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The Origin of Child Support Policy

From: fed up
Conditions of use policy: accept & agree
Date: 27 Jan 2004
Time: 06:22:24
Remote Name:


Public involvement in child support has grown to such a large scale that it is sometimes forgotten that the entire concept of child support transfer payments is a recent invention. Historically, a parent's duty was to support the child in the parent's own home and to keep the door open for the child to enter. Transfer payments arose only in the highly uncommon situation of a parent who had rejected his or her own child and thereby created a burden for the state or third parties. Child support transfer payments were thus rare during the era of father custody and remained rare during the early years of the mother custody era. As the pendulum of prejudice shifted to sole mother custody during a time in which women generally did not work outside the home, the courts began to recognize the consequences of placing children in the least economically viable fragment of the former family. The 1920's then saw a large scale transformation in the fundamental structure o f child support. Under the new formulation, the parent who "lost" custody was both deprived of the companionship of the child and ordered to pay the other parent for services that the "loser" had historically provided with love and without charge in his own home. This unique separation of the rights of custody and the duties of support became a consequence of the "tender years" doctrine that is matched nowhere else in a legal system that has prided itself upon its attention to the principle that the possessor of rights should also bear the burdens and responsibilities associated with those rights. It is this bifurcation of rights and responsibilities that is at the root of the problem of civil disobedience in child support enforcement. Current policy makes the simplistic assumption that all non-custodians are "runaway parents" when, in fact, many non-custodians are "thrown away parents" who are victims of a court order that assumed children needed only "a custodian and a check". What has been left out of the equation is our understanding of human nature and, particularly, our understanding that parents support children because of their relationships with those children. We do not have a problem with large numbers of parents who refuse to provide for their children during an intact marriage yet those same responsible parents become "deadbeats" upon divorce. It is time to examine the role of Government policy in the post-divorce behavior of the no n-custodial parents. When we say to non-custodial parents that we care nothing about their relationships with their children, that we will offer no protection against the custodial parent's interference with that relationship, and that we will devote Government resources only to extracting financial payments from them, we should not be surprised by the result. Parents support children when they are permitted to be parents; slaves run away.

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