Children need support, both financial and emotional, and from both parents. But if you’re a single parent, raising your child all by yourself, can be really hard. And if your spouse is a deadbeat parent, who isn’t willing to contribute to your child’s financial and emotional needs, it can be difficult for you to play the roles of both parents at a time.
Apart from the lack of financial support, kids will also be missing out on everyday life experiences that come with having two available parents. This can be especially challenging for younger kids who don’t quite understand why mommy or daddy isn’t around always. In this article, learn about deadbeat parents and how they
What Are Deadbeat Parents?
Deadbeat parents are those who willingly refuse or avoid paying court-ordered child support to their children. The term is commonly used in child support law in the US and Canada. It can be applied to parents of either gender. However, it is common for child support agencies to use gender-specific terms like deadbeat mom or deadbeat dad to refer to parents who miss out on making their child support payments.
The term is often misused to refer to all parents who fail to pay child support. It’s important to note that parents who fall behind on payments due to unforeseen circumstances and job loss aren’t essentially deadbeat parents. It only refers to parents who willingly choose not to pay child support even when they have the means to do so.
Deadbeat Parents – Stereotypes
A common stereotype in effect is that all deadbeat parents are fathers. The term ‘deadbeat dad’ is more commonly used in comparison to ‘deadbeat mom.’ This could possibly be due to a large number of child support court orders are directed at men. Statistically, it would also mean that more men may fall behind on their payments.
But there are many cases where this has been true about mothers as well. Unpaid child support is an issue among mothers as well, with many women failing to pay child support. So, it is incorrect to assume that a deadbeat parent is always the dad.
What Makes Someone a Deadbeat Parent?
When a court has ordered the parent to pay for child support, and they fail to do so, they are in contempt of court. This could mean they may get penalised, jailed, and have wages garnished. Why, then, do some parents avoid paying child support, knowing well that there are consequences?
Certain experts have curated some possible reasons as to what makes someone a deadbeat parent.
- A parent may become a deadbeat parent if they think that their children are better off without them in their lives. A parent who has a low self-esteem because of their past choices or their own perception of low self-worth could think they aren’t worthy of their child’s love and may try to remove themselves from their child. Such parents genuinely believe that their involvement in the kids’ lives could only be negative. They see child support payments as an unnecessary link that needs to be severed.
- If a non-custodial parent thinks that the custodial parent has the means to take care of their child financially, he or she may refuse to pay for child support. If their ex has displays of material wealth or a comfortable lifestyle, the non-custodial parent may assume that their payments are going towards this and not the child. They could also believe that the custodial parent only needs child support if they are living in poverty.
- Feeling that the system is unjust. Some parents may not have wanted kids or only have them due to the failure of contraceptives or refusal of abortion by the mother. In such cases, the non-custodial parents feel it is not fair to pay child support payments. Not receiving custody could also be a reason.
What Do Children Lose When They Have Deadbeat Parents?
Having a deadbeat parent affects children financially as well as emotionally. It isn’t just a financial issue to have a deadbeat father or mother, and it also brings in emotional turmoil for the children involved. The effects of deadbeat parents on children can be multi-fold.
1. Reduced Quality of Life
Children need financial support from their parents. Not having a stable household with a stable income can affect this steady support. As a result, it can affect a child’s lifestyle. From not having access to a comfortable lifestyle to not being able to make the most of any educational or extra-curricular opportunities, the overall emotional and educational progress of the child could be affected.
The situation could be dire in homes where the custodial parent is working a low-paying job and finds it difficult sometimes to put food on the table or pay rent. This could force them to sustain on low-quality food, clothing and live in neighbourhoods that aren’t safe for a child.
Sporadic child support payments can also make it difficult for the custodial parent to budget efficiently. All of these can severely lower the quality of life of the child.
2. Loses Access to One Parent
The role of both parents is essential in the life of a child. A deadbeat parent will miss out on being present for important milestones of a child’s life and the more common experiences of everyday life. Whether it’s helping the child in school homework or engaging with him in simple activities, the deadbeat parent is not around for these, and the child will be constantly aware of the parent’s absence.
This may emotionally affect the child and cause them to grow up with abandonment issues. Children often believe that their parent’s absence is caused by something that they did, and they may even start blaming themselves for it.
3. Loses an Extended Family
If a child has a deadbeat parent, the child may also miss out on the opportunity of interacting with the deadbeat parent’s family. They may not be able to make healthy connections and build relationships with their deadbeat parent’s family, making them feel distant and deprived.
Many children are unable to form connections with their extended family just because one parent isn’t available. This could be possible even if the family wants to be involved in the child’s life but doesn’t want to answer questions about the deadbeat parent’s absence. This causes them to stay away.
4. Decreased Attention From the Custodial Parent
Not receiving child support will mean that the custodial parent will have to work twice or thrice as hard to maintain the standard of living of the child. This cuts down the time that they get to spend with the child and miss out on important events and not be able to act as a cheering squad when the child needs it the most.
While in many cases, older children may be able to come to terms with this, younger ones who don’t fully understand the severity of the helplessness of the situation may grow resentful or be disappointed. In extreme cases, this can affect the child’s relationship with the custodial parent as well.
5. Constant Scrutiny by Other People
Some people aren’t always kind to kids with absentee parents. These people may pity a child child with a deadbeat parent or may look at them with disdain. Kids tend to pick up on these signals really fast, and may feel bad for themselves and be constantly aware of the absence of the other parent.
6. May Effect Self-Esteem of the Child
When a child’s lifestyle and education are affected by the absence of the deadbeat parent, they may not have access to many things and have to make do with what they get. This is prevalent in homes with lower incomes where every day is a struggle. Children may not see that they deserve better and develop lower self-esteem, and have lower expectations for themselves.
What Are the Consequences of Unpaid Child Support?
States are trying to curb the number of unpaid child support cases by imposing certain penalties on deadbeat parents. Parents who fail to make their child’s support payments regularly can face the following consequences.
- Wage garnishing
- Withholding federal payments and benefits (ITR or unemployment benefits)
- Suspending passports and driver’s licenses
- Seizing bank accounts
- Informing credit bureaus
- Jail time
What Actions Are Taken When Child Support Checks Stop Coming?
If as a single parent, you haven’t been receiving court-ordered child support payments, you will need to contact your local Child Support Enforcement Office and lodge a report. Keep all the information handy that may be necessary to make your case. This includes details about missing payments, complete with dates and amounts. Also, provide the last known address of your ex.
Not all parents willingly fail to make child support payments. Some parents are trapped by dwindling incomes and certain unforeseen circumstances. Most states have help available for parents who are unable to pay. In these cases, payments can be adjusted to reflect current earnings. Fines associated with unpaid child support can also be reduced to help to make the payment process simpler.
In certain other cases, if child support has not been paid for so long that it may not be possible to pay the pending dues fully.
If your ex has missed out on child support payments and you need to take action, it is advisable to contact a local child support agency or a lawyer to enforce the court order and get your dues. It is essential to keep in mind that you cannot withhold the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights if they’ve not paid child support. This can affect your standing with the law and put you in contempt of the court.
Always take legal help and available support to obtain child support payments from a deadbeat parent.