(Thoughts on child support collection)

What would happen if, say, your power company sent you a bill for $612.27. That's it, just a bill for $612.27. How would you react to receiving a credit card bill for $1094.29. No itemization. Nothing to indicate what you may have purchased. Just a bill, stating you had to pay this amount of money, with absolutely no idea what you are buying.

Child support is the ONLY payment someone is expected to pay, with NO idea what it is buying. Sure, they'll tell you "it's to pay for the support and needs of your children". OK, so, why don't you get a water bill that says "for your water". You usually expect to know how much water, and at what price per gallon. The parent receiving the support is to make sure that the money is spent on the children.

Consider that, not only are you expected to assume that the parent receiving the check is spending it wisely, on the children, you generally are sending your hard earned money to someone who now, you probably despise. Can't stand 'em. And even more so, certainly can't trust 'em with your money. Consider the following case history.

The wife becomes bored. Has no career. No hobbies. No life. To spice things up a bit, she has a torrid affair. The affair turns out to be so much fun, that she leaves the husband. She takes the kids with. Leaves the state, moves in with her mom, and goes on the welfare roll. The Husband, after realizing it's a hopeless situation files for a divorce. His lawyer is charging $75 an hour. The wife, immediately gets a FREE attorney from legal aid, since, after all, she's the one suffering, just barely living, on welfare. The custody battle ensues. Dad wants the kids. Mom wants the kids. Every phone call by the lawyer costs the Dad big money. The mom continues to receive FREE legal help. Dad continues to work, and is living in the family home. He wants the kids to live in the same home they were born in, he's working and can support them. Dad runs out of money to pay the lawyer. Dad loses the battle because he spent all his money on the lawyer. The divorce in granted, and mom and the kids move in with mom's boyfriend.

Mom, naturally, is still on the welfare rolls, since, even though she's living rent free with a working boyfriend, she's still a single mom. Now, Dad has to send his child support to the welfare office, since they are supporting his kids. Stop for a moment and think. The kids could be living with Dad, in their house, with a regular income. Instead, they are living with Mom and her various boyfriends, living on welfare money.

For a little while, Mom isn't on welfare, and Dad actually sends the money to his ex, the woman he now despises. The kids come up to visit, and never have decent clothes. Non of their Christmas toys work anymore, because Mom won't buy batteries for them. The kids complain that mom won't buy them anything. Even though Mom is receiving a check every month TO BE SPENT ON THE KIDS.

The story has a better ending, however, because after moving from bed to bed, apartment to apartment, having another bad marriage, Mom finally winds up living on her mom's couch, and the kids wind up being full time residents with Dad, who has now remarried, and is living a decent life with his new wife and two kids. Now they're a family of six , and mom has basically decided not to bother with the kids much.

This case history is true. I know, because it happened to me. Why weren't my kids receiving the things they needed, even though I sent the money every month? Why could mom afford to go out drinking, and smoking 2 packs a day? Why wouldn't Mom get a job? She used to work, after all.

The answer to all the child support collection troubles is NOT forcing parents to pay by taking their wages, their tax return, and taking away their professional and drivers licenses. I believe the answer is to make the parent receiving the money be accountable for the money. Lets see the itemized list of clothing, groceries, and extra rent for the larger apartment. Why not let Dad take the kids out and buy them back to school clothes, and have that count as support for the month. Let dad pay the school activity fees, buy the winter coats, write the check for the extra rent to the landlord. Let Dad see that the money is being spent where it should be, instead of just having to blindly send a check to someone they obviously have a problem with, and trust them to do the right things with it.

To make it even easier, when the to be divorced couple is in court battling for custody, why not have an even playing field. ALL divorces with kids should be handled by FREE lawyers. Why not have a pool of lawyers who must give a certain amount of time to just the custody portion of the proceedings. That way, good people don't lose just because their lawyer isn't free. Can you tell me that paying $75 an hour, with the opponent getting FREE legal service, makes for a level playing ground? Why not let the kids live with whomever is going to take on the responsibility of supporting them. If Dad wants the kids, and Dad's gonna wind up supporting them anyway thru support payments, why not let them live with Dad?

This "You will pay or else" attitude is getting everyone no where. Make the receiver accountable, or let the payee pay FOR things, like clothes, rent, groceries, etc. Why not let dad take the kids out and buy a couple weeks worth of groceries, and consider it support? Dad knows the money bought something needed, and Mom doesn't have to spend money for the food. Everyone is happy (except, possibly, Mom, who would have rather spent the money on beer, cigarettes, and a new dress for HER). The argument would be made that the paperwork would be overwhelming, but it can't possibly be as bad as the time and money spent on collection efforts. Dad's who want to take the kids shopping would get to share in more of their childrens life. It's simple. Take the kids shopping, fill out the form, attach the receipt, have mom sign it, and Dad sends it in. Look at all the credit cards, cash cards, on line accounts, check cards, and everything else that today's businesses have learned to keep track of. It shouldn't be any more difficult for there to be a similar record keeping system in place for our Dads and their kids.

Incidentally, I refer to Dad and Mom throughout this because, in most cases, this is the way the story goes. hence the phrase "Deadbeat Dads". We must realize that in rare instances, the story may be reversed.

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