The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2014)
Deadbeat parent is a pejorative term referring to parents who do not fulfill their parental responsibilities, especially when they evade court-ordered child support obligations or custody arrangements. They are also referred to as absentee fathers and mothers. The gender-specific deadbeat dad and deadbeat mom are commonly used to refer to people who have parented a child and intentionally fail to pay child support ordered by a family law court or statutory agency such as the Child Support Agency.
The term deadbeat parent is a pejorative term used by child support advocacy groups rather than by Governmental Child Support Agencies. Child Support Agencies describe clients using terms such as not in compliance or criminally non-compliant. Compliance is judged by the paying party's performance in meeting the terms of the Child Support court order rather than the client's ability to meet the obligation. However, some local authorities have mounted campaigns targeting so called "deadbeats".
Child support arrears
According to the United States Census Bureau, 42% of custodial mothers (as "obligees") received all child support that they were owed and 70.5% received some in 2009. Additionally, 34.1% of custodial fathers (as "obligees") received all child support that they were owed and 72.9% received some.
Child support assessments are made based on a variety of formulae, and vary from state to state in the United States. According to one study 38% of Illinois "obligor" parents not paying child-support said they lacked the money to pay. 23% used non-payment to protest a lack of visitation rights. 69% complained of no accountability over the spending of their child support money, while 13% said they did not want their child or children and 12% denied parentage. (See paternity fraud.)
According to a California study, 76% of the $14.4 billion in child support arrears in California has been attributed to "obligors" who lack the ability to pay (see Figure 1, p. 5-4). In California, the "deadbeat" parents had a median annual income of $6349, arrears of $9447, ongoing support of $300 per month. One reason given for this was that 71% of the orders were set by default—meaning that person who supposedly owes support was not personally served with a notice to appear before the court or administrative agency. A notice is sent to the last known address, which may have changed.
Child support enforcement in the United States
- The law overrides any state's statute of limitations.
- The law disallows any judicial discretion, even from bankruptcy judges.
- The law requires that the payment amounts be maintained without regard for the physical capability of the person owing child support to promptly notify the authorities of changes in their circumstances, or their awareness of the need to make the notification.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, 42 U.S.C. 653a, established in 1997 a New Hire Registry in which all employers in the United States, private or public, State and Federal, must report all newly hired employees within 20 days or less depending on how they report. The report includes name, address and Social Security number of each new employee. States are required to match reports of newly hired employees against social security numbers of persons having outstanding child support orders, and to issue an order to the employer to withhold and forward unpaid child support payments.
There are now many collections-oriented sites on the Internet that mention or highlight deadbeat parents, some even showing mug shots and marking the photos as "found" in the style of the FBI's "most wanted" list.
Action taken against defaulting parents
In the United States, persons in arrears for child support payments are potentially subject to incarceration. Other penalties for child-support non-payment also exist. Many U.S. states suspend an individual's licenses (i.e. driver's license, business license, contractor license) if that individual has significant arrearage in support payments or does not consistently pay support. This authority does not extend to professionals who receive licensure through non-governmental agencies. In 2000, the state of Tennessee revoked the driver's licenses of 1,372 people who collectively owed more than $13 million USD in child support. In Texas non-custodial parents behind more than three months in child-support payments can have court-ordered payments deducted from their wages, can have federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources intercepted by child support enforcement agencies, can have licenses (including hunting and fishing licenses) suspended, and a judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support. However, on 4 September 1998, the Supreme Court of Alaska upheld a law allowing state agencies to revoke driver's licenses of parents seriously delinquent in child support obligations. And in the case of United States of America v. Rosen, U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Cir., 1996), the court upheld the constitutionality of a law allowing federal fines and up to two years imprisonment for a person willfully failing to pay more than $5,000 in child support over a year or more when said child resides in a different state from that of the non-custodial parent.
Socially, deadbeat parents risk motivating their children to violate filial responsibility laws when they are grown.
- California Child Support Guideline Review
- Child custody
- Child Support Agency Australia
- Child support in the United States
- Family law
- Paternity fraud
- Tax refund interception
- "De-racializing "Deadbeat Dads:" Paternal Involvement in MTV's Teen Mom Samuel Jay / University of Denver – Flow". flowtv.org.
- "Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Dr. Sorensen, Elaine; Dr. Heather Koball; Kate Pomper; Chava Zibman (March 2003). "Examining Child Support Arrears in California: The Collectibility Study" (PDF). cafcusa.org. California Department of Child Support Services. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- "Deadbroke dads". Sacramento News & Review. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Sperling, Gene "The Pro-Growth Progressive: An Economic Strategy for Shared Prosperity", p.158 (Simon and Schuster, 2005), ISBN 0-7432-9241-3, ISBN 978-0-7432-9241-2
- "Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of 'Deadbeat' Parents". NPR. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- "Dodge County advises that these parents are being sought for not paying child support". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013.
- Indiana Department of Child Services. "MOST WANTED CHILD SUPPORT EVADERS".
- http://www.state.tn.us/humanserv/Child_sup_revoke.htm Archived 24 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- http://www.oag.state.tx.us/child/faq.shtml Archived 1 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- Legislatures, National Conference of State. "404". webarchive.loc.gov. Archived from the original on 10 August 2009.
- Shackelford, T. K., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., & Schmitt, D. P. (2005). "An evolutionary perspective on why men refuse or reduce their child support payments". Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 297–306. Full text
- Warsak, Richard A. (1992). Custody Revolution: Father Custody and the Motherhood Mystique. Simon & Schuster.
- Bender, William N. and Renet L. Bender, The Deadbeat Dad Myth: Strategies and Research in Defense of Men in Divorce. The University of Georgia, Institute of Government.
- Braver, Sanford L., and O'Connell (1998). Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths. Penguin Putnam Inc., New York.
- Baskerville, Stephen (2007). Taken into Custody, The War against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family. Cumberland House, Tennessee.
- Census bureau statistics and imprisonment for debt information is provided by the Children's Rights Council, Lanham, MD 20740/
- In Defense of 'Deadbeat' Dads - suggesting deadbeat dads should be released to ease prison crowding
- 18 U.S. Code § 228 - U.S. Federal law, "Failure to pay legal child support obligations"
- "Today, a child support violator can be prosecuted under Federal law" - child support enforcement