In 1986, Bill Moyers interviewed a father who actually bragged about not helping to provide for his six offspring. The resulting fallout led to greater enforcement of child support orders. There are many who are now calling for much-needed reform in how these monies are collected and the often over-looked value that non-custodial fathers can have in the lives of their children. There may be thousands of children in New York who could benefit from more time with their fathers.

Over the past several decades, the child support system seems to have discounted the role that fathers play outside of a monthly check. Now, however, there are signs that states are becoming more sympathetic to the plight of fathers who have been relegated to “deadbeat” status due to their inability to pay the court-ordered support for their children. Many of these fathers are lower-earning men who are simply unable to obtain gainful employment that can meet their needs — let alone allow them to make regular support payments.

The child support system wields control that impacts the lives of almost one-fourth of the nation’s children. When it was first conceived, it enabled mothers to care for their children after a divorce from the primary provider — the dad. However, in the changing societal climate, a punitive system is becoming more counter-productive in light of the numbers of unmarried parents and higher numbers of low-paying jobs for non-custodial parents, especially fathers.

Many sociologists have found evidence that suggests that men want to be more involved in the lives of their children. Unfortunately, if they continue to be viewed only as a source of monetary support, then all parties may suffer. Until meaningful changes are made in the current system, New York families that are struggling with the issue of child support payments may seek a remedy through mediation or the family courts. There are numerous local resources that can provide guidance that may enable families to work out the best solutions for their particular needs.

Source: The Boston Globe, “How “deadbeats” can still be good dads“, Ruth Graham, Dec. 5, 2014