Let me be the first to say it is every parent’s responsibility to provide clothing, shelter and food, along with emotional support, for their children.
That disclaimer aside, the current child support system is unfair and counterproductive to proper parenting.
Everyone has heard the story of a child stuck in the middle of a split couple. A legal tug of war leads to the child living with one parent, and the other is responsible for a monthly paycheck and weekend care.
This is a good old fashion recipe for dysfunction, one that is blatantly supported by the laws created by our government.
The government had the right idea when it crafted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, an agreement that states “the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the children’s development is a common responsibility of both parents.”
That sounds good in theory, but the current system doesn’t support the notion. Take a look at the division of support. The non-custodial parent can be ordered to pay up to 40 percent of their salary in child support (in some cases 50 percent depending on the number of children).
Forty percent sounds fair – that is if you ignore the other 40 percent coming from the custodial parent. That’s 80 percent for those of us counting at home. The idea that it takes 8o percent of a two-income household to care for a child is far-fetched.
The only ceiling imposed to protect the non-custodial parent comes in the form the Self Support Reserve; a mandate that says the parent is financially stable enough to pay the amount owed, until they reach the national poverty line. That’s right. As long as you can afford top ramen you should be fine. To force one parent to live in poverty is both insulting and unfair.
Courts allow for child support to “indirectly benefit the custodial parent.” There should be no benefits that transfer to the custodial parent. It’s “child” not “parent” support.
Any “indirect benefit” should be paid out of the custodial parent’s pocket. Why? because they enjoy the benefit of custody. They can spend adequate time with the child and make decisions (i.e daily environment, diet, human interaction and association) the non-custodial parent can’t.
Each expenditure should be itemized and detailed. It allows for the non-custodial parent to monitor spending and make decisions accordingly.
The inflexibility of child support laws are contrary to the essence of family. If the non-custodial parent should lose their job or go to jail, they are still responsible for payment. With no means of generating income, how can anyone pay child support?
Just because a marital bond is sutured, doesn’t mean the parental union is broken. If a typical family should meet extenuating circumstances, they would have to make it work with one income. That rule should apply here because as a family, you experience hardships together.
The current system says “sir or madam you are no longer a parent, but a provider. Please hand in your mommy/daddy card and start scribbling your name at the end of a check please.”
Two people have a baby, but there is one set of parents. The system should reflect that dynamic.
Caring for your child is just like MasterCard’s slogan, it’s “priceless.”
To demand that a woman should itemize her spending habits because of a man’s child support check, which is probably less than $500, is preposterous.
As the granddaughter of a woman who had 11 children, I’ve seen my share of divorces. I know every side of the story. But what it all boils down to is, ultimately the woman suffers from economic woes, not the man.
More often than not, women are stuck with all of the responsibility. Most men don’t want to help out when women call and say the baby needs diapers. Newsflash- children cost. A lot.
According to the 2007 United States Department of Agriculture’s report on Expenditures on Children for Families, a single parent home will spend a little over an estimated $140,000 on one child up to the age of 17.
The year before high school graduation that child costs about $8,800. And those totals are only for household incomes under $50,000.
Unfortunately, a father’s contributions are needed. So before asking a mother to list what she’s paid for, consider the mortgage to keep a roof over the baby’s head, the extracurricular activities that keep the child out of trouble, the random expenses for class field trips and the constant snacks needed after practice, because mama is tired from working all day.
It’s true some women misuse the financial support meant for their children. But it’s more common for the mother to be focused on her offspring.
The USDA’s report also revealed that most of the income in a single parent home is directed to the child. In states like Florida, child support is based upon income, forcing the father to make the child a priority.
But a mother will continue to carry the brunt of the load. When a child turns 18 support usually ends.
But college expenses will soon arise. Look closer at a FAFSA application. Although at 18 you can go to war or have an abortion, you’re still considered a dependent by the U.S. government. So while dad gets off, mom is still on duty.
Other fathers never step up to the plate. It is sad that the government had to snatch $1.4 million of stimulus checks from parents who were far behind on child support.
Before demanding itemization from mothers let us actually get fathers paying child support.
Unfortunately, financial stability isn’t the only thing that needs to be improved. The most overlooked problem is the relationship between father and child.
From experience, I know fathers will sometimes use their bi-weekly payments as a stunt double. They begin to believe their money, instead of quality time, is enough. It isn’t.
Next, he will want to scream at the top of Mount Rushmore that he’s paying “too much” child support.
But this just shows how out of touch he is about raising a child. Let’s start making fathers care about their children before worrying about where the money is going.
A child is not a product that needs a price tag.
Akeem Anderson is a fourth year newspaper journalism student from Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com
A’sia Horne-Smith is a senior broadcast journalism student from DeLand, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.