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Economy gives some dads a bad rap

Shadows of mother with children.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: It seems like the recession and the unemployment rate are hitting every aspect of life these days. Divorce is no exception. As more parents feel a loss of income, many are asking family courts to adjust child support payments. The bad economy is also pushing some parents into payment delinquency, contributing to the problem of deadbeat dads.

From Boston, Monica Brady-Myerov reports.


Monica Brady-Myerov: When someone loses a job, the bills don't stop coming. Mortgage, car payments, health insurance and for some, child support. But Ned Holstein, president of Fathers and Families, a group that presents dads, says there's a big difference.

Ned Holstein: Everybody is struggling. But someone who has a child support order is the only person who's going to be put in jail, because they can't pay their debts.

That's why more parents who've lost their jobs are asking the courts to lower their child support payments. That's what's happening to Jim Feeney. He's a divorced father of four who lives on Cape Cod. Before he lost his job in January, he made about $85,000 a year. He's required to may $3,200 a month in child support and alimony. When he was laid off, he immediately asked the court if he could pay less.

Jim Feeney: First, I filed for unemployment, I filed for welfare, food stamps, because I had no income. I had no savings.

Feeney spoke about his case at a restaurant after his hearing, which he had to wait two and a half months for. The judge denied his request to lower his payments and after six months after not meeting them, Feeney was put in jail. After two days behind bars, he paid a $5,000 fine and was released. But his stint in jail didn't lower his child support obligations and the fines he's racking up because he's not paying.

Feeney: There's penalties to the state, there's penalties that go to my ex-wife, there's interest to the state, there's interest that goes to my ex-wife.

Feeney's former wife refused to comment for this story. But another ex-wife of another man who just lost his job does have something to say. She's Julie Baker, she's the primary care giver to two children, ages five and nine. Her ex was recently laid off.

Julie Baker: The first thing he said was, "I'll try to keep up the child support."

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Baker said her former husband has been a supportive dad who's always paid on time. But if the tables were turned:

Baker: If I lost my job, I can't say to the kids, "You know what? You can't have lunch today. You know what? I'm sorry that your shoes are too small."

And more out-of-work parents want to change their child support agreements. But just asking the court to lower your payments, because you lost your job, isn't always enough.

Divorce attorney B.J. Krintzman says the courts are slow moving.

B.J. Krintzman: They're not going to get very far if they go in that week and say, "I lost my job, so I can no longer pay." Usually there has to be some kind of period of time that's gone by, so the obligor has to show attempts to get a job.

Some judges are sympathetic and lower payments right away, because they know it's unlikely someone will get a new job quickly. But typically it takes six months for a judge to make a decision.

Holstein: And during those couple of months, you can be going broke in a hurry.

Ned Holstein of Fathers and Families.

Holstein: Then when you get the hearing, typically, the family court judges will not give you relief at the first hearing. They say, "Well, how do we know this is going to be long standing? You might get a job next week. Also, you've got some assets, you can pay it out of your assets. And so, I'll see you again in three more months."

But it's putting fathers who mean well and love their kids in jail, because they can't pay.

Krintzman: And this is not daddy jail; this is real jail.

But divorce attorney B.J. Krintzman says what ends up happening is dads borrow money from family and friends.

Krintzman: Usually it is very rare that someone stays in jail for 30 days. So they do find ways to find the money and pay up the back child support and get themselves out of jail.

And when they do get out of jail, they'll owe even more, because child support obligations don't stop while someone is behind bars.

In Boston, I'm Monica Brady-Myerov for Marketplace Money.

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My ex-husband was ordered to pay me 250.00 a week for our daughter when he owned his own company. He then was sent to prison for 2 years and is now on house arrest. His arrears are at 20,000. He was released in Feb. and is living with a girlfriend of his free and clear and she gave him a car to drive back and forth to work. Since he was arrested he lost his business and says he could only find a job making 10.00 an hour. He has to pay for probation and anger classes so he says he can only pay me 50.00 a week. He's trying to get it modified to that, but I want to know how is that fair? My daughter still had to be provided for while he was away and it's not like he just lost his job he went to jail for a crime "HE" commited..

listen the women replying to the interview she said if the tables where turn on her she cant tell her kids: If I lost my job, I can't say to the kids, "You know what? You can't have lunch today. You know what? I'm sorry that your shoes are too small."
now turn the tables again if the man had custody of the child and he lost his job he'll tell his kids: hey son today we cant go out to eat at red lobster today we have to eat bread and ham sorry we cant get them 100 dollars shoes and them 80 dollar jeans today we have to shop at walmart. we would adapt to the change that are taking place..then place u in mommy jail with no bail with real criminals, rapist,and murders for 90 days...

