Money is the root of all evil, and no one knows this better than a divorced father. When a father is summoned to the divorce court, he quickly learns that money is all his wife and the court are interested in. There’s another applicable old saying: “You get what you pay for.” Because of changes in the divorce laws, such as the application of “no-fault” divorce, which makes a divorce easy to obtain, and government incentives to do so, our divorce rate has skyrocketed. Fueled by feminist angst against men in general, our government has instituted laws which make divorce attractive for women. For that reason, 88% of all divorces are filed by the wife. Although men are often blamed for abandoning their families, the truth is, they are the most reluctant of the couple to dissolve the marriage. This has always been true, but now, due to the profits to be made, men are being driven out of their children’s lives at an astonishing rate.
In 1975, Congress passed Public Law 93-647, the Social Security Act, 42 USC 451, title 4-D.
This law authorized incentive monies to be paid to the states for collecting child support in AFDC cases. The rate was set originally at 10 – 25% of all that could be collected, and mandated assignment of support rights to the states in all AFDC cases. This was the first shot in the War Against Fathers. It meant that if your wife filed for divorce, and applied for welfare, you would be ordered to pay child support. The reasoning was that the welfare rates were too high, and the taxpayers should be relieved from the burden of supporting those children of divorce. Because many judges were addled by archaic thinking, it was reasoned that the mother should have custody of the children, and it would be incumbent upon the father to support them. No fault on his part need be noted. The mother wanted out of the marriage, either because the father failed to make her happy, or because the family fell on hard times, and needed welfare to survive. All government welfare programs, most notably AFDC, required the absence of the family wage earner; almost always the father. So, the divorce court sent the father packing, and provided welfare relief to the mother and children. To recover the cost, states were authorized to levy a tax on the fathers’ income. Some wags soon began to label this the DDT, or Divorced Daddy Tax. From the beginning, child support had little to do with the actual cost of raising a child. It was intended to reduce the number of welfare cases, and reduce the burden on taxpayers. In actual fact, the welfare roles of most states were not reduced more than three percent. Because the cost had shifted to the fathers, the welfare plans expanded the benefits to the divorced mother. Divorce had become even more attractive for mothers, for whom government had become a substitute husband and surrogate father.
In 1977, Congress passed PL 95-142, which provided incentives for reciprocal enforcement and collection of child support orders. This meant that each state was bound to uphold the support orders of all other states. A mother could now take the children and move to another state, and expect that state to assist her in enforcing the orders of the state where the divorce took place. What harsher punishment could a vindictive ex-wife inflict on the father, than to take his children to another state, making it difficult or impossible for him to maintain a relationship with them. Judges, unmindful of the host of research studies which showed that the father was an important asset to children, made moving away easy. They had become agents of the state, more interested in securing those child support payments, and the federal incentives that accrued to the state because of them, than in the best interests of the child.
In 1980, Congress passed PL 96-265, which provided, among other things, 90% reimbursement to the states for computer hardware, software, and operators. This was intended to make child support collections high tech and more efficient. Most onerously, this law also provided matching funds for court related collection expenses. In many, if not most, states, an existing agency, such as the Department of Revenue (DOR) in Massachusetts, was charged with child support collections. This allowed the state to upgrade the administration of the agency by computerizing their systems. Computers could do double duty, assisting the original agency, while still being used to compile data for the child support collection department. It resulted in a tremendous savings for the states. Of course, computerization of the child support collection system suffered the same fate as in other bureaucratic functions. There’s an old saying in the world of computers: “Garbage in, garbage out”. Computers don’t think. Errors were rampant, some simple typos, others miscalculations of support amounts. Some experts admitted that the child support agencies were plagued by error rates of 20% or more. Fathers found that correcting those errors was a nightmare. Bureaucrats are not known to be terribly industrious, and can be downright callous.
