When Halle Berry was ordered by the court to pay her ex-lover, Gabriel Aubrey, $16,000 a month in child support, eye brows were raised. It wasn’t just the amount of dollars that caught people’s attention. The case threw the spotlight on a oft-forgotten corner of family law — when the Moms have to pay.
Most women who have to fork over child support payments to the father usually don’t come near the sixteen grand that Berry will be coughing up each month. But the issues are the same.
When parents are standing around the water cooler at work and the subject of child support comes up, odds are pretty good that “deadbeat dads” will be the object of discussion — or derision -- as well. Fathers who don’t pay court-ordered child support, for a variety of reasons, are the target of society and single moms everywhere. Most single dads though are getting tired of being labeled “deadbeats” and existing data suggest they have a good reason to be angry.
More Deadbeat Moms Than Dads
The overall percentage of “deadbeat” moms is actually higher than that of fathers who won’t pay, despite mothers being more consistently awarded custody of of children by the courts.
2010 census figures indicate that only fifty-seven percent of mothers required to pay child support — almost 385,000 out of over 670,000 — give up some or all of the dollars they owe. That leaves almost 290,000 “deadbeat” moms walking around. This fact has barely been touched by mainstream media.
Compare that with 68 percent of dads who pay up. Men who are owed child-support are also getting sick of deadbeat mothers’ excuses that they can’t come up with the dollars. Some courts are responding to this double standard.
Eudene Eunique, a California lawyer owed $30,000 in child-support to her ex-husband. When Eunique wanted to visit her family in Mexico, the appeals court ruled against her and her passport was denied. The court felt that her money should go instead to her children.
Deadbeat dads are still a serious issue in the country, especially in states like New York. Bruce Provda, a veteran divorce lawyer based in Empire State, says that many more men than women are ordered each year to pay child-support with the result that the overall number of deadbeat dads is much larger. The stats show 4.3 million moms, out of 6.3 million who are supposed to receive child-support, actually receive it. That means there is about two million deadbeat dads, but they also pay much more. The Census Bureau figures show that fathers pay an average of $3,000 to moms while mothers paid slightly more than half of that to custodial fathers. The research also shows that mothers get about sixty percent of what they are due while dads get only 48 percent.
Not only are fathers paying more when they don’t have custody of the children, but when the court makes the father the custodial parent, he typically works more than mothers who have custody. Just seven percent of custodial mothers reported working over 44 hours a week compared with 25 percent of custodial dads who work more than 44 hours. Custodial fathers say it’s an inherent weakness in the law which allows moms to get away with not paying.
Bill Henry, leader of Dads Against Discrimination in West Virginia, was supposed to be receiving $25 a month in child-support from his ex-wife when they divorced in 1983. She didn’t start paying until 1987 and by then the state mandated minimum had gone up to $75 a month. Henry points to attorneys as being the reason custodial fathers are being discouraged from custody battles. Also, many dads don’t like to make waves in the system — as long as they get complete custody.
“Many men are shy about asking for child support only because they think if they ask for it [child support], they won’t get a chance to gain full custody,” said Henry.
In a perfect world, both parents would be able to find a solution — outside of the courts — as it pertains to supporting the children emotionally, mentally, physically and even financially. But it’s not a perfect world. For many fathers, there still appears to be a double standard where child support is concerned. Some men get the short end of the stick and there are still some women who claim it is the father’s job to take care of his children and that a mom should not ever have to pay HIM to take care of THEIR children.
Increasingly, courts are seeing the disparity in court-ordered child support payments and the playing field between the parental genders is being leveled. State legislative bodies are continuing to recognize that if women want to demand equality, women should be prepared to support the children — no matter who has custody.