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Question of the day

Monday, Oct 29, 2007

* Some background

Illinois, like other states, is heavily involved in child support enforcement because of the cost to government when noncustodial parents (most of them fathers) don’t support their kids. Illinois’ enforcement tools — including the threat of criminal prosecution — helped collect a record $1.22 billion in child support last year, the third straight year of record-setting receipts, according to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Still, some $3 billion in back child support remains unpaid in Illinois, with more than a half-million cases pending. Five-figure debts are common, and many noncustodial parents owe six figures. Madison County alone has suspended almost 2,000 drivers licenses in the past decade trying to prod the worst scofflaws into paying up.

* In addition to your drivers license being suspended, you could be put on an Internet list of deadbeats, your hunting and fishing licenses can be denied and your car can be slapped with a Denver Boot if you’re way behind in your child support.

* Question: Too far or are there more punishments that ought to be enacted? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wumpus - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 8:54 am:

    What if the guy is a hunter or fisher? It would be a catch 22 to provide for his income! We need more punishments. There is not much worse than a father who can, but won’t provide for his children…except a woman who tricks a man into thinking the child is his, he takes care of it and then finds out the kid ain’t his….and a judge makes him support the kid anyway.

    The government needs to be creative in catching these scofflaws. Perhaps the same way they go after illegals. I hear a lot of these deadbeats work under the table to avoid registering. Fine th eemployers who participate.

  2. - Ghost - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 9:01 am:

    More punishments. They need to look at national compacts which would allow for the seizure of State and Federal taxes, nation wide license revocation and booting. Plus anything else they can think of to get these folks to pay up.

  3. - so-called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 9:21 am:

    Failure to pay child support should be treated like other forms of judicial contempt, i.e. a stay in the old gray bar hotel.

    Deadbeat dads are making the rest of society foot the bill for their children. While I see no reason to make kids suffer for choosing the wrong parents, I see no reason to let their sires get away with it.

    – SCAM

  4. - so-called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 9:23 am:

    And with regard to Wumpus’ hyposthetical parental bait and switch — I am dear friends with a fella to whom that happened and he would say that failure to support your offspring is worse.

    – SCAM

  5. - BIG R.PH. - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:00 am:

    Since the State of Illinois want to make this a liberal utopia, can we put a boot up the Gov’s A** when they aren’t paying their bills?

    What happens when the State’s inability to pay causes a parent’s inability to pay?

    I’d wager that a good half of those that are still pending are actually paid up and the State has the wrong information!

  6. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:01 am:

    Illinois courts hose the Father when it comes to divorce. 95% of the time a father will NOT get custody of his children regardless of how the evidence swayed his way.

    I agree that it is the responsibility to support your children, and I do, but when you see your EX spend the money on expensive cars and you do not see much going to the children it gets tough to write the check every month.

    There needs to be some sort of accountability how the child support payments are used by the person receiving it.

    The system is broken.

  7. - pickles!! - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:10 am:

    No! not my hunting license! Anything but that!

    I agree failure to pay child support should be treated as a violation of any court order, subject to jail time. Problem is, where do u put all the deadbeats. Same as toll violators who owe tens of thousands of dollars to the state.

    Wage garnishment works, but if they don’t have a job, then u can’t enforce that, either. Prison is the only real, but unrealistic, option.

  8. - clean sweep - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    While this discussion is not totally useless, the larger issue is enforcement. Many custodial parents do not have the financial resources to keep going after the deadbeat. The deadbeats quit their jobs and then start working again without informing the court, thus evading child support. Custodial parents who don’t support their children often have those children taken away. Why is a non-paying spouse permitted visitation, then? The courts will say that visitation rights are in the “best interests of the child” and non-paying parents are able to snub their noses at the whole judicial system and the custodial parents. Often judges will waive punishments/consequences “in the interest of the child.” What judge is going to take away a driver’s license when that is how a parent is able to get to work? The deadbeats will just drive/fish without a license in defiance of the law anyway.

    The best way to get deadbeats to pay is to throw their butts in jail for a few days. I guaranteee you that the mere prospect of a week in jail with the general jail population will work wonders.