The worst part of this bill was the provision of matching funds for courts involved in child support collections. State courts were now eligible for federal reimbursement for hearing child support cases. Up till this time, the operating expenses of the courts were a budgetary function of the legislatures. With payments from the federal government, the courts could expand their incomes at will. In documents obtained under the Freedom of Information laws, it was discovered in New Hampshire that marital masters were claiming excessive amounts of time spent on support cases. One such case showed the master claiming that eight out of 17 cases comprised 95% of her work day, 2 out of ten cases = 50%, six out of 15 =50%, three out of 14 cases amounted to 60% of her work day, and six out of twenty cases = 60%. This was just one marital master, in one month, in one state. The inflation of the figures is questionable, at least. At that rate, the federal incentives for that one master would add up to $31,000 per year. Multiply that by the total number of masters involved, and it makes for a neat little addition to the court’s budget. In point of fact, the tiny state of New Hampshire is currently reaping over $2.5 Million a year in federal reimbursements to the courts. In Massachusetts, the payoff to the courts for hearing child support cases has risen to well over $3.6 Million a year. Worse yet, it is suspected that, in several states at least, that reimbursement money is not being directed to deferring court costs, but rather, is being diverted into secret slush funds or retirement funds for the judges and masters. That creates a huge incentive for courts to place burdensome support obligations on fathers, thereby guaranteeing increased litigation. To maintain those burdensome, often unfair, obligations, courts frequently resort to violating the laws and constitutions they are sworn to uphold. For fathers in our divorce courts, the denial of due process has become an expected routine. To offset any complaints about the propriety of the federal government making payments to the state courts, all the monies paid first go to the child support collection agency, who THEN pay the courts for their involvement. That, of course, creates a symbiotic relationship between the courts and the support collection agency, and insures the courts’ cooperation with the agency. As a result, courts can be expected to turn a blind eye to the injustices in the collection system, and the fraudulent practices of the agency. The increase in re-litigation, as fathers attempt to right the wrongs being done to them, simply results in higher payments to the court, seldom, if ever, in an increase in justice for the father.
In 1980, Congress made the incentive program permanent, and extended it to ALL support collections, both AFDC and non-AFDC, as well as interstate collections. This was PL 96-272. Apparently, the congress felt that not enough money was being collected, so this bill extended support collection efforts to the middle class, which, historically, was not dependent on government welfare programs. Welfare-recipient families are typically low income, with fathers who are locked into low paying jobs, and are frequently unemployed. Opening up collection incentives to the middle classes, where the wage earner was typically highly skilled or professional, meant that support obligations would be based on higher incomes, thereby producing higher support awards. Note that support awards were based on the income of the father, not on the actual cost of raising a child. In support of the feminist agenda, child support had suddenly morphed into a form of disguised alimony. The openly stated justification for this move was to insure that the child would continue in the lifestyle to which he/she had become accustomed. Of course, the money was paid to the mother, not the child, and there were no obligations to force the mother to account for how the money was spent. The support payments were calculated from the fathers’ GROSS income, before taxes and expenses, but were not considered as taxable income for the mother. Neither was the lifestyle of the father considered. Courts typically accepted without question the published statements of author Lenore Weitzman, who claimed that mothers’ income dropped by 73% following divorce, while fathers’ incomes ROSE by 47%. Weitzman was eventually forced to admit that her statements were based on falsified data, that those figures were actually REVERSED, but not until seven years after her initial publication. During that interval, those figures were widely broadcast, and became “common knowledge”, providing an excuse for courts and legislatures to increase the burden on non-custodial fathers. Even now, that now-debunked “common knowledge” still forms the rationale for the oppressive child support collection awards of the courts.
