Dads – Tackling the Holidays Alone Top Five Recommendations for Tackling the Holidays Alone

Dads – Tackling the Holidays Alone Top Five Recommendations for Tackling the Holidays Alone

Ahhh, the holidays. That joyous time of year where we celebrate family, friends and loved ones. But, it’s not quite that simple for Dads who are tackling the holidays alone.  We want to celebrate by feasting together, chatting and reminiscing about the past, those that came before us, those that have passed, the memories of times gone by, and pronouncements of the things that lie ahead. We do this in various dorms based on religion, region and family traditions. These things all share one common theme – family.

If you’re anything like me, this family tradition has been forever changed by my divorce and the complexity of scheduling kids mealtimes, visitations, sleepovers, alternating or sharing holiday time, all in an effort to celebrate our traditions, together. All this is further complicated by those who have custody of the kids, which in America is more often than not, the role relegated to Mom by the court system. For decades, women have been given primary custody of the kids without a thought of Dad and the home environment provided by Dad. And, again, more often than not, Mom is still in the marital home, for the benefit of the children, of course. But, this puts Dad’s at an extreme disadvantage, having to find new quarters for he and the kids,  and creating memories and traditions there within the brief periods of time that he gets to see his kids.

Despite the grim reality we face as divorced dads during the holidays, we must never forget that we are not alone. Many dads have gone before you. For those facing their first holiday alone, or even for the veterans, we at Guyvorce reached out to the huge fraternity of divorced dads through a variety of social media platforms asking for advice and lessons learned to help others adjust and celebrate the holidays in the split home environment. The feedback was incredible! We all are in this together and the overwhelming response we received is a huge testament to the growing bond between men out there. It made narrowing the list down difficult, but ahead we present the five most popular recommendations for tackling the holidays alone based on the input from dads out there just like you.

Top Five Recommendations for Tackling the Holidays Alone

1. Identify what’s important and make sure to do those when you can.

Every family has certain traditions that go with the holidays. Start your planning effort by identifying those traditions with your family. Don’t hold back at first. Once you get the ideas flowing, just let them out. When you have yours, sit with your kids and let them have at it. They may consider some things as tradition that you never knew, like spending the whole day after Thanksgiving in their pajamas! Once you have these, figure out which are the really important ones, and which were just the basic ideas. Your goal here is to get the list down to something manageable that captures the really meaningful events that define Thanksgiving for your kids and you. With this list, you’ll likely be surprised how few really depend on the actual Thursday. With your kids, you’ll all see that you can capture the meaningful bits of the holidays on another day. Sure, it won’t be the same, but it will be the ‘new normal’ going forward. Set your day and make sure you achieve the truly significant parts of your holidays with your kids!

2. Be there for your kids…24/7/365.

While your work to identify the most important traditions that help you and your kids capture the celebration even on a different day, it still doesn’t replace the actual day. For most of us as grown men, a day is simply a date on the calendar. If our birthday falls on a Tuesday, it makes perfect sense to us to celebrate it on a Friday so we can stay out later and let our heads rest on Saturday. The same logic holds true for Thanksgiving. We will have a much easier time adjusting to having turkey with our kids on a Tuesday or Friday than the kids will. Picture the world from your kids’ eyes. Birthdays and holidays are huge, and the date is significant. A five-year old cannot understand why they would have to wait to celebrate their birthday! While they may have checked the traditions with you, you can’t fix the fact that you aren’t there on the actual day. The best you can do is be available. If they call or text you, make sure you are there for them. No matter how much you worked to do something special before or after the holiday with them, they will want you on that day. You don’t get to choose the time, just be there when they need you.

3. Friends, family, & single guys

You’ve done the best you can to address the holiday needs of your children. Now it is time to think about yourself. You are still going to be the guy alone on Thanksgiving. Doug Stone captured the problem well in his song “This Empty House” when he sang:

“So many years of lovin’ all gone. It’s the first time that I’ve ever felt so alone, this empty house, is really hittin’ home tonight.”

The first holiday alone may not be the best time to stay home alone. There’s a great chance you have friends and family that will open their homes to you. While those are nice, they can also be difficult if those homes have kids running around. Another option is to think back to your single days and what you did back then. Maybe you have some single buds that you can link up with for food, football, and beer. As long as you’ve got your phone, you have your teather to your kids if and when they need you. The main point you need to grasp is that you need a way to celebrate the day as well. Whether you link up with another friend and their family, your own family, or jump back into the singles scene for the day, make sure you take the time to enjoy the day as well.

