Financial woes? You do not have to be bankrupted by child support

So, you have been ordered to pay child support — but what happens when your financial situation is so dire that you can barely afford to support yourself? Although the courts often say that they want the noncustodial parent to be involved in the children’s lives, sometimes meeting your financial obligations can be next to impossible. New research and policies geared toward low-income parents may make this involvement easier while lightening child support burdens for those who are facing poverty.

Statistics show that fathers, who make up the majority of noncustodial parents, generally fall into the lower income brackets if they are younger, lack education or are recent immigrants. Education is critical to improving income — fathers whose schooling tops out at a high school diploma are significantly more likely to be considered low-income. Geographically remote parents and those who are seasonally employed or disabled may also have difficulty meeting their child support payments.

Without this important context, child support enforcement can have an ugly set of consequences. When British Columbian authorities force low-income fathers to face penalties because of failure to pay, the long-term trade-off is generally dire; mothers and children are less likely to receive ongoing support, and fathers tend to terminate their relationships with their children. Instead of focusing on the punishment associated with failure to pay, authorities are urged to identify the social and economic factors that may be contributing to failure to pay.

Noncustodial parents should realize that they have options and rights when it comes to paying child support. One parent should never have to endure homelessness or other severe financial trials because of unfairly enforced child support laws — adjustments are possible. There is hope for parents who are fighting against an unjust system that simply looks to empty their bank account, and a family lawyer can help.

Source: Father Involvement Research Alliance, “Income Support Policies and the Support of Low-income Fathers,” accessed Nov. 13, 2015

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