Congress, not satisfied with the amounts of money being raised for welfare recipients, in 1981, enacted PL 97-35, which authorized the inclusion of SPOUSAL support in the incentive scheme. Now, fathers were to be burdened with alimony in addition to child support, and the states would be able to increase their collections, and subsequent federal incentive payments. For divorced fathers, this solidified their belief that the courts were biased in favor of women. As it increased the living standard for mothers, it dramatically LOWERED the living standard for fathers. The law also authorized the states to impose “collection fees” on fathers. Not content with taking (on average) 35 -40% of their income, the states would now be able to impose an 18-24% surcharge on support obligations in the form of “fees”, “interest”, and “penalties”. Moreover, this law provided that support amounts would be protected from bankruptcy. In the event that the father became unemployed, incapacitated, or incarcerated, the support obligation would continue to accrue to the point where his social security retirement would be reduced to pay the debt. In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court, in its’ vigor to increase collections, ruled that support obligations would continue AFTER DEATH, to be paid by heirs from the estate of the deceased father. In the majority of cases, those added on “fees, interest, and penalties” had the effect of multiplying the father’s arrearages dramatically. A study of “Deadbeat Dad” wanted posters in New Hampshire showed that the majority of fathers pilloried on the posters were being dunned for many times more than the actual arrearage. Arrearages were often inflated to five, ten, fifteen, or twenty TIMES the actual arrearage. Of course, those added fees accrued to the state, not the children, giving the states even more incentive to separate fathers from their children. Lastly, this law authorized states to withhold child support from unemployment benefits. Now, every one who has ever been laid off from their job knows that unemployment benefits are not sufficient to maintain a basic level of subsistence. So the disregard for the father’s welfare becomes even more apparent. Karl Marx’s “Transfer of Wealth” scheme has been converted from, “to the poor according to their need, from the rich according to their means’, into, “to the women, regardless of need, from the men, regardless of means.”
Public Law 97-248, 1982, raised the profits to the state by increasing the reimbursement for collection costs to 70%. As seen, our courts are not loathe to fudge the costs in order to raise their incomes.
Furthermore, this law authorizes reimbursements to the state for one month of AFDC welfare for INELIGIBLE families. This simply expands the welfare roles, and consequently, the incentive payments states receive from the federal government. So much for the claim that child support was intended to REDUCE the welfare roles.
In 1984, Congress passed a bill which was to become the backbone of the child support extortion racket. By means of PL 98-378, collection incentives were set at a variable rate of from 6 to 10 percent, depending on efficiency. That means that the more vigorous the state became in hounding fathers, the more money the state could collect from the federal government. Those incentive payments were offered to the states in spite of laws which made wage assignment mandatory. Child support is deducted from the fathers’ wages automatically, and 70% of all collections are made without further expense to the state. Nevertheless, this provision has since been enhanced to include the stipulation that, in order to maintain the rate of payments, the state must DEMONSTRATE increased efforts to collect. That provision has resulted in horrible abuses of legal authority; wholesale denial of due process rights, outrageous legal decisions that defy all logic, and flagrant disregard for state law and the state and federal constitutions. Those incentive rates have proven a windfall to the several states, providing an income of $17 million per year to the small state of New Hampshire, and over $600 million to the much more populous state of Texas. To add to the taxpayers woes, those incentive payments were authorized to BOTH states involved in an interstate collection. Not only were both states offered equal collection incentive payments, but grants for interstate collection programs would now be offered. This double-dipping, of course, added to the burden of taxpayers. To add insult to injury, the congress, by this law, authorized self-reimbursement of AFDC costs, in addition to the federal incentives already being paid, by the levy of fees against NON-AFDC payors. In other words, divorced dads who were supporting their own children, keeping them off the welfare roles, were now being forced to subsidize welfare recipient mothers who did not have a father to hang a child support order on. And the War Against Fathers goes on! This law also authorized MEDICAL support awards against fathers, and also the extension of Medicaid payments beyond AFDC eligibility. The extension of Medicaid payments to divorced, but non-welfare eligible mothers, meant that the state could seek reimbursement from the father for benefits given to the mother. This had the effect of multiplying the amounts owed by the father, and, of course, the federal incentives paid to the state. Logically enough, the plethora of costs offset to the father made compliance difficult if not impossible. Many fathers were reduced to destitution and homelessness, but there are dreadfully few welfare programs for which fathers will qualify.
