Letters to the Editor

Child support is big business

Re "S.C. getting child support system, 23 years after it was required," March 27 article:

The article left out a lot of pertinent information.

From the description of the electronic measures being used to catch up with nonpaying fathers, it seems that fathers are being pursued with more vigor and vengeance than murderers. The reason is apparent. The state makes a lot of money from child support collections. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement, South Carolina collected $258 million in 2008.

Assuming an average payment from the federal government of 10 percent, the state realized [proceeds] of $25.8 million. Since each state is mandated to have in place an "interagency agreement" or "cooperative agreement" between the state agency and the courts, permitting payments to the courts by the collection agency, the courts hearing child support case would have pulled in about $2.6 million for their part in the scam. That means that fathers in family court are facing judges who are paid by their adversaries.

None of that money goes to mothers and children. It's all goes to the states and their courts. And it's the primary reason why so many legislators and feminist agencies stubbornly refuse to consider shared physical custody as an option in divorce. Reams of research over the decades has shown that shared custody is in the best interests of the children. But profit seems to trump those best interests. Nationally, the courts award custody to the mother in 90 to 97 percent of cases. That clearly points to child support as an entitlement for women, discriminating against fathers. The problem is that child support collection, originally intended to reduce welfare costs, has morphed into a communistic "transfer of wealth" scheme.

The overwhelming majority of recipient mothers are middle class women who have never been on welfare and are not in need of it now - which doesn't mean that they don't apply for and get it. Many welfare programs and tax benefits are available for women who choose not to work to support their families. The child support they get is not counted as income. So, many women are double dipping, collecting welfare and child support at the same time. An agency of the federal government, the Fatherhood Initiative, undertook a study, and found that child support and welfare programs cost U.S. taxpayers a minimum of $100 billion per year. That report does not include the costs of programs in which single mothers cannot be readily identified separately from other groups of recipients. Neither does it include the additional costs to states from poor academic performance; apprehending, adjudicating and incarcerating fatherless offenders; drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs; mental health counseling; etc.

The money spent on the new computer system, estimated in the article at $108 million, means an expenditure of state funds of $64.8 million. We would suggest that a mandatory rebuttable presumption of shared physical custody would obviate that expense. If such a mandate was passed by the S.C. legislature, the divorce rate would decline, as it has in other states with such a presumption. Maintaining the presence of the father would mean greater academic success, less crime, lower incarceration rates and costs, and a reduction in the rate of unwed teen births. Although it would also reduce the revenue stream from federal incentives, the lower cost of the unintended consequences would more than make up for it.

The writer lives in Gaffney.