  9. - NoGiftsPlease - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:15 am:

    What’s broken is two adults’ ability to act like grownups and come to a reasonable agreement about support of children and stick to it. We need these laws because grownups continue to act like children, punishing each other or being obstinate
    out of spite. When my husband and I divorced, we sat down like adults and looked at what the kids needed, what he needed and what I needed to live a decent life. We came to an agreement and had a lawyer file the papers for both of us. We need to have divorce and child issues settled by an honest broker, not a lawyer who is trying to get the greatest settlement for the client, regardless of fairness or need. The court system ensures that family members will continue to function as opponents in the process –making a lot of spouses see it as a win or loss and leads to not living up to the agreements.

  10. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:19 am:

    Notification to employers. Good luck arguing for a raise when your boss knows you’re a deadbeat.

  11. - Ghost - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:21 am:

    he makes Ryan look like a Saint,
    -Illinois courts hose the Father when it comes to divorce. 95% of the time a father will NOT get custody of his children regardless of how the evidence swayed his way. -

    this is false. The vast majority of cases the father does not fight or can not show they participated in providing care. in 95% of the cases where the father seeks custody and shows they participated in caring for the kid they win joint custody, and if their is evidence the mnother is unfit they get residential custody. I know a number of father who have custody of their kids.

    -”I agree that it is the responsibility to support your children, and I do, but when you see your EX spend the money on expensive cars and you do not see much going to the children it gets tough to write the check every month. -

    This is the argument of the dead beat dad. You have no idea what the tiny bit of money you turn over goes to. If the child is living in a home, and gets fed, then your money is helping cover that cost. That the ex has money left over for a new car, good for her. The whine that if the ex can afford things for themselves you should be obsolved of contributing to the costs of the child is absurd.

    - There needs to be some sort of accountability how the child support payments are used by the person receiving it. -

    Not really. quit griping and be a man. how about you account for all your expenditures. Any money not spent on bare necessities must be turned over to help pay the costs of the kid. the stautory 20% rarely reflects the true costs. Those who whine about accountability are more interested in seeing the ex punished and miserable.

    The system is broken.

  12. - Slick Willy - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:28 am:

    There is no doubt that the Illinois legal statutes regarding child support and divorce is incredibly antiquated and produces unfair outcomes. Sadly, the lawyers will continue to keep getting fat while the men (especially the fathers), women and children of Illinois continue to get the shaft.

    The past due support screen for hunting and fishing licenses is old news. Sadly, there is no option to select “I pay support and am current” - only how far past due you are. I took offense to that and brought it to the attention of the DNR and they esentially said “so?”

  13. - Truthful James - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:29 am:

    In all likelihood a good number of these are working in the Gray Market. Requiring the filing of income tax returns would be a good start.

    The spending habits of the supposed responsible and custodial parent are a good case in point, though. There has got to be a way that the non-custodial parent can be assured that his support payments are going to the child(ren.) It is not alimony that he is providing, in which the custodial can spend the money for whatever is desired.

    Leads me to a parallel question regarding CTA fare increases and the inability to afford same. How many of the complaintants are smokers — which should be a secondary expense after transortation.

    I know, call me Simon Legree.

  14. - RBD - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:30 am:

    The problem with the ‘old gray bar hotel’ is that it costs money to house non-violent criminals.

    I think the focus should be on public exposure. Not only lists on the net but ads in the local paper too.

  15. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:45 am:

    To Ghost:

    You have no clue. I pay over $1500 per month in child support, I never miss a payment. I am NOT a deadbeat dad, and never will be. I still see my kids 50% of the time and yet pay the full 20% per law. I still maintain the real responsible fathers get hosed by the courts because of the irresponsible fathers.

    WHile I live in a $120,000 home, my ex lives in a $350,000 home and drives a Mercedes. (Did I mention she bought it after the court decision)

    I would also be happy to show expenditures of what I spend on my kids, I do now so that when I do get called back into court, I can show the judge I still have to pay for Clothes and essentials for them while they are at my home.

    IF the the money is indeed for the children, then they should prove they are spending it on the children.

  16. - Levois - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:48 am:

    I wonder if the state should boot a man’s care for not handling his responsibility. I’d say no. There are better punishments supposing this guy needs his car for his livelihood.

  17. - Slick Willy - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 10:54 am:


    While Ghost makes some good arguments, I have always found the flat 20% argument a bit specious. In particular, when you see atheletes and rock stars paying millions in child support. Clearly, raising children is an expensive proposition, but who can argue with a straight face that a child needs to have Polo clothes and be driven around in Mom’s Mercedes? Get real.

