Revisions to laws often lag behind changes in society. Consequently, families try to cope with current conditions using old ways. Several analysts feel Louisiana and nationwide child support rules are based on outdated definitions of families.
The child support system as we know it today was put in place during the 1970s. Back then, parents were married or divorced, but comparatively few parents were never married. Today, a significant number of couples choose parenthood without marriage.
Shifts in the nation's job market and economy also changed circumstances for fathers, traditionally burdened with the title of breadwinners. As in the past, mothers today are the primary custodians of 17 million U.S. children entitled to financial support. Unfortunately, widespread, lucrative job opportunities for non-custodial fathers have diminished, although support commitments continue.
Twenty-nine percent of families in the child support system are living below the poverty line. At the same time, federal and state laws have increased pressure on non-custodial parents to make support payments many cannot afford. Steady jobs with good paychecks that were plentiful in the 1970s aren't as readily available now.
Critics say the child support system pigeonholes non-custodial parents by placing money above other forms of support. No one argues financial support is unnecessary, but some analysts feel non-custodial parents – particularly fathers – have more to offer than payments. Some sociologists think more weight should be given to commitment involving parental consistency and emotional support.
The same proponents of change believe child support laws can be modernized and structured to encourage positive changes. Non-custodial parents could receive job training instead of harsh penalties.
While many non-custodial parents – separated, divorced and unmarried – are willing to do anything possible to improve children's lives, some parents ignore their responsibilities. Unpaid child support in 2013 totaled over $100 billion. Lawyers help parents recover support and offer options for parents with delinquent payments.
Source: The Boston Globe, "How ‘deadbeats’ can still be good dads" Ruth Graham, Dec. 05, 2014