Child support delinquency on the rise in bad economy

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Being a dad is never easy, especially after a divorce or separation.

With unemployment rising, many fathers are finding they can't afford to foot the bill for their kids' child support any longer.

"The ones who have truly fallen on hard times because of the economic situations don't want to be viewed as a dead beat dad. They want to pay, I don't think they are intentionally avoiding paying," said Jeana Lackey, the director of the Columbus Child Support Services Office.

Case workers have seen a 16% rise in child support modification requests, either non-custodial parents wanting the amount they pay lowered, or custodial parents wanting the child support increased--both because they have lost their jobs.

Enforcement requests are also on the rise, with normally consistent parents not paying at all.

The director of the Georgia Fatherhood Program in Columbus, Ed Harbison Jr., says a lot has to do with pride.

"If your male, and usually our non-custodial parents are males, the last place they want to come Harbison.

The reality...they do, and that is why the Fatherhood Program was started, to help these dads find a job, get more education, and deal with the emotional effects.

Men from all walks of life are coming forward for that help.

"We were primarily seeing people who didn't finish high school and had limited trade skills. Now we are seeing people with a college degree, 2-4 year degrees, or even advanced degrees. Our customers have changed considering the economic climate," said Harbison.

The advice from these caseworkers--don't be afraid of the child support office.

Your agent is really the only person who can help you out of delinquency without going to court.

They can help modify your payments, or help you find work.

The goal is not to incarcerate these men, it's really to do what's best for the children.