    All that said, I have friends who have successfully had their support reduced by showing that they provide a significant amount of their children’s basic needs (ie- the kids stay at the father’s house on a regular basis, they buy clothes for the kids, etc.). You may want to look into doing the same.

  18. - Anon sequitor - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 11:06 am:

    Someone raised the question about why non-paying ex-spouses (MOMS and DADS - the percentage of non-custodial moms who don’t pay is about the same as dads, unfortunately there are far more dads without custody) should be allowed to see their children even if they are not up to date with their payments? That is a very hard-hearted argument that only contributes to the problem.

    Children should not be used as pawns by the parents for any reason. No one should be allowed to withdraw or violate visitation arrangements because of a disagreement between mom and dad. Mothers - or Dads - who do that, should be punished in the same way as the deadbeats. Custodial parents should be held to a high standard on maintaining visitation, and suffer similar punishment if they don’t.

    Fathers (and mothers) who are involved with their kids’ lives - everyday lives not just weekends - are far more likely to provide emotional as well as economic support. Maybe we’re using the wrong approach to solve the problem!

    BTW: I’m a father who shared custody with the ex and learned to get along with her for the sake of my child. As a result I’m proud to say that my child is far better off for it and very well-adjusted.

  19. - Papa Legba - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 11:30 am:

    While they’re at it, why not throw in castration as a punishment? It would make me pay up!

  20. - southern seen - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 12:18 pm:

    There is a law now that works, but the State will not enforce it. Over 3 months behind and they can be jailed. The State keeps saying how good a job they are doing, but in reality anyone who has tried to get a deadbeat parent to pay up knows the truth. Once again the State likes to make it look good through press conferences saying what they are doing, while actually doing little to nothing at all. One of the best improvements that could be made would be to flad the beadbeats Social Security Number so that when any taxes, either Sate or Federal including FICA were paid in, the State would know when and where the person was working. It can be done through the computer databases they now have. They just need to geet it done.

  21. - Herself - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 12:22 pm:

    To Papa Legba - excellent idea. I would want my ex to be the first. I think there needs to be boot camp to put these deadbeats parents. Hitting rocks with a sledge hammer with chains around their ankles. My ex owes over $15,000 in child support and has no involvement with his kids. It is hard and the kids suffer. Taking him to court in a couple of months - I hope they boot his car, take away his drivers license and throw him in jail.

  22. - Huh? - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 1:09 pm:

    Go after any professional license that the deadbeat may hold, doctor, lawyer, engineer, barber, etc.

  23. - Huh? - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 1:10 pm:

    p.s. there are some professional that allow a person to hold multiple lecenses in other states. Notify the other states to have those licenses suspended.

  24. - DC - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 1:44 pm:

    There ought to be more incentives for paying child support to balance the penalities for avoiding it. The incentive should be a tax credit equal to a percentage of the child support paid. The custodial parent gets to count the child support as income when applying for credit, yet the income is not taxed at all. I agree there is little to no accountability for how the money is spent either. I’ve been paying child support now for over 16 years and over that time I’ve continued to pay extra cash here and there to my daughter so she can get extras for school or new clothes. The real shock will be to her mom when, in 2 1/2 years, the mother will lose nearly $700 a month in tax-free income.

    Deadbeat dads are an easy target — and there are some that deserve to be punished — but we need to take some new approaches to encouraging non-custodial parents to meet their obligations. The stick is an easy way but I would suggest some carrots would be equally effective.

  25. - wallace - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 1:46 pm:

    On a regular basis list all of their names in the local newspapers.

  26. - Smitty Irving - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 1:51 pm:

    For the record - aren’t ALL employers to report the social security number of all new hires? Within one month? The problem with parents who do not pay is either they are in jail, unemployed, work seasonal, change jobs frequently (as in construction), or are self employed and can cook the books to show no income. Perhaps rather than more effort on parents who owe who are employed on a regular basis, we should go after these people?

  27. - Southern Right - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 2:05 pm:

    Why doesn’t the state tie everything to your social security number. Your auto insurance,all your license plates, hunting and fishing license, child support, outstanding warrants, back taxes. Whatever you need to get through the state is blocked until you pay up. Missouri already ties several agencies together now. Somehow they seem to make it work. Oh by the way, no social security number no Illinois plates. Let the illegals walk or ride on the Transit Authority. Now they will help balance that budget.

  28. - Slick Willy - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 2:12 pm:

    Nice idea DC. Incentives are always better than penalties. The trick is to craft them properly so that you get the intended results.

