As I commented here only recently, the child support authorities in this country (whatever they happen to be called at any given moment) have persistently failed to collect huge swathes of child support, ever since the wretched child support system was set up more than twenty years ago. Perhaps they should take a look at how they do things on the other side of the Atlantic…
Over the years I’ve come across various American ideas relating to child support and how to ensure that the payments are made. Some have been quite reasonable, some perhaps a little, shall we say, too enthusiastic and some just downright bizarre.
Take, for example, an idea that is fairly obvious and seems quite common in the US: publishing ‘mugshots’ of the ‘most wanted’ child support evaders online. Now, as I recall, we did at one point try ‘naming and shaming’ non-payers over here, by simply publishing their names online, but publishing their pictures as well takes it a step further. Some authorities over there even demonstrate the success of the system, by publishing details of evaders who have been arrested or located. I’ve not yet heard of a ‘bounty’ being put on the head of an evader, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.
Another excellent idea that is ingenious in its simplicity: require casinos to do a computer check on any patron who wins more than a certain amount in jackpot winnings. The computer will check to see if they owe any child support and if so, the winnings will be paid to the state rather than the winner. Unfortunately, we probably don’t have enough casinos in this country to make this one a runner over here.
Or how about this great idea from Louisiana: send letters to child support evaders apparently from the ‘Louisiana Recovery Directive’, inviting them to come and collect ‘economic stimulus’ payments. The real sender of the letters is, of course, the Sheriff’s Department, and when the evaders show up they are greeted by two deputies with handcuffs, their car keys are confiscated and they are locked up “until they resolve” the debt. Can’t see that happening over here somehow…
The latest American idea that I’ve come across is perhaps a little more serious than any of the above. Apparently, in a number of states it is possible to make grandparents liable for child support, where the parent of the child concerned is a minor. In fact, it is possible to seek child support from both sets of grandparents. As well as collecting child support, the idea it seems is to help the parents of the minor hold them accountable for raising the child, and allow them to pass on parenting skills.
Hmm, I’m all for collecting child support, but I’m not really sure about this one. Apart from the question of whether a parent should be responsible for their child’s liability, it seems to me that this could divide families, at the very time when they need to be coming together to look after the child. It is likely to be difficult enough for someone to come to terms with the fact that their child, still a minor, is a parent, without burdening them with a liability to pay child support.
Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea had some supporters on this side of the pond.
Photo by David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott via Flickr