Read the news coverage and op-eds about our Shared Parenting Report Card at the links below:
By Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone. And that includes parents who are paying child support. In fact, the economic devastation the virus has produced threatens to be disastrous for many of these parents. And NPO is taking a strong stand to try to protect these parents.
When parents in an intact marriage have any sort of economic setback, they tighten their belts to work through the hard times. When parents who pay child support have an economic setback, they get in arrears on child support and these arrearages can build quickly and be difficult to discharge even when income is restored. This is a troubling, but familiar, problem. What’s new—what the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought—is on a different scale. Without swift government action, we’re headed for a catastrophe for millions of parents.
The mandated economic shutdown will result in millions of paying parents who have never been behind on their child support payments suddenly being in arrears. The closure of many courts means that these parents can’t file a motion for modification of their child support. Even when the courts open up, there will be significant backlogs. And, unless lawmakers and child support officials take dramatic action, the strong enforcement measures intended to coerce child support evaders—those who have the ability to pay but are unwilling to—will be applied to parents who have lost income because of the deep economic recession.
British MP Philip Davies has it right (Telegraph and Argus, 4/30/20). There’s a domestic violence bill before Parliament and he wants its definition of DV to include parental alienation, blocking access to children and false allegations of domestic violence.
He said: “I have heard horrific stories affecting parents and children and if we are to save future generations of children from having non-existent relationships with one of their parents, something needs to be done, and my amendment would be a start.
“The definition of domestic abuse should include cases where one parent deliberately denies the other parent contact with their children for no good reason. As far as I am concerned, this is just as abusive as other forms of abuse that are regularly mentioned; it causes significant distress, upset and harm. In some cases, the harm is so bad that it can tragically lead to suicide.”
Just so. It’s long past time when judges and lawmakers should have put a stop to the twin scourges of parental alienation and non-enforcement of orders for access to children. Exactly what it takes to get them to realize the obvious – that both behaviors are destructive to children’s psyches – remains a mystery, but maybe Davies’ amendment to the DV bill will help. We call them “family courts,” but they can be the opposite; they can be, and often are, co-conspirators in the abuse of children by preventing one parent from having meaningful time with them.