    I had to laugh at your “2.5 years” comment, as my father told me that my eighteenth birthday was the happiest day of his life.

  29. - DC - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 2:31 pm:

    I have a feeling, however, that the requests for money on the 19th birthday will be substantially higher than what I’m paying today.

    One relatively easy way to craft the benefit is to make it pre-tax much like health insurance and transportation expenses are today. I have my parking expenses taken pre-tax. Surely the feds could amend the tax code to allow the same benefit for court-ordered child support that is taken via payroll deduction.

    Thanks for the vote of support, Slick Willy. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Governor wants to be seen as providing benefits to those who play by the rules. It’s easier to go after faceless enemies.

  30. - Kara - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 2:32 pm:

    A man who has homeless for the past three years because of unemployment finally landed regular work. There was a warrant out for his arrest because he was so far behind on his child support and in contempt of court. He was turned into crimestoppers so another deadbeat could collect the reward (this has happenned before.)He is now sitting in a holding cell. He has no prospect of paying bail and he’s lost his job. It’s real hard to pay child support from the county jail.

  31. - DC - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 2:55 pm:

    Kara’s right — and the Governor would make sure the poor guy couldn’t even drive to work to make money for child support.

    The larger issue is that the Governor is all about the surface and could care less about the root cause of problems facing families in Illinois. He cares more about press releases than he does about solving problems. Faxing a news release does nothing to cure the problem, Governor unless of course it’s a news release that announces you are leaving office to “spend more time with your family”. That press release would actually add value to the state.

  32. - DwightZinfandel - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 3:24 pm:

    Child support enforcement is a classic case of the limits of government power. It’s just very difficult for the state to adjudicate family matters in any kind of effective, ongoing manner. Especially since that adjudication generally occurs through infrequent appearances in court.

    What government can do is provide quality education, health care, affordable housing, and food/clothing essentials to all children. That’s your safety net. Oh and reproductive education and affordable birth control wouldn’t hurt either.

    But if you ex is spending the money on a Lexus instead of piano lessons, there really isn’t much the govt can do about it. Should’ve thought of that, etc. etc.

  33. - DC - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 3:39 pm:

    Under a democratic governor, the “limits” of government power (i.e. entitlement)expand beyond the ability of the state to pay for them. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Is it really the government’s responsibility to provide affordable housing? Is it the government’s responsibility to provide “quality” healthcare (define quality for me)? Government’s job is to protect people and property and, arguably, to provide the infrastructure for a sustainabile economy (roads, bridges, safe water). We have gone from a generation of self-sustenance to a generation of “it’s the government’s job to do this for me”. I’m only 38 years old and maybe I just don’t understand, but not long ago when I was growing up, I was taught to take care of myself and not be forever dependent on government handouts.

    This is more than just about getting deadbeats to pay their child support; this is about a Governor who wants to be everything to everyone. He’s Santa Claus in a state airplane instead of sleigh.

  34. - Chicago Guy - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 3:42 pm:

    There is a problem with men who are in jail or unemployed. The amount owed continues to accumulate despite the fact that they have no income. They get so far behind that when they find work, their wages are garnished so much they don’t have enough to get by. So they either enter the grey/black market economy or don’t work. And often they end up back in jail.

    Solutions are hard. The idea of throwing them in jail leads to the problem I just cited. A more realistic punishment is to require 1 or days of community service each week.

  35. - 8 years later and fed up... - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 4:02 pm:

    Ok, people, This is about the numerous parents (and, yes, they are mostly fathers) who refuse to pay child support. We’re talking about the true deadbeats here. (”clean sweep and southern seen” seem to get the big picture.) I have been in pursuit of child support for over 8 years, with the assistance of the state’s child support services. The court process is beyond ridiculous. I have attended numerous hearings, taking of a day of work each time, but end up with nothing ($) to show for it. Child support services is doing their job, but the courts are not. The judges have actually made the following remarks:

    Judge to deadbeat: “You made over $50K annually during the past two years. Why did you not pay anything?” Deadbeat: “Because I didn’t want to.” The hearing was continued, and continued, etc. with no enforcement of the order.

    Judge to me: “You’re financially better off than the (deadbeat) parent…what do you want me to do?” My response: “Get my money so that I can raise my child. I am better off than him because I choose to work.”

