Is Non-Payment of Child Support, Child Abuse?

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This question is sure to raise eyebrows and start arguments but let’s take a minute to look at the FACTS. With child support arrears in America at an astounding 116, 360,701.209.00 BILLION dollars nationally according the Office of Child Support Enforcement, this is something that requires a closer look.

WebMD.com summarizes it as: “child abuse means doing something that hurts a child. Neglect means not giving or doing something that a child needs.” The article goes on to further break down abuse into categories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Then goes on to add that “Neglect happens when a child does not get shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care or protection that he or she needs. Child neglect is just as serious as abuse and is more common.”

Federal law as defined by CAPTA 2010, defines child abuse as: “Any recent act or FAILURE to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or FAILURE to act that which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

Legal Dictionary defines child abuse as: “Physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child”

The vision of the Administration of Children and Family’s is; “Children, youth, families, individuals and communities who are resilient, safe, healthy and economically secure” The ACF oversees the Office of Child Support Enforcement so is this vision being met?

We have over $116 Billion dollars on the books in unpaid child support on 11,020,324 cases across our great nation. Over the past 25 years the arrears owed has increased by almost 90 Billion dollars. So something is wrong, something is not working and we need to fix it.

In a previous article, http://momsfightback.org/money-weapon-using-child-support-tool-abuse/ ,I told the story of a mother, D. whose son played on an elite soccer team. As any parent knows, extracurricular activities don’t come cheap and D. placed the costs of her boy playing soccer on credit cards for over three years while trying to collect the court ordered child support from her ex husband. He did not pay and D. was unable to keep up and her son had to give up the team he had played on for 8 years. The boy became very depressed, starting getting in trouble at school and smoking…

“neglect means NOT GIVING OR DOING SOMETHING A CHILD NEEDS.”

Does a child ‘need’ to play soccer? You can debate that all day long, but this boy who now didn’t have a dad at home still had a positive male role model in his coach. This boy had friends who were all into the same thing– a sport that requires discipline, team work, responsibility, good healthy habits to play at an elite level– all very good things, we can agree. Not to mention the possibility of higher education as scholarships are involved with sports at this level….

“Failure to act which presents imminent risk of serious harm.”

Unpaid child support was the DIRECT cause of this boy not being able to play soccer. Not being able to play soccer was the DIRECT cause of this child’s depression, acting out and smoking.

In this same article I also told how in 2010 my own daughter needed surgery for an angioma on her face. She had been picked on mercilessly at school over this and the surgeon wanted to take it off on the first day of Christmas break so any bruising would be faded by the time school started back. I notified my soon to be ex husband and his attorney of the surgery and date. When I went by the outpatient center a few days prior to the surgery to fill out her paperwork I found out that he had canceled the insurance on the kids.

The next example from that article was from a mother in Utah. Her ex was made aware that one of their son’s was going to travel to California to perform at a special event with the school orchestra. He quit paying his child support and there was no way to pay for the trip.

Before you make a call on that one, think: Do you want to be the kid who could not afford to go? Do you think this boy was made fun of at school for suddenly not being able to go? Do you want it to be YOUR child who was the only child unable to participate?

Please re-read the definitions above of abuse vs neglect. What is your opinion on this? I would like to know in the comments.

The Federal Office of Child Support is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and the ACF, HHS has a very interesting article still available on their website that was published in 1989: A Partial Listing of Problems Facing American Children, Youth and Families.

This article gives those problems as:

Child Health
Adolescents in Trouble (drug use, teen pregnancy, runaways)
Child welfare
Lack of child care
Lack of early childhood education
Lack of Child Support and
Homelessness
This article goes on to cite a study done in 1986 by Bumpas that states: “Studies done show that 1 out of 2 female head families live below the poverty line and a significant factor in this impoverishment is failure to provide child support.”
Things have not changed that much since this study. In a 2012 study in the state of Texas the stats were 48% of single mothers and 17% of single fathers were living below the poverty line due to unpaid child support. And if you read the entire article the expenditures made on behalf of the Federal government to “attempt” to collect child support are astounding. I simply do not believe that in the United States of America we can not do a better job of enforcing court orders.
The ACES study available on CDC.gov shows the direct correlation between adverse childhood experiences and low life potential, risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions and early death….. Childhood poverty or even financial strain is no laughing matter. A survey done by Moms Fight Back in Colorado listed in 2016 “financial strain” as top issue keeping Moms “up at night”.

here is a church in my area that yearly does a back to school program to provide needed items for a successful start to the school year: new backpack, school supplies, new sneakers and a haircut. Every year the number of parents applying for this blessing increases, and the parents bringing kids to this event are not in pairs.

