Politics. Economics. Morality. Religion. And Everything In Between.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unconventional Wisdom 3: Child Support Is Bad For Children

Since yesterday was Father's Day, I thought I'd write a post on fatherhood. Specifically, why the "deadbeat dads" that everyone loves to bash on Father's Day shouldn't be required to pay child support to the women they impregnated. Yes, you heard it right. I think men should be allowed to father children and then walk away without ever giving their baby mamas a cent. Why? Because maybe, if women know that they will be forced to raise any children they have out of wedlock completely on their own, they might make damn sure they have a ring on their finger before they let someone in their pants.

Here's the deal: young people don't need money to be raised right, they need fathers. Boys need to grow up with a man who can hold down a steady job, stay out of prison, and treat his wife with dignity so they can learn how to do the same thing. Girls need a father like that, too, so they know what to look for in a man. Everyone's seen the statistics that show how children from single-mother homes are more likely to drop out of high school, go to prison, be poor, and father children out of wedlock or become single parents themselves than those who grow up in two-parent households.

Child support does what it is supposed to do: it makes it easier to get by when raising a child on your own. This goal, while compassionate, is definitely harmful to society. 40% of babies are born out of wedlock these days, and the unemployment rate for young blacks, the hardest hit group with an OOW birth rate of 70%, is hovering around 30%, three times the national average. I humbly posit that if it were harder to be a single mother, fewer women would do it. They would be more careful about who they have sex with and whether or not they use birth control. Instead, even though it's for admittedly well-intentioned reasons, we're still basically paying people for single motherhood. Plus, it's not like 40% of babies in the United States are born as a result of rape. Those women chose to have sex, and future women can choose not to.

Why weren't prospective fathers deterred by the prospect of having their wages garnished for 18 years for the benefit of children they evidently cared little for? I don't know, but for some reason, they weren't. The overall out-of-wedlock birth rate has increased from 5% in the 1960s to 40% now, and the black OOW birth rate jumped from 25% in 1963 to a crippling 70% today. Child support, which was introduced in 1975, has not reversed this trend. It's time we gave women a chance to do what men have not by taking responsibility for their sexual actions.

I don't believe fathers should be required to pay child support in cases of no-fault divorce, either. Children of divorced parents, while not in as bad shape as those who grow up without ever having a father present, still suffer psychological harm that can impact their happiness and success later in life. According to Margaret Brinig of the University of Iowa and Douglas Allen of Simon Fraser University, more than 70% of all no-fault divorces are initiated by women. Perhaps wives wouldn't be so quick to pull the trigger if they didn't think they could take their husbands' incomes with them along with his kids, or perhaps they might think twice about who they marry.

I'm not saying we end child support payments tomorrow. That would be reckless and cruel. Rather, if I were made dictator, I would announce that any child born a year from now will not merit the mother any child support regardless of her marital or economic status. There might be a "baby boom" in nine months, but after that, I bet things would settle down REAL fast.


  1. So you're saying that child support should have been an incentive for the baby daddies to keep it in their pants, but it doesn't seem to have worked, so we should try the other way around and see if taking away child support keeps the mamas from letting the daddies in their pants. I'm not sure I completely agree... it's hard to prove that the prospect of having to pay child support hasn't been a deterrent to potential fathers at all. Also, removing child support might be an incentive for more abortions, not abstinence. I think we need a pre-marital sex disincentive that applies to the mommies and the daddies. It would also be nice if it didn't penalize the unfortunate offspring of such non-unions, when they did arise.

  2. I think that the reason why child support doesn't deter men from having premarital (or extramarital) sex is because for the most part there is not a logical thought process going on there. So, to imply that women would choose not to have sex if they couldn't get child support seems very offensive to me - the implication being that they are doing it (if you'll pardon the expression) for the money. I sincerely doubt this is the case. In fact, if the prospect of having to bear, deliver, and provide primary care to a child didn't itself deter them, I really doubt that the financial disincentive would make a difference. It would just put the onus entirely on the woman.

    Also, what about child support in cases of divorce? It's so easy to say, people should stay married, and they SHOULD, but I think that's also a drastic oversimplification. In a society where women are generally primary caregivers to children, so many women already find themselves tied financially to men who are abusive or adulterous because they have given up careers for family. This would exacerbate that.

    I know this is meant to be a pro-family argument, but it comes across as very anti-woman.

  3. @ Allison-you're right that with our current abortion laws, if child support were to go away, the number of abortions would probably increase. However, if abortion-on-demand became illegal again, I bet you would see an increase in the number of unwed mothers, especially teens, giving their kids up for adoption. This would actually put the children in a much better situation since adoptive parents are usually much better prepared to raise a child than someone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

    @ Melissa- I agree that women don't make calculated financial decisions to get pregnant in order to get child support payments from the fathers of their children. In fact, like men, I don't think they consider the consequences of their sexual behavior very much at all. This is precisely the problem.