Are you kidding me!!! Custodial parents always get the short end of the stick. I have been a parent since conception. On the other hand, my ex-husband has yet to start and our child is already 11. He didnt pay child support for 4 years, until we finally decided to make our separation official. never worried if his child had food on his plate or a shelter to keep him warm. Most father forget that they are as responsible for their children as the custodial mother. 5 years later, because of the "economy" he claims to have lost his job and that he cant make his payments (it has been six months) come one. If he has money to continue to take hunting trips, has nicer cars then mine and has two other boys that he supports, why is my child not important enough. And now, to top it all off, he files a Motion to Modify Child Support, claiming that he has been unemployed for over a year and that his house is in Foreclosure, his cars are being repossesed and that he owed thousands of dollars in credit cards. How is this my problem, I dont have the luxury of using credit cards. When I cant afford something, I just dont buy it... A new bow and arrow, or a new rifle, or an ATV are just not my priorities. The Law in Florida just needs to get toughter on "DEADBEAT DADS" when you are one you need to be treated like one. I am disgusted.

Child support is like a two way street..there are good drivers and some bad drivers. Each family case is different..some need higher child support if children are Special Needs..I notice most comments do not mention this and with so many children today with medical problems/with no health insurance and the cost of living out of sight..let's just say some may be taking advantage of the support..but many other's are on the short end of the stick. My ex-son in law is $22,000 in arrears of child support, never paid the marital debt and has never been in jail (Florida)and the DOR is the collector over this case. On a Green Card to boot. In court constantly yet carp is done..why?..Court claims in jail he can't make any money. Go figure...

Its very sad to read some of the comments I see. And the worst are the woman, how can anyone think that a single mother is complaining. But people forget that it takes a man and a woman to make a child. From my own experiences let me tell you its not easy, but find work. So I can put food, childcare, a roof and clothing on my kids. Let me tell you that what I put into my house and kids living could never amount to the support my ex send when he feels like it. But when I do get it, it helps with food lights and gas. And I can bet that this is the case for most single parents How are kids only one parents problem
Like I read in one comment if you were still married would you call a judge to put your husband in jail because he got laid off. Which was pretty stupid to say because they would have to find a job regardless and it would be two people working not just one
but when you are alone working 3 jobs just to make ends meat for your kids because one parent only have a bag of excuses as to why they cant help well just remember this I cant make excuses I get laid off then I find something anything that will give me a few dollars. Custodial parents don't get excuses. Because kids don't understand excuses and they sure cant eat them.

It must be nice for his ex to sit around cracking a whip at him to support her more then the children it sounds like, while a lot of us hard working moms take the responsibility to meet our ex husband at least half way supporting our children we decided to bring into the world. The mother just seems like a over glorified welfare case that sits around and waits for the check to come in! Child support was never meant to be someones sole means of paying all their d**m bills living off their ex's making it impossible for them to even have enough to buy the simple things in life like groceries. Where did the fairness go???

some child support orders are reasonable
while other orders are set at a ridiculous
amount like the 3,200 a month. that is a lot when you make only 85,000 a year and i bet the mother doesn't even work since she is receiving part of the support as alimony. Maybe she should try to get a job for the time being until he can get a high enough paying job to meet that high obligation of his, I mean really in order to pay 3,200 per month you better land a high
paying job or other wise you wouldn't have a penny left over to support yourself. The judge is being very unfair to this man for the economy is terrible and some have lost high paying jobs that they can't just run out and replace. Maybe the mother should be willing to lower her standards of living too like many people have had to instead of being so greedy. With all this said however i am not saying that someone should be a deadbeat parent after all i have 4 kids i haven't received a dime for in years and it makes me sick to see women like this complaining she isn't receiving her three thousand and two hundred dollars per month. To a person paying a huge amount like this I am sure it can become very overwhelming if something happens to your job and i guess it could
almost make you feel like just running
away when the courts don't have any sympathy.

Signing over your rights? That does sound like a simple way out. However, there is no such thing as signing over your rights without the mother agreeing to this. If she wants to continue to receive support this won't be an option for the dad.

lisa

To the parents who don't make the effort to support their children, if you don't want to support them, then sign over your rights to them. Then you won't have to worry about getting any further behind. The kids aren't a big concern for you obviously if you refuse to take any job available to help support yourself and your child(ren).

To all the moms that are complaining about child support knowing that the kids dads isn't working. If you guys were still together and he lost his job and couldn't find another one right away do you call the judge and say through this guy in jail because he cant support my life style. It doesn't cost hundreds of dollars to house the kid for a month its that one part of your ex that you cant let go of"his money" and if you cant support the kid you should maybe let the dad take care of the kid.

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