Deadbeat Dads? This Judge's View

Just because child support is ordered by the court doesn't mean it will be paid.

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Car Payment vs Child Support
by Honorable Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico

One of the most unattractive facts of life that I've learned as a family court judge is that not all parents love their children.

For example, not long ago a couple appeared before me who were divorced in the early 1980's. They had two children, now ages 9 and 11. At the time of the divorce, they agreed that they father would pay $150 monthly in child support.

Five years later, the mother filed papers with the court saying the father hadn't paid child support as he had promised.

The father's lawyer wisely advised him to settle out of court. It turned our that he was $7,200 behind. (At $150 monthly, that represents four years of non-payment.)

The out-of-court agreement was that the father's obligation was reset to $250 monthly, and he promised that within six months he would borrow money to pay the $7,200 debt.

For the next eight months, that father paid $250 monthly. He did not pay the $7,200. Beginning nine months after the agreement he was back to his old habits. He paid $70 one month, $100 the next, and nothing at all some months.

When it came back to court again, he paid a total of $550 over a 10-month period as child support for two children.

This was not a case in which the father was being denied time with his children, which is the most common excuse given for non-payment of child support.

Both parents agreed that he saw the children whenever he wished to.

In court the father stated he'd been having a tough time financially. He claimed he was having to live with his mother because he couldn't afford to rent his own place.

Then the facts came out.

His annual wages were $21,000. His former wife's annual wages were $13,000. Some months earlier, he had acquired a new sports car with car payments of $340 monthly. He proudly stated that his car payments were current.

I believe it is a fair measure that there is something wrong when a parent's car payment is larger than a child support payment.

Yet, it is astonishing just how often I see cases with this very form of upside-down priorities. When, on top of that, it turns out the car payment is made each month, while the child support is ignored, it's a sad day.

I will never understand how parents can "rational-lies" not providing adequate economic support for their children.

Parents who don't pay child support should not be surprised when a judge does not believe them when they claim to "love" their children.

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