In the United States, child support enforcement is a joke. How big of a joke? A $113.5 billon joke. That’s the amount of promised — with a court order! — but uncollected money owed to custodial parents. $113.5 billion with a B.
B as in braces. Books. Baby wipes. Bicycles. Bulk foods. All the things you could buy with that money for your kid, but can’t, because the system is broken.
I rail about this frequently. But it came up in conversation yesterday with Christina Pavlina, the founder of Jane Does Well — a nonprofit support group for women going through divorce. They asked me to be a speaker at an event they’re having March 30 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. (Boston chumps represent? Will post more details soon.) I asked about JDW’s mission (frankly, I was fearing life coach quacks) and was knocked back on my socks to learn that this badass collective meets with state legislators to reform family law statutes AND have taken on child support enforcement.
Way to be #MIGHTY — we need more of this! Christina and I bonded over a shared fury about child support enforcement. And before I go further and hear from Men’s Rights people, let me say — I know there is injustice on the father’s side. The most recent census shows slightly less than 20 percent of those owed back support are men. And every chump dad knows the shit sandwich of 50 percent or less custody with their kids, after the trauma of being cheated on.
Yet, Sane Parents show up and pay for their children. And fuckwits do not.
Alas, there is a gender aspect to this — over 80 percent of the custodial parents who aren’t getting child support are women, according to the last Census.
So, here are your odds of collecting support from a FW:
Nearly a THIRD of custodial parents do not collect ANY support, despite a court order. That’s an increase from 24.2 percent in 1993 to 30.7 percent in 2015. (Data was updated in 2020.)
Oh, and are you ready for another kick in the teeth? The average annual amount of awarded child support is…
$5,760 (or $480/month)
Extra ramen all around! Buy that kid a burlap sack!
Now, ready for the kick in the kidneys?
That’s DOWN from the average amount of awarded child support in 1993:
$5,786 (or $482.17/month)
Yes, it’s 30 years later, you’re being awarded $2 LESS than 30 years ago, and a third of you won’t ever see it and less than half of you will ever collect it.
This completely pisses me off. And it’s not just the seven grand or so I’m owed in back support, or the never paid, but court-ordered, medical expenses my child’s father was supposed to pay, or the insurance he dropped, or the way Texas never enforced an out of state order, or sent me a notice to say they stop trying once your kid turns 18 and here’s an IOU, or the Soviet waiting rooms, or the infernal phone tag — it’s the fuck off to my kid.
THAT is what hurts.
It’s not the money, it’s the message.
You don’t matter. Your needs don’t matter. Don’t think your children don’t internalize that. We are what we spend. The sane parent has to do the shoring up. To care. To show up. To pay. Every chump knows the pain of over-performing so a shitheel can underperform.
And this struggle is not just you. It feels personal and lonely and exhausting, but CN, the problem is SYSTEMIC. It’s the bias that the money goes to mom for her lux bonbon lifestyle, when child support should be considered an entitlement for the CHILD. It’s the trope that women are gold-diggers. When the fact is we have ZERO support for parents in this country, let alone single parents. Let alone single mothers. Fuck, we’re not even allowed bodily autonomy since Roe was overturned. Are we going to address child support now that we’re forcing parenthood on a new generation?
If you don’t pay your car payment, the repo man shows up. Commercial debt collectors knows how to find debtors. But when that money is owed to your CHILD? And the state needs to collect it? Oh, we don’t have the resources. Can’t do it.
Priorities. Just like fuckwits. You’re failed because you don’t give a shit.
I’m years past seeing an elephant on my FW’s Facebook page, demonstrating he went on safari, after dumping my child unannounced from his health insurance. I’ve long since given up hope of seeing $7K plus interest. But I’ve not given up hope this shit will change. A shout out of respect to Jane Does Well for fighting the good fight.