4. Work

At first, this top piece of advice offered by other divorced dads out there may seem counterintuitive on to how to celebrate the start of the holiday season. But after some thought, many may find it best to get through the alone periods of the holidays by following this popular suggestion: dive into your job. For many, the alone time is too hard, and the thought of spending time with other families will still tear at an open wound that needs more time to heal. Sometimes the best therapy can come from distraction and pouring your attention into your work. Odds are there won’t be too many distractions at the office while you are there. Think of all the administrative tasks, or items on your wish list for work that you never can find the time to get done during normal working hours. You can take advantage of the holiday time, focus on tasks that will improve your normal time at work, and really make a difference after the holidays. The harder you work at clearing your to-do list, the more distracted you will be and before you know it, the alone time will have passed.

5. Make plans for you

Yes, it is official; you are alone for the holiday. Now read that again with a more positive perspective. You are alone, meaning you have total decision authority about what to do, what times, where, and all the other parts of the holiday. Maybe it is time to throw all caution and adherence to the normal expectations and just go do something you want to do. Forget about the holiday and think about what places, activities, or events you’ve always wished you had done, but never found the time. You can seize this moment and be the master of your time. You could go big, or settle in for a 24 hour gaming and beer marathon. What is important is that it is up to you. Look into cheap weekend getaway deals to the beach, maybe drive to the ski slopes, or find the local activities you’ve wished to do, but it never fit well with your kids’ age. You have the time now, the lines at many events will be short because of the holiday, so go for it! The situation next holiday season, or the one after, may be very different. Focus on today and plan it all about what you want to do.

There’s no sugar coating your time away from the kids and tackling the holidays alone. It sucks. No matter how you work the time with your ex, the deal is tough for everyone. But it is the hand we are dealt and it is up to us to make the best of the game. The famous words of Charles Swindoll ring true as you decide how you will handle the upcoming alone time during the holidays:

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Our fraternity of divorced dads is filled with all kinds of men. There are many that choose to dwell in the past and ruminate about how the holidays once were. We can’t fault those members, as we all are guilty at times of the same behavior and certainly understand. But we also have the members who play the trump card we all have; our attitude. These dads are the ones that searched for ways to make today and tomorrow’s holidays bright. They have offered their ideas and we’ve presented the top ones here. As with so many things, the choice of what you do going forward and how you react is, like always, yours to make.

With these ideas in mind, thanks to all the dads out there who responded with their ideas and suggestions based on their own experiences. We are not alone. We at Guyvorce are thankful for the bond that is building between us men as we reach out and help one other through the hard times of divorce. We wish you and your families the best this holiday season and look forward to working with you in the future.

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The Child Support System Is Broken- Part 3 The Underbelly of Child Support Collection Programs

The Child Support System Is Broken- Part 3 The Underbelly of Child Support Collection Programs

August. The dreaded time for kids to go back to school. Most kids hate it. But, you love it for the peace and relaxation that lies ahead. But, for many, August is the child support system Awareness month. Yeah, that’s right. The states have instituted a Child Support System Awareness month to educate and focus their efforts to collect child support arrears from what many believe are ‘dead beat dads’.

The Child Support System’s Child Support Awareness month was started back in 1995 by states and municipalities across this great land. But, the implementation of this plan was one more focused on funding the STATE than funding needy parents in want of child support arrears.

The truth is in the numbers, so leave your emotions at the door!

The Child Support System – Every State Wants A Piece of This Action

You can’t avoid the emphasis on deadbeat child support collections dominating the news this month, second only to the Olympics. Here are a few of my favorite headlines, filled with biased, emotionally charged wording:

– “Texas Cracks Down on Deadbeat Parents”

– “New Jersey Rounds up 1221 Deadbeat Parents Owing $25.4M”

– “New Mexico Governor Announces Crackdown on Parents Failing to Meet Child Support Obligations”

Even the Feds have a Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act to catch parents who move from state to state to avoid paying up.

News outlets revel in hyping the national tragedy of unpaid child support exceeding $100 billion. Very often though, they leave out the details behind these numbers – important details!

First, this is the total running tally of unpaid support since data was kept, meaning decades of debt. The children owed the first $1 million of this figure are likely parents or even grandparents themselves now!

