succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Passports more important than dodging child-support

I'm glad that the new passport rules have helped to net at least $22.5 million over the past 8 months, but why are we so bad at enforcing child support rulings? I'm glad the government (whoa, there's a phrase I haven't used in a while...well, without being sarcastic) employs numerous different tactics to collect child support, but why is withholding a passport more effective than withholding actual dollars from a paycheck? I'll admit, I'm no expert, but my understanding of most child support laws is that courts and/or law enforcement have at least some access to the owing parent's financial records. So if that parent was able to come up with the money when his or her passport was withheld, doesn't it seem logical that he or she was therefore capable of paying the child support? And wouldn't that show up in the financial records? So couldn't law enforcement, you know, enforce the law (in a hopefully more speedy manner than just sitting around hoping someone wants to vacation in Europe sometime before the poor kid has to start paying college tuition)?

Child support is also my main argument against laws like this (thanks to Sid, who sends me such things because he likes to watch the steam come out of my ears). You see, these clever folks in Ohio think it's a grand idea to prevent a woman from having an abortion without the written consent of the father. Now, setting aside all the gross, offensive implications of this bill in terms of power and sovereignty over one's own body and abusive relationships and rape, let's think about what I hope, in my little fantasy world, was the actual, non-malicious, inspiration for such a law. A good guy, a stand up guy, who would do the 'right thing,' whatever that may be, is denied knowledge of his potential offspring, and that's unfair. Well, ok. But knowledge and responsibility are a two-way street, and you (and I mean the collective you) don't get to have a say in a process until we (collectively) figure out a way to make it impossible for men to walk away from the women they impregnate. As long as women like Jeannette Dean are dipping into retirement funds to cover basic necessities, because the state is unable to collect child support on her behalf, I'm not going to be losing any sleep over poor, mistreated men who don't get a say in what their significant other does to her body. You don't get to have it both ways. Either every man is held fully responsible for every child he produces, or you have no moral high ground from which to demand a more involved relationship with the ones that you happen to want.


Blogger Sudiptya said...

I do like to watch the steam come out of your ears. Blame a misspent childhood watching cartoons... you laugh enough times at Wiley Coyote doing it, and you assume its acceptable as an adult.

Your "two-way street" argument, however, seems a little harsh. I mean, shouldn't we be protecting people who want to do the right thing? To use an analogy, isn't it better than five guilty men go free than one innocent man be wrongfully imprisoned?

The Ohio law is stupid. I like to think that any right-thinking, non-fundamentalist person can recognize that... but there's got to be a construct that protects father's rights, choice rights, and doesn't require us to wait till utopia comes and all men/women/people start behaving responsibly and well.


12:57 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yeah, I'm not really happy with the way this post came out. I had the knee-jerk reaction in terms of child support because that's the argument made in the linked article ("In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."). Your innocent/guilty analogy doesn't really work for me, but I'm willing to concede that it doesn't have to be a consecutive thing - first better enforcement of child support laws then father's rights. More that the two have to be inextricably linked, something that I personally think is missing from a lot of paternity rights arguments. The bottom line for me is that father's rights arguments sound good anecdotally, when you have a specific person in mind, but the statistics (and I know you're going to nail be for not linking to references, but I haven't even had coffee yet this morning) indicate that when it comes to procreating and sexual relationships women get screwed (ahem) much more frequently than men, and laws written to protect men's rights (in this particular area) so often seem to endanger/limit women's rights. So while in a utopia both issues would be handled simultaneously, I'm certainly much more likely to get my hackles up on behalf of women's rights. Is that fair? Probably not.

5:55 AM  

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