In modern day society, child support has become almost automatic when a baby is born to unmarried parents. In both unwed and divorce cases, child support seems to be a mandate rather than an option. Unless a person receives any public assistance, the enrollment into the child support system is voluntary. Parents should consider avoiding child support altogether when deciding what is in the best interest of the children. One reason that avoidance of the child support system is a better option is that the money paid from one parent to the other will be received in full. As the current system maintains federally mandated caseloads and performance measurements, the system attaches fees for all of its functions. These fees are collected before any money is paid out to the family. This is a perfect example of trickle-down economics and how it fails the less fortunate as they strive for self sufficiency and financial security.
For example, most states charge $25 annually as a maintenance fee. The maintenance fee may seem minimal to most but more fees apply for all cases no matter the TANF status. In Georgia, the Office of Child Support is authorized to establish and collect a fee of $100 for review and modification of a support order, (State of Georgia Government). This offers a great profit for the state when modifications are needed to reflect current and accurate income. The Office of Child Support Enforcement Agency, or OCSE, (2013) wrote in the FY 2012 Preliminary report that Georgia had 195,261 cases on families that had never received assistance. If every parent were to request a review or modification to their case, Georgia would stand to collect $19,526,100 in total profit. This money could and would be better spent on the children. Unfortunately, this money will be retained by the state and the children will receive nothing.
Although many states boast of their amnesty programs to assist with modifications and helping parents decrease arrears, there are not many examples of successful outcomes for these programs. The criteria that these amnesty programs require are strict and lengthy while child support arrears still grow. Programs such as these make any significant relief to child support debt nearly impossible which is the same outcome when requesting a modification. There is no guarantee that the modification will be granted once a review a request has been submitted. Another important reason and perhaps the most important of all, for ‘opting out’ of the child support system is to possibly avoid further friction between parents created by child support involvement. Child support will pursue anyone that violates the laws governed by the broad and stringent child support guidelines. Parents should strongly consider the long term affect of signing up for child support programs as it is easy to enroll into the program, but very difficult to leave.
The guidelines that are supposed to be followed are set by both the federal and state governments. There is often no relief granted to low-income or disabled parents when they cannot meet full child support obligations. The Office of the Inspector General (2007) acknowledged that the policies that are used in most states do not usually generate child support by low-income noncustodial parents. With the high levels of government agencies indentifying that specific measures do not generate collections, the pursuit of these parents only leaves to increased and unpaid debt. Children will never receive the money because most of arrears that are accumulated are owed to the state for late fees and interest. The most beneficial way that parents can provide for their children is to rely on each other to support their children. If, and only if, there is no possibility of support from the other parent should government action be initiated. The government strongly suggests that the program is in operation only for the best interest of the child, however, the government is earning and keeping so much money, the cash can never directly benefit those same children.
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue and Child Support Enforcement Division (2011), lists the following as collection remedies property for delinquent child support and arrears:
In the event that parents decide to work together independent from the courts, it may be too late. If a parent misses a payment for any reason, the penalties and interest begin to accumulate. Over a relatively short amount of time, the state can be the owner of the child support debt. This means that any money collected from any source, including the ones previously listed, will be retained by the state.
Based on the short list of the evidence listed in this article, parents should avoid the child support system when at all possible. The legislators insist that parents be held financially accountable for their children but take the money away from those same children. Short term solutions may not be the best answers for long-term goals. Consider the future when applying for child support enforcement services. The system needs to be forced to operate in the manner that it is supposed to operate. The mission of the child support agencies was initially to pursue and prosecute men that ‘willfully’ failed to pay support. Currently it operates as a debt collection agency with more freedom to prosecute anyone that falls into debt. The law is clear on who should be convicted but the agencies have scripted its own laws. It acts more as a thief in the night rather than a respectable government agency whose sole purpose is supposed to be protecting the children. Money that rightfully belongs to you and your child may become states property with little or no recourse for either parent to recover the money.
Georgia Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) Fees | Division of Child Support Services. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://dcss.dhs.georgia.gov/division-child-support-services-dcss-fees
Gibbs Brown, J. (2000, September). The Establishment of Child Support Orders on Low-Income Non-Custodial Parents. Retrieved from https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-05-99-00390.pdf
Office of Child Support Enforcement. (2013, September 1). FY2012 Preliminary Report - State Box Scores | Office of Child Support Enforcement | Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/fy2012-preliminary-report-state-box-scores#GA-GU