The June 23 op ed column by Michigan Department of Social Services Director Gerald Miller distorted data on child support and failed to acknowledge the devastation to children from their loss of fathers (“Child support comes in many forms”). Society scapegoats “deadbeat dads,” even though only 20 percent of noncustodial mothers pay child support. Fathers are not culprits; children want and need two parents. Instead of clamoring for draconian support enforcement, the DSS should recognize that denial of parental access and parental alienation are the most common forms of child abuse and merit severe criminal penalties. The removal of fathers from their children is the primary cause of social problems that cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.
Children of divorce, especially boys score lower on reading and math tests than children from two parent households. They are absent more often, are more anxious, hostile and withdrawn, are less popular with their peers, and are twice as likely to drop out of high school or college. Boys in father custody households, however, fare as well as or better than boys from intact families.
Where fathers are allowed to be involved with their children, child support is paid. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, full and timely payment of support was admitted by 90 percent of mothers with joint custody, and 79 percent where visitation was allowed. Yet according to the 1990 Census, only about 55 percent of fathers had visitation rights, and only 7 percent had joint custody.
Rather than spend taxpayer funds on Aid to Dependent Children and child care for mothers in school, or enforcing draconian legislation, government should allow and encourage fathers to share equally in caring for their children. Pending state legislation that would direct the loss of auto and occupational licenses for child support arrearages is poorly drafted and would destroy far more innocent victims than it would benefit. The amount of support collected would decrease.
How many fathers will commit suicide or unjustly face financial ruin before people recognize that we must treat fathers fairly? Courts refuse to consider the concerns of noncustodial parents: access to their children, accountability for the use of child support payments, the fairness of support awarded, and the outrageous legal cost fathers must incur to attempt to remain involved in our children’s lives.
Phillip J. Holman
National Congress for Men and Children