How the War on “Dead-Beat Dads” is Hurting Co-Parenting Fathers

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GMP Senior Editor Mark Greene is an Emmy Award winning animator and designer. He blogs and speaks on Men's Issues at the intersection of society, politics, relationships and parenting for the Good Men Project, HLN, Talking Cranes, The Shriver Report, The Huffington Post, Mamamia and Role Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.
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  1. Mason J Stewart says:

    I wouldn’t agree with the term dead beat dads; but, the system need to be restructured. Dead beat dad is another method saying stereotype is a statistic for non-support. Derived from the Child Support Agency, name does not fit. The Government take advantage of those who do their best to provide care and concern for theirs; however, the representative between the two creates constructive plans to make some suffer. The only method to remain ahead is to stay away from the Government; yeah, get your own lawyer. You will suffer with a State appointed Lawyer, that’s what the Child Support Agency is.

  2. Do they still have debtors jail in the U.S?

  3. Lynn Beisner says:

    What few people know is that the entire system for child support came about as a direct result of welfare reform. When we virtually eliminated all social support for children we had to transfer that responsibility somewhere, and sadly it went against non-custodial parents. Child support is often brutally high, and should be revised with an eye to keeping parents involved. The problem is, we as a society would have to be willing to pick up the slack and now more than ever we seem unwilling to lift so much as a finger to help our fellow humans.

  4. As tragic as this situation is, it’s actually better than it used to be. I personally know of three cases years ago where the father raised the kids full time, still paying full child support (translated ransom) for fear that a trip back to court to get custody would just cost more and may result in the mother actually taking the kids in with her and whatever loser/druggie is currently in the picture.

    What’s even more surprising is what actually facilitated the change for the better: meth. Dragging a few examples of people no reasonable human being could possibly believe could be responsible for themselves much less a child allowed some of these courts to begin to see beyond the mother=custody paradigm of this rural community.

    There is still a long ways to go for sure.

  5. The term “Equal Protection Under the Law” comes to mind. Maybe it applies here. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I’ve experienced it, or even heard the term used, I can’t recall much about it except that it’s supposed to mean we all get treated the same. It comes from the Bill of Rights or some other oft ignored document. Maybe some knows more amout ths than I.

  6. Melissa Harrison says:

    The entire family law system is in desperate – DESPERATE – need of repair. I have two main points, though, in reaction to this article.

    1. Child support is meant to help provide the CHILD with the lifestyle to which he/she was accustomed when the parents were contributing to one household (or, in the case of parents who never lived together, what the lifestyle would have been). Clearly it’s an imperfect way to try to make a situation seem more fair to a kid, and there are various models of child support calculation – not every state uses the same method. It’s one of those we’ll-make-it-seem-as-fair-as-possible things, when, in reality, there’s nothing fair about any of it.

    2. It is absolutely ridiculous to keep insisting that there’s a “mother-automatic custody paradigm” still in place. While I would argue that a lot of fathers have gone to horrific extremes to gain custody of their children like they are prizes to be won, I think it better to shine a light on the true crux of the problem: the unethical judges and the lack of accountability.

    Dads are just as important as Moms, just as needed as Moms… and there’s no reason for me to even say it like that, really — except that somehow it becomes a battle over parents’ rights instead of a battle over children’s rights. I often think of King Solomon. Stop jumping up and down about parents’ rights and start demanding better ways to ensure children’s rights are honored.

    • Hi Melissa,
      Thanks for your comments. On your point #2. It was my intention to indicate that the “mother-automatic custody paradigm” is a result of judges and the bias they draw from antiquated case law. But yes, the judges and the laws they enforce are responsible for the continuing challenges.

      Also, co-parenting couples should be able to set up and share an account in which the child’s support funds are deposited and then spent from. That way, both households can access funds for the child. This assumes the existence of a working partnership vs. an acrimonious relationship. But institutions that assume the possibility of positive co-parenting relationships will grow that outcome.

  7. Yeah yeah yeah … the courts. We know they suck at this but let’s be honest, how many women are really stepping up and saying this is what we want? How many women who have their kid and the baby’s daddy are saying, yeah, I want to share and not get the $$.

    Look at the number of women voters. The numbers you shared about dad is great but in reality, it’s a drop in the bucket. Ya think the courts are going to turn their backs to the women that put them in their positions?

    I agree with everything you said about the courts but the courts are only a part of the picture. You can’t leave out another important part and that’s the millions of moms who don’t agree with the kind of arrangement that they share equal without financial support.

  8. Sheri Atwood says:

    “Instead, co-parenting couples should be able to set up and share an account where the child’s support funds are deposited and spent from. ”

    In theory this may sound like it would work but the fundamental problem is that parents who are no longer together lack trust. Therefore, this becomes a huge management nightmare having to monitor who spent what from the account and ensuring one party doesn’t spend more than their fair share.

    This is why I started Ittavi ( The company name is an acronymn for “it takes a village”. Ittavi Child Support Manager Is an easy to use online application where parents can submit expenses and make payments, show receipts and keep a complete history of transactions. It takes conflict out of managing child support, saving parents time and money, and promoting collaboration.

    I encourage you to check it out and let me know your thoughts.

  9. I love this post. I’m struggling under the debt of a financial agreement that was made when I was hurting and just wanting to do what what best for my kids. I’ve never made the money that was expected. It’s been a rough financial time. I’m barely holding on to my house. And yet, the further I hurtle into debt.

    Thanks Mark.


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