How the Paternity/Child Support System Works

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In late 2013, it is readily apparent to most Americans that the federal government is not the best running large operations. So is it with health care. So has it been for the Child Support System, especially in paternity case.

Most Americans have not even heard of the Child Support System, much less know that the federal government is running it, and the feds have done a great deal more harm that the ACA will ever do.

The story begins in 1962. That is when the administration of John F. Kennedy changed a rule and forever changed America. In 1962, marriage was a social prerequisite to having children. It was so embarrassing that the parents of a daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock would have shipped her out of town, most likely to give the baby up for adoption.

In 1962, the Kennedy Administration decided it wanted to save money, and limit the amount of AFDC (cash benefits) is was paying out. At that time, most of the benefits were being paid to couples who could not afford to provide for their families. The Kennedy administration decided the husbands were lazy and useless, and didn’t deserve assistance. So, it changed the rules. Only single parent families (that is mothers with children) were eligible for benefits.

Suddenly, there was a boom in single-households and a dramatic increase in children being born out of wedlock, almost doubling from 2 to 4 percent in two years. The federal government commissioned a study and asked one our nation’s preeminent scholars, also a Democrat, to find the answer. The study recommended that the government abandon the new policy. In short, poor children equaled poor fathers. Kicking the fathers out meant there was not one poor household, but two.

Rather that adopting this recommendation, for the next fifty years the government has created an immense federally funded bureaucracy to establish parentage and obtain support orders, spending hundreds of billions of dollars to retrieve from the poor fathers the billions in AFDC benefits it had paid to the mothers, and getting back only a trickle. After all, the cost of most federal benefits dwarf the cost of AFDC (now known as TANF), making TANF the only existing government benefit program that seeks reimbursement.  Not a wise business decision, especially since the result was to increase the percentage of children born out of wedlock from 4 to 40 percent nationwide in fifty years, thus dramatically increasing the amount the government pays in benefits.

The result is today’s Child Support System. The federal government pays money to the states to implement welfare programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC, HUD and so on and so forth, including TANF, for its citizens. The states, in turn, must:

  1. Create a State Agency to administer child support orders, to create support orders, to enforce orders, to modify orders and to prosecute paternity establishment orders, as well as to account for and to distribute all child support payments.

  2. Hire administrative hearing officers to hear all contested support cases.

  3. Create a formula for (arbitrarily) determining child support orders in all cases involving child support, including divorces and paternity case.

  4. Pay money to the individual counties to create and maintain, in its existing office of the prosecuting attorney, to act as attorneys for the administrative agency in establishing and enforcing support orders in the courts.

  5. Hire state attorneys to represent the agency in court proceedings statewide.

  6. Pass any and all laws the federal government demands in order to collect child support, including a means of establishing paternity (a duty to support a child) through the signing of an affidavit without the benefit of a genetic test.

  7. Pay counties for jail space to place those that fail to pay the child support orders.

  8. Honor and obey all federal laws, including a method to honor child support orders from other states.

The premise of today’s paternity/child support system is the same as it was in 1962. If a genetic test shows a man is the father of the child, he is financially responsible to support that child. Period. The government, through application of formulas are to determine how much that person is to pay. If that person fails to pay the amount the government decides he should pay, the government has the authority to take his wages, his bank accounts, his property, his tax returns, suspend his licenses, or put him in jail and so on.

The premise of the system also assumes, as was mostly the case in 1962, that the child resided exclusively with the mother, and the father abandoned the family unit. That is certainly not the case today in most cases, where young people decide to have children without the prerequisite of marriage, not by accident, but purposely, and to act as joint caretakers for their child. Federal policy, however, establishes support orders without custody determinations, leaving millions of mothers and fathers with equivalent parental rights and no order determining custody, leaving the mother, the father and the child in utter chaos.

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