Over half of America's children will live apart from their fathers at some point as they grow up, many in the single-mother households that increasingly make up the nation's poor. Federal efforts to improve the collection of child support from fathers appear to have little effect on payments, and many critics have argued that forcing fathers to pay does more harm than good. Much of the uncertainty surrounding child support policies has stemmed from a lack of hard data on nonresident fathers. Fathers Under Fire presents the best available information on the financial and social circumstances of the men who are at the center of the debate. In this volume, social scientists and legal scholars explore the issues underlying the child support debate, chief among them on the potential repercussions of stronger enforcement.
Who are nonresident fathers? This volume calls upon both empirical and theoretical data to describe them across a broad economic and social spectrum. Absentee fathers who do not pay child support are much more likely to be school dropouts and low earners than fathers who pay, and nonresident fathers altogether earn less than resident fathers. Fathers who start new families are not significantly less likely to support previous children. But can we predict what would happen if the government were to impose more rigorous child support laws? The data in this volume offer a clearer understanding of the potential benefits and risks of such policies. In contrast to some fears, stronger enforcement is unlikely to push fathers toward. But it does seem to have more of an effect on whether some fathers remarry and become responsible for new families. In these cases, how are subsequent children affected by a father's pre-existing obligations? Should such fathers be allowed to reduce their child support orders in order to provide for their current families? Should child support guidelines permit modifications in the event of a father's changed financial circumstances? Should government enforce a father's right to see his children as well as his obligation to pay support? What can be done to help under- or unemployed fathers meet their payments? This volume provides the information and insight to answer these questions.
The need to help children and reduce the public costs of welfare programs is clear, but the process of achieving these goals is more complex. Fathers Under Fire offers an indispensable resource to those searching for effective and equitable solutions to the problems of child support. (author abstract)
Table of Contents
Introduction - Irwin Garfinkel, Sara McLanahan, Daniel Meyer, and Judith Seltzer
Part I - What are the Policies and who are the Fathers?
Chapter 1: A Brief History of Child Support Policies in the United States - Irwin Garfinkel, Daniel Meyer, and Sara McLanahan
Chapter 2: A Patchwork Portrait of Nonresident Fathers - Irwin Garfinkel, Sara McLanahan, and Thomas Hanson
Part II - How Does Child Support Enforcement Affect Fathers?
Chapter 3: The Effect of Child Support on the Economic Status of Nonresident Fathers - Daniel Meyer
Chapter 4: Does Child Support Enforcement Policy Affect Male Labor Supply? - Richard Freeman and Jane Waldfogel
Chapter 5: Child Support and Fathers' Remarriage and Fertility - David Bloom, Cecilia Conrad, and Cynthia Miller
Chapter 6: Will Child Support Enforcement Increase Father-Child Contact and Parental Conflict after Separation? - Judith Seltzer, Sara McLanahan, and Thomas Hanson
Chapter 7: The Effects of Stronger Child Support Enforcement on Nonmarital Fertility - Anne Case
Part III - Should we do more to Help Fathers?
Chapter 8: Programs to Increase Fathers' Access to their Children - Jessica Pearson and Nancy Thoennes
Chapter 9: Low-Income Parents and the Parents' Fair Share Program: An Early Qualitative Look at Improving
Chapter 10: How should we think about Child Support Obligations? - Martha Minow
Conclusion - Irwin Garfinkel, Sara McLanahan, Daniel Meyer, and Judith Seltzer