The New Dead Beat Dad
He had been expecting the letter that came in the mail yesterday but, it was still a shock. It was an order to appear in court to explain why he was more than a $1,000 dollars behind in his child support payments. He was being taken to court for being a dead beat dad.
He stared helplessly at the papers in his hand. For 13 years this man had faithfully paid his child support. Sure he had gotten behind a time or two but, he always picked up an odd job here and there and caught himself back up. But, this time he did not know what he was going to do. He had not had a job for more than a year, he had no money, and had long ago sold his car to make past child support payments. He would have been completely homeless had it not been for a friend who had taken him in and completely supported him.
It wasn't that he wasn't seeking work. He was willing to do almost anything and did. Picking up a week or two of work here and there and making what money he could every penny of which he sent to pay his child that he was unable to even to travel to see. Now he was facing the prospect of going to jail.
This man's story is not unlike the story of thousand's of other divorced men and women caught in the current economic crisis. Decent, divorced, hard working people who because of the recession had lost their jobs and in doing so their ability to pay child support for their children. These are not men and women who know they owe a responsibility to their children and have no desire to avoid that responsibility. They simply have no money to support themselves or the children they had in better economic times.
Some of these new deadbeat dad's and mom's are homeless themselves, some like this man is dependent on the help of friends who themselves are struggling with rising costs and less than full time work. These are people who don't want to see their children go without, who have spent years paying their child support even when it meant giving up things they themselves needed because that is what good parents do.
Now these parents are being labeled as “dead beat parents.” a blow to their all ready fragile egos and a reminder, that their child is doing without because of their inability to find jobs where no jobs exist. It is simply one more reason to feel hopeless in an all ready hopeless situation.
While the President urges the American people to hold on, telling them that things will approve. While congress argues over tax cuts for the people who are rich and powerful, these men and women are struggling not to improve their own lives but, to fulfill their obligations to their children.
In the case, of the man in this story, he has no idea how he will even scape together the bus fair to travel across country to attend the hearing. If he is not able to do so he will be held in contempt of court, a warrant will be issued, and he will be violation of a court order. And if he does happen to pick up enough temporary work to make the trip? He will be stranded in a city with no where to stay, facing the possibility of jail and having spent money he could have sent to the court to make yet another dent in his growing child support arrears.
It's a lose/lose situation for the child, for the parents, and for society. And if this man and others like him are sent to jail because of their inability to pay, their child support debt will continue to increase without them even being able to pick up the odd job here and there to pay towards their child's needs.
The new dead beat dad is not the man who refuses the responsibility for supporting their children, they are the men, and women who simply no longer have the means to meet their responsibility despite struggling to do so.