kruk 2010a, Kruk 2010b, Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
Child support can increase parental conflict. Studies comparing court ordered equal parenting (against objections of parents) and self-selected equal parenting found both fared equally well, confirming the findings of earlier studies that equal parenting works equally well for conflictual families (Benjamin and Irving 1989; Brotskey, Steinman and Zemmelman 1988)

Mounting evidence reflects consensus on the issue that equal parenting is optimal for the majority of children of divorce whose parents are in dispute (Fabricius et al 2010; Bauserman 2012; Nielson 2013)

Shared and equal parenting arrangements are stable over time (Berger et al 2008; Cashmore and Parkinson 2010; Brinig 2001) Parental conflict increases with primary residence arrangements (Bauserman 2012 and 2002, Melli and Brown 2008)

Unequal parenting arrangements are perceived as unfair and ths more likely to break down than equal parenting arrangements (Warshak 2007; Melli and Brown 2008; Brinig 2001)

Child support can drive previously productive adults into poverty, create barriers to payment, unemployment, incarceration, and lack of access High Orders and Excessive Debt Discourage Child Support payments and formal employment. When support orders are set above 15-20 percent of actual income compliance is reduced. (OCSE)

Child Support incentive funding drives states behavior and practices to issue child support orders as a routine in divorce, reducing parenting time with the child and parent. (hhs)

Equal parenting time increase parental involvement and decrease the number of parents driven into poverty by child support orders, and would decrease the number of children alienated which decreases the number of elderly parents left without kinship care. 13.4% of parents have been alienated from their children. (22 million adults in the U.S.) (Harmon and Elder 2016)

Primary residence arrangements highly correlated with parental alienation and parental disengagement (Kruk 2010a, Kruk 2010b, Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)

Welfare Recovery Cost Discourages Child Support Payments and Encourages Work in the Underground Economy. Welfare cost recovery discourages both custodial and noncustodial parents from cooperating with the child support program. An experimental study of Wisconsin’s full pass-through and disregard policy, which distributed all current support paid to welfare families, found that fathers were more likely to pay child support through the formal system and less likely to work in the underground economy if their families were part of the group that were eligible to receive the full amount of their current support. (ocse) Parents who have a relationship with their children are more willing to support their children. (OCSE) The constraints of traditional access is strongly associated with contact loss, 30% of children of divorce have no contact with their nonresidential fathers (Kruk 2010 a/b; Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
Child support receipt can reduce fights over money, encourage custodial parents to facilitate relationships between noncustodial parents and their children, and increase predictability, stability and mutual respect in the co-parenting relationship. (OCSE) Unequal parenting arrangements are perceived as unfair and thus more likely to break down than equal parenting arrangements (Warshak 2007; Melli and Brown 2008; Brinig 2001)

Post-judgment modification cases have increased.

Title IV-D incentive funding encourages child support orders. (hhs)

Child Support orders include calculations of the amount of residential time allocated to each parent in most states.*

Parents who have a relationship with their children are more willing to support their children. (OCSE) The constraints of traditional access is strongly associated with contact loss, 30% of children of divorce have no contact with their nonresidential fathers (Kruk 2010 a/b; Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
Child Support Incentives increases the number of child support orders.

Child Support orders protect children.

Child Support Incentives decrease equal parenting time orders.

Equal parenting time reduces the amount of child support that is ordered. The income shares model will have a significant impact on prospective cases where parenting time is shared.” (Illinois law firm)

Illinois’ income sharing legislation defines “shared parenting” as a parent having overnight parenting time for at least a certain number of overnights per year.  The legislation defines shared parenting time as exercising 146 nights per year.  This number represents 40% of the overnights. (Gitlin Law Firm in Illinois) Incentive to receive more child support can create an incentive to fight against equal parenting.**

Children of primary residence arrangements spend 30% more time in substitute care (Melli and Brown 2008, Lamb and Kelly 2009)

