The child custody and support system can be overwhelming for many single parents who enter it after a divorce or the end of a relationship. The process can be complicated further by the impacts of societal racism and poverty, emphasizes the director of a documentary film, “Where’s Daddy?” The film seeks to explore how child support enforcement systems impact the relationships that African American fathers have with their children. In particular, it looks at the role of punitive consequences, like jail time, job loss or driver’s license revocation, for parents who owe child support and how those consequences can be particularly damaging for African American fathers.
In addition, the film explores how child custody and support can be affected by poverty. Many parents living in poverty may be unable to afford legal counsel or representation. Many fathers may be unaware that they can file to modify a child support order if they lose their job or earn less at a new job. This can lead to an accumulation of insurmountable debt. One study by the Urban Institute notes that 70 percent of all child support debt can be attributed to parents who earn less than $10,000 annually or make no income at all.
The director also notes that negative portrayals of African American fathers in pop culture can also have an impact on fathers’ views of themselves and broader social expectations. In particular, he draws attention to the frequency with which black fathers are portrayed as neglectful and seeking to avoid their child support obligations.
When people end their relationships, they still have a right to develop their bonds with their children. A family law attorney can help parents protect their rights and seek child custody and fair child support orders. In addition, a lawyer can help parents modify an inappropriate order or improve their access to their children.