Here’s an audacious idea. Let’s recreate our child support system to put kids first.
We say the State’s program is in the best interests of the child now, but our policies tell a different story. Let’s restructure our policies to make sure they encourage parents to support their children rather then turn them away.
Here are some specifics:
• Don’t set child support numbers above a level at which a parent can pay. This only sets the parent up for failure and pushes the parent away from supporting their child.
• When a parent’s income changes (an increase or decrease), modify the order promptly. For example, when a parent loses his/her job, the order must be changed to reflect reduced income. This doesn’t happen now. Debt and bad feelings can build up—and inevitably it is the child who pays the price.
• Don’t garnish wages at preposterous levels. In Maryland, a non-custodial parent can have their wages garnished at 65 cents on the dollar. A tax rate of 65% is too high. Establish reasonable standards and, while we’re at it, we should rethink whether garnishing wages—dragging the employer into the issue—is the right way to go.
• If we need to punish parents who do not pay their support, don’t do so in ways that damage their ability to pay support in the future. Right now, parents who fall behind in their child support can lose their driver’s license and, as noted above, have their wages garnished by their employer. This makes it more difficult for them to get a job, earn money and pay their support. It doesn’t make sense.
The devil is in the details with each of these ideas, but the parameters are common sense. Let’s make the commitment and get it done.