In the welfare class, most absentee fathers are unemployed or working for wages so low that little or no money can be squeezed out of them. State bureaucrats discovered they could cash in on the pot of federal money by exploiting middle-class divorce and creating a whole new class of absent fathers who have good jobs and are willingly making payments to their ex-wives.
When a married couple with children is divorced, the family court typically renames the husband and wife as noncustodial and custodial parents. The more time with the children that is awarded to the custodial parent, the more money the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay and then can be reported by the state as collections that merit federal bonuses.
Federal funding thus provides powerful monetary incentives for states to maximize the number of single-parent households with high transfer payments, and to minimize equal child custody which would lessen transfer payments. Depriving or reducing children's access to one parent is thus a source of revenue for states.
These incentives drive family court discretion and skew the opinions of the vast army of lawyers, psychologists, custody evaluators, and parenting counselors who are used to rationalize the process. They hide their predetermined custody rulings under the subjective slogan "the best interest of the child."
Put another way, forcibly depriving children of access to one parent, usually the father because he usually has a higher income than the mother, is a big source of revenue to states. The more support orders that are issued, the higher they are, and the more fathers who are threatened with jail and suspension of their driver's and professional licenses for challenging the system, the better chance a state will receive more money from the federal government.
This result was accurately predicted by Leslie L. Frye, chief of Child Support for the California Department of Social Services. In testifying to the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on March 20, 1997, Frye said the new regulations "encouraged states to recruit middle-class families, never dependent on public assistance and never likely to be so, into their programs in order to maximize federal child support incentives."
Of the 40 percent of U.S. children now growing up in homes without their own father, some are victims of the stereotypical "deadbeat dad." But most are victims of disastrous federal policies that provided incentives to create female-headed households, first by the Democrats' welfare system and then by the Republicans' so-called welfare reform.
Many consciences should be burdened with the realization that taxpayer money provides financial incentives to deprive millions of children of their own fathers.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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