Some Maryland fathers face overwhelming support debt

The private company in charge of child support enforcement in Baltimore has a zero tolerance policy on those fathers who fall behind in their obligation. However, some are now questioning this company’s approach to enforcement of child support orders, wondering whether the approach really is in the best interest of both younger dads and their small children.

Critics of zero tolerance specifically mention situations in which a father may face a term of imprisonment for a non-violent offense, perhaps one related to drugs. Assuming that the child support continues to accrue while the man serves his time, he may emerge saddled with a debt in the tens of thousands; because this debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, the man is stuck with it as he tries to put his life back together.

Furthermore, the same critics also suggest that some collection tactics are counterproductive. A father behind in child support could lose up to 65 percent of his paycheck to child support, meaning he has very little incentive to improve his career and also has very little money to take home in order to provide for his own needs which may be necessary to providing for his long-term stability. Furthermore, a father will usually not be able to own a bank account, as the account can be frozen in order to collect support.

On the other hand, Maryland residents should remember that judges in this state assume that both parents will contribute to the support of their children, and they enter support orders accordingly. A custodial parent may also have to face difficult financial circumstances when providing for his or her child, and they may not have the same option to defer or avoid giving the child what he or she needs.

Still, those fathers who are facing an enforcement action on an overwhelming arrearage may be able to argue for a reasonable repayment plan in court. If their financial circumstances have changed, they may also ask the court to lower their child support payments.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Hurting dads, hurting kids,” David L. Warnock, Oct. 21, 2012

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