    I'm not sure that merely having and raising children is quite the deterrent that you think it is. Married women and even some older single women want to do it. The main difference between those who want and plan pregnancies and those who do not is that those who plan pregnancies have stable partners and stable financial situations. Child support for young, unwed mothers helps stabilize their financial situations. As to partners, the divorce rate in America suggests that even those who have them don't consider them completely essential.

    If women knew that they would receive no child support and that both they and their children might face destitution should they have children before they were ready to, they might begin to actually think about the consequences of their sexual behavior beforehand. It's harsh, but so is growing up in poverty without a father. Child support is not a lavish bounty; 1/3 of the salary of the kind of man who fathers bastards isn't going to buy you a house with a white picket fence. Also, when a pregnancy is unplanned, it's likely unplanned because the woman was still completing the education and training she would need to get a decent job, so if she decides to raise the child, she will likely give up her chance to increase her earning power. We need to do everything we can to discourage people from falling into this kind of limbo.

    As for married couples, I realized that I have left out an important qualification: wives who initiate NO-FAULT divorces should not receive any child support from their ex-husbands. If you beat your wife and kids or leave them for your hot young secretary, then I wouldn't shed a tear if the legal system gave your wife your house AND your job and kicked you out into the street. If your woman "just doesn't love you any more," though, she can take a hike if she wants, but it should be on her own dime. Thanks for bringing it up, I'll edit my post to make things clearer.

  4. If your woman "just doesn't love you any more," though, she can take a hike if she wants, but it should be on her own dime.

    Yes!!! It should be written into the No Fault clause. Go if you want, but leave your checkbook and your keys.

    I would argue that PUBLIC support for unwed parents should be eliminated, except in the most extreme cases. In the instance of a minor child who becomes pregnant, her parents should be supporting her (if they had been supervising her properly, she wouldn't be pregnant)and the father of the baby should be remitting child support. No more college for teenage single parents while they accept government assistance, it will have to be postponed until their income can support childcare or the baby is old enough to go to school. It's become a pattern of rewarding poor behavior with public monies, and its no wonder its self perpetuating, there's no incentive to NOT do it.
    If you can get WIC and food stamps and subsidized housing, child care, and school grants, maybe with a little child support for grins, all because you became pregnant outside of marriage, why not go for it?

  5. You are of course right that a child is certainly not a punishment. I feel hypocritical in that that seems to be the center of my argument, as I tend to resist that clause in other arguments. However, I disagree with this:

    "The main difference between those who want and plan pregnancies and those who do not is that those who plan pregnancies have stable partners and stable financial situations. "

    I think the difference tends to have a lot more to do with mental and emotional maturity and preparedness. There are some amazing parents, coupled or otherwise, who raise happily raise children without what you and I would call financial stability.

    I'm also going to push back against the idea that child support provides financial stability. You seem to acknowledge this yourself. Because being a single parent not only costs money but also tends to reduce potential income, raising a child alone is a significant financial burden even with child support. I'm not sure making it a slightly bigger one would make the difference you hope it would.

  6. The real reason child support is bad of kids is that they become the centre of a struggle over money for the rest of their child hood.

    Children are denied fair access to fathers that would glady be with them equal time and thus take a fair share in raising them.

    But to ensure the mother gets child support the access to the father is denied by the courts.

    Then for rest of the childs life the parrent most often the mother has to protect her icome by telling the children what a dead beat thier father is so that the children will never choose to go live with the other parent.

    That is what harms the kids the most... kids don't care shit about money they want parents that love them... talk to them play with them. And parents that don't bad mouth the other parent.

    As long as the prize money is there the kids will be in the middle of an ugly battle.

  7. My support payments go to her attorney when I sought modification, we share 50/50 time

    My son, Ja***, is absolutely passionate about soccer, to the point that he will play, practice, train and drill 7 days a week, not because I demand it , but because he does.
    Ja*** is almost 14 and has played soccer since he was 5. Jacob has a dream to play soccer in high school and in college, Ja*** wants to be in the Military too. This year with the lack of funds we were not able to place Ja** into a spring soccer program (rec soccer) but I was able to find a club team for Ja***, a traveling team, serious soccer, 3 days a week practice, tournaments. Ja*** tried out for the team and was offered a position. But because Ja*** is afraid to cut in on his “mom’s time” to practice on Monday and Tuesday nights he was stressed about playing. NO CHILD should ever have to FEAR their parent for playing a sport that they are accustomed to because they are cutting in on THE OTHER PARENTS time. M****sa(mom) has no intention to have Ja*** play soccer nor has she ever paid ONE RED CENT for Ja*** to play, she has never even taken the INITIATIVE to have him play . But once I do then it has to be a discussion about HER time. I am sick and tired of this. And most importantly I am sick and tired of (atty)B** K****L having JA***’s soccer money, because the needs of B** K****l come before the need of Ja*** playing soccer. Ja***’s registration fee cannot be paid, he cannot get new shin guards, new shorts , I am willing to spend the vacation money my wife sets aside so Ja*** can play and flourish in a sport that he loves yet B** K****l’s needs come first. Surely there is a violation of the law because the Department of Revenue emphasizes that CHILD SUPPORT IS FOR THE CHILD, evidently this is not the case, child support appears to be for B** K****l. This is why nothing has been done, no answers have been completed, no meeting has been scheduled because MY PAYDAY is Friday and the deduction for B** K****l has not taken place. This needs to stop.