Although shelters for women abound, the typical shelter for a homeless father is the county jail, which of course, is also subsidized by the child support collection agency. Arrears mounted, and in many cases rightfully appeared to be uncollectible. As a result, the federal government is now providing incentive payments to the states based on the amounts of uncollectible arrears. It’s a win-win situation for the states. They get paid for collecting, and they get paid for NOT collecting. States are beginning to see that it can be more profitable to allow arrearages to accumulate, than to expend the funds for collection efforts. And the taxpayer gets the bill again.
Because the child support collection system has become so discriminatory, unfair, and oppressive, many fathers are questioning their paternity. In a good many cases, the mother isn’t sure who the father is.
Simple blood tests often prove inconclusive, and forestall the imposition of a child support order. To increase the number of support orders issued, most states have resorted to DNA testing to prove paternity.
As a further inducement to the states, Congress passed PL 100-485 in 1988. This law provides 90% reimbursement to the states for DNA testing of potential child support debtors, further reducing the cost to the states, and insuring an indefensible order for support. It should be noted that fully 30% of men so tested have been found NOT to be the natural father. That fact, of course, holds little weight in our family courts.
Most states have set time limits for contesting paternity, and will often hold a non-father liable for support payments in spite of DNA test results. The rationale is that the child has come to recognize the man accused as his father, and the father had previously acknowledged paternity by living with, and caring for, the child. Never mind that the mother did not admit her infidelity until after the time limitation had passed. Establishment of that support order, it seems, is more important to the court than establishment of true paternity. Along with the 90% reimbursement for testing, the law also provides for another 90% reimbursement for computerized monitoring systems. Federal tax payers foot the bill for that, too.
Public Law 101-508 provides for IRS interception of tax refunds to fulfill support obligations. Originally, this applied only to obligations which were owed to the state; the interest, fees, and penalties levied by the state, and reimbursements for welfare given to the mother. It has since been expanded to include routine child support, and, more recently tax refunds being paid out to shore up the nation’s economy.
Finally, to leave no doubt that the child support extortion racket is a FEDERALLY sponsored process, CSRA – 1992, provides for federal prosecution for failure to pay child support. Odd, isn’t it, that when a father files suit in federal court alleging bias and corruption in the state’s child support system, he’s told that child support is a matter for state courts, and the federal court has no jurisdiction. But when his alleged arrears pass a certain dollar amount ($5000?) he’s subject to a felony non-support charge in federal court.
As one reads the above, it should be noted that the federal government is paying out more in incentive payments than is being collected. Those incentive payments have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the pockets and earnings of taxpayers. Congress has no earning capacity of its own, and must rely on the earnings of citizens for it’s operational budget, and it’s largesse’. So, although the taxpayers of individual states are made to think they are being gifted by the federal government with all those child support incentives, the money eventually comes from the federal taxes they pay. Granted, the states are conducting their child support collection programs at a profit-making pace. The federal incentives noted above, added to by known abuses of the system, far outweigh the state’s expenditures. It’s a lucrative scheme, and difficult for politicians and state government officials to give up. However, the hidden costs, such as providing alcohol and drug abuse programs, mental health counseling, medical care for un-wed teen mothers, police services, and juvenile justice services and incarceration for those fatherless children of divorce are an offsetting expense. Add to that the unknown cost to society from the loss of productivity of children who drop out of school, or from fathers made homeless by the War Against Fathers. Although the federal government has, of late, been paying lip-service to the importance of fathers, with fatherhood programs and agencies like the National Fatherhood Initiative, they continue to ignore their role in the creation of a fatherhood crisis. The NFI has alluded to the social ills created by fatherless children, and the ONE HUNDRED BILLION dollar cost to society of those children. But, until Congress learns to stop separating fathers from their children in order to separate them from their money, until the members of congress stop pandering to special interests by providing incentives for divorce, those social ills and their associated costs, in money as well as detriment to society, will continue unabated.
This article was originally published in the Summer "08 edition of "IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD", published by BSI-International