According to research conducted by the Urban Institute, about 70 percent of delinquent child support in New Jersey and around the country is owed by noncustodial parents who either report no income or earn less than $10,000. Other studies have found that noncustodial parents who are unable to meet their child support obligations are disproportionately African-American. A documentary dealing with these issues and the challenges faced by noncustodial fathers of color has recently been released.
The documentary is called ‘Where’s Daddy.” The film criticizes child support collection systems and cites the case of a black father who was fatally shot while fleeing police because he feared being sent to jail for nonpayment. The filmmakers also take aim at media outlets that portray African-American fathers as irresponsible and uncaring.
The film includes interviews with attorneys who say that poor noncustodial parents are often ill-prepared for child support hearings and are rarely able to afford legal representation. They may also be unaware that they can petition the courts to have their mandated child support payments reduced if they lose their jobs or suffer other financial setbacks. Noncustodial parents who fall behind on these payments may lose their driving privileges and can even be sent to jail, which, according to the filmmakers and advocacy groups, makes it even more difficult for them to make restitution.
Experienced family law attorneys may seek to settle child custody and support arrangements amicably whenever possible, and they might urge parents to put their differences aside during these discussions and focus instead on what is best for their children. If these negotiations become deadlocked, attorneys may suggest exploring alternative approaches such as mediation to avoid expensive court battles.