    J****n is 16 and will be 17 on March 8th. J****n will be obtaining a driver license in March , J****n delayed getting a permit until she was 16 , I paid for the permit, I paid for the gas to help her practice driving, I paid for the fuel to take her to driver’s ed for the summer she spent here. Her mother never offered, her mother never paid. J****n now has a part time Job, J*****n wants to continue on a path of education excellence by going to Pensacola State College this summer and next year, thus graduating early from High School. J****n’s mother exerts some type of implied authority over her and has placed herself into a “primary parental role”. Once J****n obtains her license the $200 per month bill will come due for insurance, J****n will need insurance in order to drive a car, J****n will need insurance to borrow a car so she can work, succeed in school , go to the library to conduct research. J****n also needs a laptop to work on online classes, write papers, do research and continue to participate in SWAT and National Honor Society. J****n will need a computer to fill out financial aid information, submit college applications and so forth. I cannot afford this for J****n but I do support J****n through her mother as mandated by the state of Florida, J*****n’s needs require money. Child Support is for the Child, but apparently B*b K****l needs money more than J****n does. J****n’s success is tied to

  8. several things, transportation and technology to name two. But because B*b K****l’s needs come before J****n this will not be able to happen, B*b K****l needs his fee , for what ? So J****n will get more support ? So J****n will get to graduate early, experience academic success ? Nope, because B*b K****l’s needs come before J****n’s, B*b K****l’s fee, which is my income comes first, B*b K****l’s kids will go to college FIRST, B*b K****l’s rent, utilities, mortgage, investments etc…will come first.

    J*****n is 15, J*****n will be 16 in October and will also get a driver license and require that same $200 per month insurance payment so she too can drive a car with her sister, to potentially share a vehicle, learn the responsibility of car maintenance, the rules of the road, curfew and the like. J*****n is a straight A student and has been since she started school. I drove each and every day to Crestview Florida for J*****n so she could complete an application to earn a 4 year college scholarship. I assisted J*****n in that writing, critiqued her, helped her make a plan, J*****n’s mother did not. J*****n babysat all summer and bought a computer so she could complete online classes with the hope of completing high school early, dual enroll , complete an associate’s degree early and thus go to college on her scholarship obtaining her Bachelors degree in two years instead of four and use the remaining 2 year scholarship money to go to law school. J*****n has big dreams. J*****n requires online service, internet service to complete those online courses, J*****n’s mother received child support so she can pay for internet service to complete those courses and have a sense of accomplishment. But because B*b K****l’s needs come before J*****n’s , J*****n’s mother chose to spend J*****n’s support on attorney’s fees and not continue paying for internet or utilities. The internet was cut off at her mothers house and because her mother demands she be there 2 school nights a week J*****n cannot keep up with the online courses and thus has been dropped from the class. You see when you get defeated like that it has a downward spiral affect, B*b K****l’s needs come before J****n’s. B*b K****l needs J*****n’s child support money so he can continue paying for his internet, J*****n’s success is meaningless to B*b K*****l, if J*****n doesn’t go to college, B*b K*****l does not feel that.

    This is why it is important to pay attorney’s fees instead of supporting children, because the needs of B*b K****l come before the needs of Children. So in closing, child support is really not for children because there is no accountability for child support. A parent can spend child support money on hair,nails, car payments, new shoes, clothing, renting movies, relaxing on the weekend. When you know the other parent will take the initiative, when you know the other parent is passionate about the success of the children and will make sacrifices , when you know you really don’t need to do much but sit back , collect and spend, then really , aren’t B*b K****l’s needs more important ?

  9. Thanks for that piece Elliott. Interesting points you have put forward. However, Child support is often a more complex issue that how you have outlined it. Having fathers not pay child support will do little to improve some of the issues. Out of curiousity, is it only fathers that shouldn’t pay child support? What about cases where the children are primarily in the fathers care, should the mother pay child support?

    I definitey agree that fathers can often get a bad wrap when it comes to child custody and support. The laws have been slow to recognize both parents equally. This is probably why we are seeing a rise in child support lawyers for fathers.

    Marriage, divorce, and sexual relationships are often complex, with no two situations being the same. The laws try and cater for as many people as possible. And in the case of child support, it is aimed to support the child. Children don’t have a say when and with whom they are born, however they do deserve the right to support from both parents.