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Is gender bias an issue in child support enforcement?

Florida parents can be affected by the lack of funds when their ex-spouses fail to make timely child support payments, and what some claim are prevailing notions of “traditional” gender roles in society can lead to the assumption that, in cases like these, fathers are the ones failing to pay. However, according to the law, parental rights are available to both mothers and fathers, and there are cases in which a father assumes custody of the children with the mother being obligated to pay child support.

In a 1994 case study, a deadbeat mom was detained at the home of her ex-husband in Illinois after failing to pay child support; her unpaid obligation at the time was in excess of $11,000. That father’s son, a half-brother of the child at the center of the 1994 case, faces similar challenges in attempting to collect support from the mother of his child today. In endeavoring to have authorities detain the woman, he perceived that they were going easy on her because of her gender. However, area authorities insist that all deadbeat parents are treated the same.

Some experts working in family law indicate that although courts typically are good at applying child support laws according to gender-neutral standards, fathers continue to have more difficulty collecting support. Statistically, the “deadbeat mom” cases 20 years ago represented no more than 5 percent of all child support cases. Today, the percentage of such cases is greater but not substantially so.

A father dealing with difficulties in collecting support from an ex-spouse may find it necessary to seek assistance through the courts. Working with an attorney who is experienced in such cases may be helpful in taking preliminary steps to encourage payment.

Source: The Beacon-News, “Case study: Plano dad’s child support payment problems a family affair“, Denise Crosby, June 14, 2014