We have known for years that the Child Welfare System here in the US, and particularly in Michigan, needs a major overhaul. Children are removed from their homes without just cause, and parents are accused of abuse based on allegations made by the state. Sadly, this is nothing new. But according to a recent article in the Lansing State Journal, a portion of this can be blamed on Title IV- D funding.
Karl Derch, a former assistant scoutmaster and a divorced father of four, wrote the article entitled Family Law Reform Long Overdue. According to Derch, Title IV- D is the funding granted to states by the federal government, which incentivises ‘courtnapping.’ In other words, the court ordered removal of children from their home. But how does this happen? What is Title IV-D funding and what does it do?
According to Phyllis McAlpin Schlafly, an American constitutional lawyer and conservative activist, Title IV-D is nothing more than government corruption.”Federal incentives drive the system. The more divorces, and the higher the child-support guidelines are set and enforced (no matter how unreasonable), the more money the state bureaucracy collects from the feds. Follow the money. The less time that non-custodial parents (usually fathers) are permitted to be with their children, the more child support they must pay into the state fund, and the higher the federal bonus to the states for collecting the money.“
In his article, Derch echoes Schlafly, explaining how Title IV-D serves as an incentive for states to keep children away from the parent most likely to be able to pay child support. “Title IV- D incentivizes states to marginalize one parent to “non-custodial,” minimizing parenting time for the demoted parent and maximizing the amount of child support because states get matching federal funds for every dollar of child support ordered.
In essence, Title IV-D funding is provided to states on collection of child support. This means that there is no incentive for a court to grant the “best parent” custody. Rather, they are encouraged to examine which parent can pay the most child support. This is important because every dollar of child support collected by the state is matched by Title IV-D funding. Ultimately, this means that federal funding going to the States isn’t being used to enforce visitation rights of the non-custodial parent, but rather is simply being used to drive increased revenue.
Derch, a member of the Capitol Area Fathers for Equal Rights, believes that this kind of injustice will only stop when “financial incentives such as Title IV-D no longer pollute the Court’s judgement.” He is not alone in his perspective. There are numerous websites calling for Title IV-D reform in the name of child and family safety. Even the National Parents Organization calls into question the way Title IV-D funding works.
On their website, the NPO explains their position. “If US States are dependent on this federal money from the collection of child support, then there is also a dependence on the non-custodial parent not having equal access to their children so that they pay greater child support which triggers the release of more federal money. Fathers and Families has serious concerns that enforcement of child support is in direct conflict with equally shared parenting for all parents and extended families.”
Their concern is because the current setup does not encourage the courts to promote equally shared parenting time. “Under equally shared parenting, many non-custodial parents would pay considerably less child support because of increased time with their children, or they would pay no child support at all. Under equal parenting, there is significantly less federal money available for Welfare programs and most US States would be in financial crisis trying to solve funding of Low Income Programs because of it.”
All in all, this is a very sad state of affairs, and highlights the importance of having an experienced and aggressive attorney on your side when arranging a custody agreement during divorce. Ensuring that your children are allowed to spend a fair and reasonable amount of time with both parents is critical, as it is truly what’s in the best interests of the child, not what’s in the best interests of the state budget.