If you’re paying child support in Tennessee, there’s a good chance you’ve been paying to the Child Support Receiving unit.  If you’ve been behind your child support payments, you may have heard from Child Support Services.

Who is Child Support Services?

Way back in the 1970’s, the public became concerned that the government was paying welfare for the support of children who were not being supported by both of their parents.  Put another way: Why are my tax dollars going to feed children if their parents aren’t putting food on the table?

The typical situation (as it remains today) is most children of separated parents live with their mother, and the father should be providing financial support for his kids.  Unfortunately, very often the support is minimal, or completely absent.  The public demanded the government get tough on “deadbeat dads”, and Title IV-D of the Social Security Act appeared in the federal statutes.

Title IV-D of the Social Security Act

The policy behind this law is pretty straightforward:  People should only receive welfare as a last resort, and it’s not fair for children to be on welfare if they could be supported by their parents.

This law requires each state to create an agency that will seek and enforce child support payments for children of single parents who are eligible for, or are receiving state money in the form of welfare programs.

In the typical case described above, if a single mother applies for a welfare program, she must provide the name (or names) of the fathers of her children.  At little or no charge to the mother, the agency (called “Child Support Services” in Tennessee) will find the father and file the necessary documents in court to establish parentage and ask the court to order a set amount of child support.

The child support will be required to be paid through the Child Support Receiving Unit, which will keep track of when the payment was made, and how much was paid.

If the person paying child support gets behind on his payments, Child Support Services will try to enforce the payments in court, as I described in this post.

Does it work?

The Child Support Services attorneys handle thousands upon thousands of cases and undoubtedly succeed in securing child support for a lot of children who may not receive any money otherwise.  They represent a huge number of single parents who probably could not afford to access the court system for help.

However, as is common, the law doesn’t always handle real-life situations very well.  For example, one of the ways payments are enforced is to revoke they payor’s drivers, professional, and business licenses.

That’s all well and good, as the prospect of having all your licenses revoked might scare people into keeping up with their support payments.  However, if a guy relies on his business license in order to earn a living, completely removing his ability to work may not help him pay his child support.

Think it doesn’t happen?  In the next few days I’ll write about a couple of cases I’ve either been involved in or seen in court that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t been there.

What do you think?  Are the laws used to enforce child support payments effective?  Less than half of people entitled to child support receive as much as they’re owed.  Is it time to try something different?