Child support often becomes a matter of contention when couples who have minor children decide to get divorced. Both parents want to be sure that their children are provided for, but neither party wants to voluntarily put themselves in a financially precarious position. As divorce became more common, and child support laws were introduced to help custodial parents collect support that they were granted, yet not receiving. With the creation of additional laws that allowed for aggressive child support payment collection, non-custodial parents found themselves trapped in a system that assumed they would not make payment. Though it is true that some parents do refuse to pay court-ordered support because they do not care about providing for their children, some hard working non-custodial parents are forced to live with a deadbeat dad stereotype that they do not deserve.

The Origin of the Stereotype

While technically a parent of either gender could be ordered to pay child support and refuse to comply for no legitimate reason, the stereotype of a nonpaying parent is often attached to fathers.  The origin of the “deadbeat dad” is often traced to news reports and stories from the early 1980s that featured fathers with multiple children frankly discussing their refusal to pay financial support for their offspring. Public outrage over the reports is attributed to the progressively harsher enforcement policies that began with sweeps designed to arrest men who were not current with child support obligations. Law enforcement began using advanced delinquency tracking methods that focused on seizing money and property to help bring past due balances current.

The Reality

Decades after state and federal governments began working together to collect past due funds, census reports began revealing that past due child support was not solely an issue for divorced men. Even though a percentage of men ordered to pay child support were failing to make timely payments, a larger percentage of women ordered to pay child support were also behind on their obligations. Additionally, studies have shown that when fathers are behind on child support due to job loss, medical conditions, or other reasons outside of their control they often attempt to provide some sort of contribution to their child’s household. These contributions are often in the form of clothing, baby supplies, and food.

How the Stereotype Affects Fathers

One of the problems associated with stereotypes is their ability to negatively affect the actual lives of innocent parties. Even though child support and visitation are two entirely separate issues, it is not unusual for a non-custodial father to be denied visitation because he is behind on child support. A father who is having his court-ordered visitation denied can pursue a contempt motion, but it is difficult to preserve rights while simultaneously dealing with the stigma of past due child support. Without competent legal representation, it can be difficult to convince a judge that you are not willfully withholding child support because visitation is being denied.

Get Legal Advice

The cloud of the deadbeat dad stereotype can affect your relationship with your children and the ability to protect parental rights. If you are someone who is currently behind on child support through no fault of your own, it is important that you contact a family law attorney to discuss your situation. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are able to help you request a modification or other options for financial relief. Contact our offices today and schedule a consultation at one of our four Atlanta area locations.