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A Reality Check on Deadbeat Dads

Child support is a necessary component of any divorce settlement. We all agree that children are the real victims in a divorce, and that any assistance the courts can mandate to help these children is a good thing. What is not good, however, is mandating unrealistic support payments from a father who cannot afford to pay them, and then charging him interest when they are not paid.

Until someone invents a way to get blood from a turnip, an invention that would solve a multitude of financial shortfalls, a more realistic standard has to be set. I serve as President of the Fatherhood Educational Institute, a Chicago-based group that promotes positive fatherhood involvement in poverty stricken communities. We educate these fathers in parenting skills and teach them to assume responsibility. Their financial support may be limited by the realities of their income, but we teach them to physically and spiritually connect with their children and support them EMOTIONALLY. If a dad is unable to pay a court-mandated fee, then there are a multitude of ways a sober dad can help hands on: sharing a hobby, taking his kids to a park, joining a neighborhood group to make sure his kids are safe, fixing a broken door or window in the house with his kids. At the Fatherhood Educational Institute, we teach skills and ways for dads to communicate with their kids and to spend positive time together. Is it not more important that children have a father in their lives than a deadbeat dad in jail??

Cook County, IL Sheriff Tom Dart announced that his website will now post photos of “deadbeat” dads, the same website that posts criminal warrants for serious felons. What does this accomplish? These Illinois “mug shots” only result in making victims out of the dads. Colonial Virginia miscreants were locked into pillories in the town square for the purpose of humiliation. Debtors prison in 19th century England incarcerated those too poor to pay, succeeding only in preventing them from finding means to pay their debts. Humiliation is not a useful tool. Education is. And a judicial reality check would be. Courts must be willing to lower support orders when needed, and even void interest penalties on occasion.

The current child support system is not designed for the current economic realities working people now face… layoffs, downsizing, work-related injuries, and unsophisticated family monetary planning. As a money manager and financial consultant for the financially sound, handling child support settlements is often part of my job.

A jail filled with “deadbeat dads” does no one any good. It costs tax payers to house them. It costs the economy a potentially productive work force member. And most importantly, it costs the child who now has no father. There will always be the father who can pay for his Ferrari but is too selfish or angry to pay child support payments. Let’s post pictures of those guys on the WANTED list.

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