I happened upon an article which, at first thought, seemed to have good intentions.  I became curious about what constituted a “child custody employment program.”  My second thought was that it would be an expansion of the already bloated employment rolls of family court and its supporting and satellite staff and other benefactors.

I was alarmed by what I read in the opening paragraphs.  The article opens with a short story about Martez Fitzpatrick.  Martez quit his job as a trucker to better be able to take care of his daughter after the mother of the child died during childbirth.  Of course, this effort to be a parent and raise the child in ways that a long-haul trucker would not allow meant he would fall behind in his child support obligations to the mother of his other children.

From the article:

“My head was just in turmoil,” said Fitzpatrick, 44, who eventually got help from a Georgia program which offers parents lagging on child support help finding a job instead of a trip to jail.

Now, there is something fundamentally wrong when a parent who does something that is truly in the best interests of a child will result in his going to jail.  It also goes right to the cancer that pervades our family court system and associated processes.  The eyes and hands are always on the money and usually that money can be found in a father’s wallet.

If a mother were to take a pay-cut to ensure that a newborn baby was raised properly, she would be hailed as a hero.  She would be lauded.  She would be cheered.  The family would make some adjustments to their spending to accommodate the reduction in income as a result of this noble decision and life would go on.

In this specific instance, because a previous ex-partner, a mother, isn’t getting paid in accordance with Martez’s previous earnings, the article implies that he had the potential of facing jail.  If the ex-partner isn’t getting paid the maximum child support figure that can be imposed, then the state of Georgia isn’t maximizing their federal matching dollars under Title IV-d.  Now, I can’t say one way or the other if this man attempted to get a reduction in his child support obligations due to his rather significant change in circumstances.  However, it’s fairly safe to assume that if he took a voluntary reduction in salary, as the statutes are written in most states – he wouldn’t be entitled to a child support reduction.  That is a travesty.  It’s greedy.  It’s destructive to families and society.

So, what are states doing as a result of the downturn in the economy and the mounting losses associated with downward modifications to child support orders?  They’ve created “child custody employment programs.” While I am disinclined to criticize any program that would help the unemployed gain jobs in an economy as atrocious as this one, I will make an exception in this case.

For Martez, the reality is – he’s absolutely not unemployed.  He’s simply not making the same money he once was.  He did so to raise a newborn baby girl whose mother died during childbirth.  Guess what?  That’s not good enough for the states and child support receiving ex-partner.  Therefore, the state is going to “help” him find a way to make more money so  ex-partner gets paid and the state gets paid in the style to which they’ve become accustomed.

How helpful of them.

Adding fuel to the fire is that this program requires an expansion of bureaucracy to maintain.  More unemployment means more agents to administer to these “needy.”  More agents means an expansion of these programs.  More expansion of these programs means more federal funds and tax dollars flowing into the state coffers.

From the article:

Participants are tracked by agents after joining the program. Subjects who use the program to get a job must make payments or face legal consequences.

Doesn’t these read eerily like “big brother is watching” material?  This is the pursuit of money for a civil debt that is probably too high for the individual’s circumstances.  It’s tracked by agents.  Still, the father still lives under threat of jail.

From the article:

The goal is getting cash into the hands of custodial parents.

You bet it is!  It’s also getting those federal funds, expanding the programs, and ensuring that everyone whose livelihood depends on this well-oiled money machine do whatever it takes to get those fathers working.  Get them working as much as possible and making as much money as they can (under penalty of jail).  Forgive me for suggesting that this sounds a lot like state-sponsored slavery.  Don’t mistake my disappointment in the presentation as it’s made in this article as saying that the efforts to help the unemployed get re-employed is wrong.  In this case, the specific purpose is to maximize child support collections and that is wrong.

It’s clear from this article that the motivation is about pursuing child support money.  The article demonstrates that the unemployed are “falling behind in their child support obligations.” What’s not mentioned is that if this were an intact family with an unemployed father, there would be no “agents tracking” and he would not be facing jail time for failing to pay his wife and children “child support” money.  Only divorced and single fathers face this grim reality.

The questions I have to ask are these:

  • How about working on expediting downward child support modifications so that parents don’t fall behind in their obligations?
  • How about setting appropriate and realistic child support orders in the first place?
  • How about we stop jailing people for failure to pay a civil debt?
  • How about we stop hiding greed behind “the best interests of the children?”

Finally, I leave you with this; the purpose statement as written on the website of the “Georgia Fatherhood Program” –

What this unique program does is provide education, training, and job placement for non-custodial parents with court-ordered child support. It does so through the technical colleges and colleges throughout Georgia. This allows the parent to contribute to the economic well being of his children and to the economy of the state.

In what world does is that a “Fatherhood Program?”  They don’t even attempt to disguise it.  Simplified, the Georgia State “Fatherhood Program” purpose is:

  • Money for mothers – to whom we give primary custody almost exclusively.
  • Money for the children (allegedly).
  • Money for the state.

Click on that link above and see for yourself.  There are no mentions of parenting classes.  There are no mentions re-unification efforts.  There are no mentions of parenting-time or custody-order enforcement.

There you go, dads.  The states fatherhood program helps you to earn more money so everyone can have it… except you.  Nevermind that mothers who pay child support, rare as they are, fail to meet their child support obligations in part or in whole at a much higher rate than fathers.  Where is Georgia’s “Motherhood Program?”

For the full article, click here: Georgia’s child custody employment program expands