But when can strict applications of the guidelines and attempts to recover past due support actually hurt families?
Sometimes the application of the guidelines can actually hurt poor families. The recent shooting of Walter Scott by a South Carolina Police officer may have occurred after Mr. Scott fled in fear that he would be jailed for non-payment of child support.
In fact, it is not uncommon for poor fathers to be jailed for non-payment of support. If they are not jailed, then non-payment can result in suspension of their driver’s licenses and seizure of their bank accounts.
But what about the single mother or father struggling to support his or her child or children without help from their father or mother? Many times the system fails him or her. He or she is never able to collect child support because the father is paid in cash or the State is simply overwhelmed in its child support enforcement department. Even if the father can only contribute $50.00 a month, that could help the single mom or dad!
Unfortunately, another issue is that often the money collected does not go to the single custodial parent but instead goes to reimburse the state that has paid him or her government benefits.
Sometimes jailing the person who has failed to pay support is the only way to collect support! Perhaps in the future state governments will offer training and employment supports to help the unskilled father or mother compete in the global economy so they can more meaningfully contribute to their children’s well-being.