    “He (the deadbeat parent) didn’t like it in jail (for contempt of court related to non-payment of child support), so I released him.” My response: “I dont’ like making my mortgage payment, but if I don’t, the bank will repossess my car.”

    Another issue is when the deadbeat is self-employed or employed by friends. It seems that there are never repercussions (enforced) for these particular employers not following the law, even though they have been served with garnishment orders repeatedly.

    The state can pass as many creative, interesting, and what-seems-to-be-penalizing laws as they wish, but if the laws are not enforced at the judicial level, then this problem will undoubtedly continue.

  36. - DwightZinfandel - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 4:04 pm:


    Social programs are investments in infrastructure that pay off just as handily as roads and canals. Your beef with Blago (who I also despise) is no criticism of the value of public education, health care or housing.

    Your self-congratulatory self-reliance argument is boring and beside the point. If you choose to withhold your support of children who can’t even rely on their parents then you’re free to do so. But you don’t get to score moral points while doing it.

  37. - Chicago Guy - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 4:05 pm:


    One of the main ideas behind child support enforcement is to keep the rest of us from paying the welfare costs of a children with “deadbeat dads.” It is clearly the opposite of the idea of another entitlement program.

    Without getting into a major philosophical discussion, the tide firmly turned against the “entitlement” mentality in the past 30 years or so. For instance, there was Welfare Reform that took place in the 90’s.

    One of the reasons government gets involved in affordable housing is because government requires building code standards to protect everyone’s property from fires and everyone’s health. We don’t have the fire traps without working toilets that were not uncommon before WW II. Unfortunately, a side effect is housing is now more expensive (toilets and good electrical wiring cost money). And some cities purposely put regulations in effect to raise the price of housing for a number of reasons (i.e. exclusionary zoning). Therefore, government does need to play a role in addressing affordable housing.

    The health care issue is more complicated but again it is partially the extension of the idea that society as a whole benefits. I don’t want people walking around with TB because they can’t afford a doctor. I also don’t want kids to have untreated lead poisoning because evidence shows lead posioning results in slower mental functions and a higher rate of criminal activity.

  38. - Molly M. - Monday, Oct 29, 07 @ 5:14 pm:

    40+ years ago, after my mother divorced my biological father, my biological father refused to pay the $10/child monthly support payment. He had a well-paying union job. He could have helped us but he really didn’t care about us. I have never forgiven him. He’s dead now but even now I can’t call him “my father”, because he didn’t love us enough to support us financially. My mother tried and tried to get him to pay, but nothing worked. So, I support whatever it takes for deadbeat parents to financially support their children.

  39. - clean sweep - Tuesday, Oct 30, 07 @ 12:41 am:

    anyone who thinks that publishing deadbeat’s names in the paper is the solution is sadly mistaken. most of them DON’T care what anyone thinks. It is the prospect of incarceration that would have them paying up.

  40. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Oct 30, 07 @ 9:11 am:

    What we do is make it easier to pay child support. Divorced fathers should have a support system that automatically deducts amounts from their paychecks similar to other paycheck deductions. Make it mandatory for all divorced fathers who need to pay child support.

    By doing this you stop any possible stimatizing, and make create a system that prevents any father from becoming a deadbeat. It is far easier to have amounts deducted from paychecks for anyone.

    Another benefit of this would be the ease to see if a father is paying up. You just make it a law to be in the system.

    It is too easy to fall behind with payments. It is too easy to justify no paying support. The emotional battles between ex spouses can be tremendous. Avoid it by doing this.

  41. - SDU - Tuesday, Oct 30, 07 @ 3:58 pm:

    VanillaMan -
    There IS a system that does all of what you are proposing. A court order can be entered for direct garnishment of wages, though this is not foolproof. The wages are often sent through the state’s child support disbursement unit, where it is logged and tracked. However, when deadbeats either fail orrefuse to reveal their employer (or the fact that they are even employed) to both the custodial paren and the courts, this poses another problem. The laws and system DO make it easy for these deadbeats, but they loopholes around it…which is why they are deadbeats.

  42. - SDU - Tuesday, Oct 30, 07 @ 4:09 pm:

    For a quick education on our state’s child support enforcement system, spend a day at your county courthouse on “child support day” and sit in the courtroom while these cases are being heard. Your local circuit clerk can tell you on which day of the month this is scheduled. The situations, excuses, and attitudes exhibited will be a real eye-opener for someone who has not ahd the firsthand experience to witness this epdemic of blatant refusal to follow the law.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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