Child support laws and practices are well-known for their many shortcomings. Child support often bears little or no relationship to what’s required to support a child and has come to look more like Mom support. Non-custodial parents complain that they don’t know what their support is being used for. The Office of Child Support Enforcement has complained for years that states set support levels beyond what parents can pay. Enforcement mechanisms often make the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay harder rather than easier. Despite knowing that non-interference with visitation is one of the best ways of ensuring payment of child support, neither the federal nor state governments provide any realistic assistance to non-custodial parents to enforce their visitation rights.
Those and many more problems are all at the forefront of the ever-louder debate about child support law. But there’s another that’s less commented upon – the rape of boys by adult women who become pregnant as a result. Those boys, sometimes as young as 12, are in every state required to pay to support the child. That’s true despite the fact that the entire concept of statutory rape holds that underage boys and girls are by law too immature to consent to sex. Therefore, at every trial for statutory rape, the state need produce no evidence on the issue of consent. That issue has already been decided by the laws governing the jurisdiction. There can be no defense of consent.
That leads to a rather striking anomaly as this article points out (Psychology Today, 2/21/19).
Mel Feit, director of the New York-based advocacy group the National Center for Men, told the Arizona Republic newspaper:
“To hold him unresponsible for the sex act, and to then turn around and say we’re going to hold him responsible for the child that resulted from that act is off-the-charts ridiculous… it makes no sense.”Indeed it doesn’t, but that’s the law in every state in the nation. Those laws reward adult women who rape boys by allowing them to receive his support. But in some way, both courts and legislatures rationalize the matter.
In 1993, at the age of 15, Seyer appealed this decision to the Kansas Supreme Court, arguing he should not be liable for these payments. He maintained that his babysitter (Hermesmann) took advantage of him sexually when he was too young to give consent.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled against him. The judgment stated that because Seyer initially consented to the sexual encounters and never told his parents what was happening, he was responsible for supporting the child.In other words, to reach its conclusion, the Kansas Court ignored state law that’s based on the concept that a 12-year-old can’t consent to sex and simply ruled that he had done exactly that.
The blatant hypocrisy may fool some, but not most of us. It’s a transparent veil meant to obscure one of the realities about fatherhood in this country and others. That reality is that fathers are routinely treated like nothing more than sources of cash. We see that in essentially everything regarding child support enforcement, but also in things that are supposedly “father-friendly,” like “responsible fatherhood” programs.
You might think that those would include assistance for fathers to assert their legal rights to custody and access to their kids. But if you do, you’ll be disappointed. Responsible fatherhood programs are almost exclusively job training. I’ve got nothing against job-training of course, but the message of those programs is the same as elsewhere – fathers are nothing but a source of money. Beyond that, we’re willing to spend virtually no time or money to help them gain and maintain a relationship with the kids they’re bound to support.
And of course we do that despite the fact that fathers who aren’t prevented from seeing their kids are far more likely to support them than are those who are. Greater dysfunction would be hard to imagine.
Meanwhile, there’s been a movement afoot for years to strip parental rights from men who rape women who become pregnant as a result. The combination of the two – parental obligations for boys who are raped and the removal of parental rights of men who rape - is vertigo-inducing. Given our current laws, the concept of gender equality means that women who rape should lose their parental rights and that boys who are raped should be absolved of the requirement to support the resulting child.
But we’re nowhere near doing either. As usual, we’re content with hypocrisy as long as fathers are the ones holding the short end of the stick.