  • Receiving child support raised five times as many children and adults out of poverty, having a net effect of lifting over a million people out of poverty that year. (OCSE)
  • 1 in 5 children are served by the child support program. (OCSE)
  • Child support program collected $32.7 billion dollars. Three-fourths of this was income withholding. 15.9 million children received child support servicesthrough the program. (hhs)
  • About 40 percent of the kids living in fatherless homes haven’t seen their dads in a year or more. Of the rest, only one in five sleeps even one night a month at the father’s home. And only one in six sees their father once or more per week.
    ( Furstenberg and Cherlin 1991.)
  • Of kids living in single-mom households, 35 percent never see their fathers, and another 24 percent see their fathers less than once a month. (Selzer 1988).
  • Are all of the fathers on child support deadbeats?
    • “The time has come for someone to speak in defense of ‘dead-beat dads.’ Divorced or separated parents who do not pay support have been taking a beating from everyone, including the President.I have seen some parents who refuse to pay child support even though they have plenty of money to do so. . . . However, I have seen far more parents who are ordered to pay child support who pay some support but not all they are ordered to pay. Many of these parents are engaged in a financial struggle that they cannot win. These are the working poor.” —Hon. Anne Kass. Presiding Family Judge, Albuquerque, New Mexico, District Court
  • The number of divorces may have fallen but the number of people raising children in their first marriages has continued to decrease as well.
  • The divorce industry is a $50 billion dollar a year industry. (Divorce Corp) 

  • Attorney General Kenneth Paxton, Jr. said Texas served a million families and collected $4 billion dollars last year in child support.(See the blog on this here.)62% of the employees in the AG’s office work in child support. The office has 4200 employees. 2600 of them are child support.

 

Why has the number of child support orders increased? In 1999, the federal government issued a list of five performance measure for states. One of these measures used to determine the allocation of incentive funding was to increase the number of child support orders. We don’t see anywhere in the studies or data that say that these orders increased because of deadbeat parents or because the number of needy children increased.


HHSclaims that the establishment of child support orders for custodial parents has decreased because the number of people having children outside of marriage has increased to 45% of all children born out of wedlock in 2013, up from 36 percent in 1999. This means that these parents are not forced into the divorcing process where the states have made it routine to establish child support orders in divorces. This explains however why all states have moved to a model of forcing all parents who need an order protecting their parenting time and rights to their children into the same kind of process that divorcing parents face. In Texas they call this a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship.

Of special note is that the majority of custodial parents are mothers and the median income of male work has declined since 1999. [census – median income]


“This is what happens when you put the government in charge.” Secretary Tom Price, prior to becoming the Secretary of HHS. Our thoughts exactly.

Tom Price might have been talking about the Affordable Healthcare Act as posted in the Washington Post. We hope that we can get him talking about child support issues and the reforms needed here as well.


Resources:

 1. Lippold, K and E. Sorensen. Characteristics of Families Served by the Child Support (IV-D) Program: 2010 Census Survey Results. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, July 2013.

_ftn22 These figures are based on data from the detailed tables that accompany the Census reports titled “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and their Child Support” for 1999 and 2013. The percent of custodial parents with marital births is estimated by adding the following four marital statuses together: remarried, divorced, separated, and widowed. See: https://www.census.gov/people/childsupport/

_ftn33 See Table P-41. Work Experience-Workers by Median Earnings and Sex. Available at: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-income-people.html

4. HHS — https://www.acf.hhs.gov/OCSEDataBlog/#_ftn3

5. NIH —(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4219735/)

6. HHS – total child support collections of 32.7 billion includes Title IV-D and non Title IV-D.

7. *child support amounts include calculations of how much parenting time is allocated in child custody orders. This conclusion was made based on researching child support calculation statutes in multiple states. This included that some states have moved to income-sharing models. Income-sharing models include parenting time.

8. Another resource where you can find lots of links to information about child support corruption: A Child’s Right  

You can find the original published at The National Family Law Policy Center

 


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