NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

February 24, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We at the National Parents Organization try hard every day to bring sanity to family courts and laws.  Countless other organizations and individuals do too.  It’s a long, hard slog.  The healthy fight to keep fathers in children’s lives is a necessary one.  Too many forces in this society militate against fathers and the result is widespread social dysfunction.  Kids raised by two parents are, on average, far better off than are any other kids, a fact that’s been firmly established and well known now for decades.

And yet there are those who – deliberately it seems – turn a blind eye to the realities fathers face.  Such a person is Maurice Fisher who’s a “mental health professional” working fairly frequently in custody cases (Roanoke Times, 2/21/19).  With an attitude like his, he should find a different job.
However, there seems to be a growing number of people, especially men, who eschew their moral, legal and financial responsibility for their children.   
Citation?  Of course he offers nothing to support his allegation for the simple reason that there is nothing.  Naturally, Fisher would defend his statement because he used the word “seems.”  That raises the question of to whom it seems that “especially men” eschew their responsibility to their children.  That person of course is Fisher.  He’s trotting out his anti-father bias as something akin to fact.

And yet we have data on who eschews their financial responsibility to their kids.  The U.S. Census Bureau has kept that data since at least 1993 and, had he taken a couple of minutes to glance at it, Fisher would have learned that non-custodial mothers are significantly less likely to pay everything they owe in child support or any of what they owe.  That’s been true every single year since 1993 except 2009 when 72.9% of fathers received some child support while 70.5% of mothers did.  That’s true despite the fact that mothers are ordered to pay less than are fathers.

Not content with opining on a subject about which he seems entirely ignorant, Fisher plunges into another subject about which he seems entirely ignorant.
First, there is a case where a “loser” is required to pay a minimal support amount (e.g., an almost insulting amount such as $150 per month for a child which parenthetically is less that 5 dollars daily), but does not consistently pay the support and yet wants to have joint legal custody, visitation and dispense punishments to the child as he see fit.
I know it’s taxing to expect Fisher to read complicated government documents, but the Office of Child Support Enforcement actually has some pretty interesting information on who doesn’t pay everything they owe in child support.  Some 63% of fathers who aren’t paid up report earnings of under $10,000 per year.  Yes, $150 per month doesn’t sound like much, but $1,800 per year is actually a lot for a person who earns under $10k. 

Fisher wouldn’t dream of looking at hard facts, but OCSE data show very clearly that, non-custodial parents who don’t pay do so because they can’t pay.  That’s made clear in other ways too.  When states do sweeps of delinquent parents, they routinely collect about two cents for every dollar owed.  And that’s when the parent is facing jail for their failure to pay.  In that situation, I would think a person who could pay would.  But overwhelmingly they don’t.  And the authorities fully understand.  Few of those netted in the sweeps actually go to jail for the good and sufficient reason that most people understand (a) that they don’t have the money and (b) putting them in jail helps no one.

But Fisher’s not just a complainer who’s entirely ignorant of his subject; he’s a complainer who’s ignorant of his subject with a solution to the problem he doesn’t understand.
The current laws need to be changed to correlate the timely payment of child support with rights to visitation.
That’ll fix ‘em!  You see, child support enforcement isn’t nearly harsh enough.  Jail, the loss of drivers and other occupational licenses, passports, etc. isn’t enough.  Yes, the OCSE itself has recognized for many years that those draconian measures not only don’t do the job, but make matters worse.  That’s why it’s given states the ability to craft other ways of enforcing child support orders.  And that’s why states are doing just that.

But for Fisher, we’ve got to get tough on those kids who are so irresponsible as to have a parent who can’t support them.  Wait, what?  That’s right; Fisher figures that the way to make parents pay what they owe is to deprive the child of his/her relationship with the non-custodial parent.  Does Fisher know anything about parent-child attachment?  Is he aware of the trauma visited on kids by the loss of a parent?  He’s a “mental health professional,” so he should, but he either doesn’t or his antipathy for fathers has overshadowed his interest in children’s welfare.

This is who Virginia courts rely on to advise them about child custody?

Fisher’s so misguided I need another post to deal with him.

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