As a single mother, I can promise you that the only thing more stressful than August’s back to school, is December and holiday expenses. Paper and plastic only stretch so far…

So we have the facts– the latest Report to Congress from the Federal Office of Child Support in 2016 shows an arrearage of 116,360.701,209.00 Billion dollars on 11,020,324 cases owed unpaid child support. Millions of children doing without needs and wants, experiencing lack and often worse. This is scientifically proven to lead to deleterious outcomes in life.

What are we going to do about it? Make no mistake, whether you are a struggling single parent, a parent paying support, a grandparent chipping in for “extra’s” or a TAXPAYER with no children: this is everyone’s problem.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Both parents need to be responsible in the financial wellbeing of children. In some instances it would be considered neglect but in some it could be abuse. Certainly neglect.
    Courts should ensure that child support orders are enforced.

  2. as a single mom who fought for years for child support I had to watch my children do without extracurricular activities. Now my children are grown and struggle with insecurities. I am now a grandma and don’t want to see my grandkids go thru the same so I help pay activies for my daughter who is a single mom. It seems that an out of the picture dad has caused many trickled down effects. Child support enforcement officers and judges do not enforce the law unless the custodial parent shows for each court case but how can the custodial parent show for all court dates when they have to take unpaid time off from work when they are the sole providers?? MAKE CSE DO THEIR JOB REGARDLESS OF WHETHER CUSTODIAL PARENT IS IN COURT!! Just because they aren’t in court doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t need the money. On the contrary they need it more!!

  3. Something definitely needs to be done but that is just part of the problem. My daughters father has been paying $27 a week for years. His wife is an RN and makes over 100k a year so he is the stay at home dad. She got mad when the support increased from 2 dollars for cost of living. Any money he has made somehow they have been able to not have it show up on a ssn check so no increase for me. My kid will be 21 in a week and he will be off scott free. The hearing examiner in my youngest ones case wouldn’t give me child care because I babysit and can take kid with me, she didn’t care when i tried to explain i can’t take my kid with me and said he didn’t have to help q idk th child care for hours I was in school either. He was paying me 100 per week plus diapers etc before I left him due to abuse and the hearing examiner didn’t want to hear or see proof she said he was overpaying (by his choice) and ordered h i’lm to pay $77 per week. A lot needs to be done in this area.

  4. I been trying to seek help with this particular topic for months now.
    I’ve contacted both state and federal agencies to find help with enforcement, to no avail.
    He is over 20,000 in arrears for years now.
    And no legal action had been taken
    To collect arrears.
    My local court isn’t helping

  5. I do believe that non payment of child support is a form of neglect and that if the father or mother isn’t involved it’s also consider abandonment on their behalf and it should be pursued but I believe the system needs better means of accomplishing the collection of benefits as of right now many custodial parents don’t actually see the child support that the courts order as the none custodial parent manipulates the system and ends up not paying causing more outstanding balances and wasting unnecessary time and money on everyone involved.

  6. I just went to court for this I have been paying her child support for 20 years in cash because we were still good friends… We did have a court order for child support but neither one of us followed it…i ended up falling at work 2 years ago and I am now disabled so my ex decided since I was going to get a settlement she would go to child support and say I haven’t paid for 20 years they say I owe her $70,000 on back child support when the real truth is that she is trying to get doubled paid..do you really think a female would wait 20 years if the father wasn’t paying her I don’t think so…most females o know are at the child support door the first time the dad missed a payment and the judge in our case was a total idiot and knew nothing about child support and how it works he should not even be a judge…my question is when is the mother or female held responsible really 20 years later how is it possible for females to go to court lie there ass off and get away with it? It was very abvious in my case but yet she wasn’t held responsible for not following the court order..but they sure held me responsible for it..the system is totally one sided father’s don’t have a chance it is possible that there are a few good father’s out there who actually pay for there kids I was one of them the laws and the judges need to pull there heads out of there asses and start giving us father’s a fair shot in court!!!

  7. The father of my child was told by the state of Minnesota that since he is on SSI, he is exempt from paying. So he got away scott free from paying. But yet he got to work for cash but I never received a dime from him. Now my son is 11 years old and has a dax in his life thst helps me take care of him.

  8. The Judges in my area (Southern NJ), tend to rule in favor of non-custodial parents that (a) have a history of not paying child support, or (b) paying some support but have significant arrears nonetheless and/or (c) those who do not regularly visit with their children. Seems bizarre, right? It is, but I personally think they rule that way because they are overwhelmed themselves and can’t control the non-custodial parent. They get jobs under the table so their wages cannot be attached, move to another state and so on and so forth all in an attempt to avoid their responsibility. Then, when the custodial parent is not successful in court, they stopped filing papers to enforce child support orders because it is fruitless. The kicker to it all is when you turn to the state for help, you get the run around, spend hours and hours pulling teeth for help and may or may not get that help in the end. If they are successful in receiving help, society then gets angry at custodial parents for needing the help and are looked upon as the “financial ball and chain of society”. It’s baffling to me because it’s really dead beat parents that should be frowned upon … Not the other way around. The system is definitely broken.

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