Pennsylvania’s Child Support System: Politics Leave Fathers with Few Options

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I have a close friend who is suffering at the hands of the poorly run Child Support System in his state, Pennsylvania. He is a good dad who sees his children on a regular basis, pays child support and had been going to school in hopes of getting a better job. Because he actually cares, he has gone through the ringer of a child support system that sides with the mother by default, without regard to the father’s situation.

Dads Don’t Have Motivation to Work

The first problem with the child support system in his state is that they take a flat fee out of his paycheck, regardless of the amount of money he makes, due to the past balance he owes. Because of this, he can work a 40-hour work week and come home with a check for $80. Now how many people in their right mind would continue to bust their humps at a job for that many hours for a grand total of $80 per week? Not many. I surely wouldn’t; that is similar to slave labor.

So due to this unfair payment system, and the fear the child support instills upon good dads about coming to court, it is unlikely that a sane human being will continue to work at a job with this kind of take home pay. It also may be a reason why some fathers turn to illegal activities.

Dads Who are Thrown in Jail Can’t Work

The next element of the child support system in his state that does not make any sense is the threat of jail, even for fathers who actually care about their kids, have paid in the past, and unfortunately lose their jobs. What about those dads who are in school. If they miss a certain number of payments and the mother of the child is particularly persistent about taking the father to court, they can be sent to jail for 30 days. Now what purpose does that serve? 1) the child won’t be able to see their father for 30 days, 2) the father may lose whatever job they have, 3) the father is booted out of school and loses any scholarships, and 4) still, nothing is paid. It is no wonder that children aren’t able to get the support that they need. Meanwhile, fathers who don’t care about or see their children and are on the run continue to skate by.

Biased Judges

The final element of the child support system that has caused its failure is the bias of the judges they employ to handle these cases. Judges are mean and unreasonable to the fathers, regardless of their situation, because they lump them all into one pile. What most of these judges don’t understand is that some mothers have a vendetta against the fathers of their children and will do whatever necessary to get them thrown in jail-their motivations do not always lie with the children.

In one case, my friend was actually thrown in jail for a child support warrant, and was let out on his own recognizance when they realized that he had just made his payment. But it was too late as far as his business affairs were concerned-he was kicked out of school for missing too many days while in jail. Where is the justice in that?

Proposal for How it Can Be Better

Here is my proposal for how the current child support system can be improved.

Hire better educated judges who really care about all parties involved and who consider the situation of the fathers as well as the mothers.

Only threaten jail if a father has not made a payment to child support in a certain number of years.

Regardless of any arrears, make sure that the working father is given a fair amount to live with in his paycheck. The father is not a machine-he still needs to eat and pay rent.

Support a father’s efforts to go to school to better himself.

Hold mothers, especially those who are playing games with the system to get back at a father, accountable for their actions.

Open the doors for fathers to come to the courts to inquire about their child support status without the fear of being arrested for unsettled matters.

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