It Takes a Village: Empowering the Dead Broke Parent
Ross, Wendy Tolson
Society should empower low-income noncustodial parents (“NCPs’) by providing them a hand-up--not a handout-that will enable them to satisfy their child support obligations. These "hand-up" programs will ensure that the NCPs, poor as they may be, will religiously satisfy their child support obligations. As a result, throughout this land, "improvements in state child support enforcement would lead to advances in child support outcomes." But to achieve this goal, each player-the federal government, state government, and local communities-has to do more to fulfill its role. One may well query: how may this be done? This article answers through a three-pronged approach: 1. Increasing existing tax credits and/or expanding tax credits to NCPs; 2. State child support agencies providing debt forgiveness benefits or incentives for debt owed to the state by NCPs; and 3. Increasing job opportunities for unemployed NCPs and removing barriers to their obtaining jobs through partnerships at the local level using comprehensive models similar to the Virginia Intensive Case Monitoring System. Part II of this article will outline the history of child support enforcement and will discuss how child support payments originated. Part III will discuss the establishment of child support laws and programs in the United States. Part IV will discuss the landmark Supreme Court case, Turner v. Rogers, which suggests in dicta that as a nation we need to look for an effective alternative to incarceration as a means to collecting child support payments. Part V will look to the Internal Revenue Code for solutions to this problem. This section will propose that the Earned Income Tax Credit ("EITC") be used as a tool to assist low-income NCPs in satisfying their child support obligations. The section will also advocate for fair and equal treatment of low-income NCPs under the Internal Revenue Code, and for the implementation of helping programs at various levels of government. Part VI, the Conclusion, will return to the theme that all levels of society must work together to empower NCPs to satisfy their child support obligations. If society succeeds, NCPs-especially low-income, male NCPs-will be able to make consistent child support payments that their children's mothers can rely upon and then in return, the mothers, children, society, and the fathers, themselves, will be happier and more productive thereby.