Parents Can’t  Pay From Behind Bars

The first article in this series covered how much of TODAY’s unpaid child support is actually accumulated by people in PRISON, who with their almost zero dollars income, are not likely to make those payments.

Even armed with this bit of common sense knowledge, the government is continuing to add up their debt while also piling on interest. Read the detailed article here.

The Numbers Will Blow Your Mind

Following the money, Part 2 of this series reveals how the National Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for the Enforcement Division of the collection effort. But wait! They also reported (through a separate division) who owed the child support based on annual income and the likelihood of collections.

Turns out, those making a livable wage owed only a small fraction of the total debt! The rest of the debt resided with those barely getting by, and this same federal agency labeled that debt as largely un-collectable! The shocking details are all here.

The Beatings Continue Regardless of Results

It’s terrible how so many parents out there are struggling to make ends meet at a poverty-level wages.

Both parents are struggling to provide for their children. Yet, instead of focusing on ways to educate parents to improve their job skills and wage potential, the authorities attack the parent who can’t keep up.

New Mexico, for example, as part of it’s annual crackdown on deadbeat parents, publicly lists the names of parents with delinquent child support.

Are banks allowed to list all those who are late with their payments? A bank would probably be slapped with a huge lawsuit, but I guess the government doesn’t have to follow the same rules.

Where’s The Money – According to Uncle Sam

So where are these agencies focusing their efforts? You can’t nail it down for all states, but the Department of Health and Human Services provides a clue about where recoverable money resides for those in arrears.

HHS reports suggest that once a parent with delinquent child support made over $20,000 per year, their debt was mostly collectable. But, only 17% of the “deadbeats” fall into the collectable category.

The rest – the vast majority- had little or no income.

The data shows that about three-fourths of the debtors have no reported income, or make less than $10,000 per year! This income group is also categorized by this same agency as one whose arrears are virtually “un-collectable.”

But hey, this is where the debt resides, so the agencies choose to focus considerable efforts towards collecting child support debt from those that can’t afford to pay it!

It’s pretty clear how bloated the budgets are for federal and state collection and enforcement agencies. The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.

The government collection agencies could pay off the total child support arrears in the country in just a few short years with only their fat annual budgets.

But these agencies are getting results, and their results are widely publicized in the news. As an example, let’s look at New Mexico again.

The Poster Child For Child Support Collection

New Mexico proudly received a national child support enforcement award for the “Most Improved System”.

This year, they are on track to exceed $140 million in back-due child support collection. That’s a pretty impressive number – that leaves out the crushing impact to those who pay into the $140 million.

The New Mexico Division of Child Support Enforcement has an annual budget of $34 million, roughly 25% of the collections. So, for every dollar the tax payers put in, they received four. Sounds good, but there’s more to the story.

The problem with just showing the raw collected amounts is traced to the Bradley Act in 1986 that allowed states to add interest to arrears. So how much of that $140 million is actually money that was due to the parent versus interest that goes to the state? The answer is not advertised, but we have great examples from real folks.

A Payment Scheme Like You Wouldn’t Believe

Recently, a reader shared his story. Let’s call him Joe. His kids are now grown and out of the care of their mother. He made scheduled child support payments until he hit hard times and missed some. Eventually, Joe got back on track and made payments until his kids were grown. Now he’s making his payments for the overdue amount. Joe pays $100 per month.

Sounds good. He’s paying his debt. Right?

The story gets ugly though, when Joe shares the breakdown of his debt payments. About $25 of his payment goes to his ex. The rest? $75 goes to interest on his debt and goes to the state. Yeah, they can charge interest, remember?

Math time! 75% of that collection goes to interest…only 25% to the parent. Apply that to New Mexico’s success story.

Just Suppose …

$140 million in collections…outstanding! 75% back to the state, or $105 million. So $35 million goes to the parent that’s due. Considering that their annual budget, invested by the taxpayers, was, $34 million, the result was only $35 million to the parents and kids that needed the money, the kids that needed school supplies.

That’s pretty close to a 1 for 1 ratio, meaning the taxpayers gave the state $1 and the state gave $1 to the parent in need. After that, the state made over $100 million profit from interest. This is interest collected from people struggling to meet their child support obligations, struggling to make ends meet.

We aren’t talking about making $100 million from creating an industry that provides products and jobs for the community resulting in taxes collected on industrial revenue. This is money “taxed” on the poor.

Essentially, the states are cracking down on struggling parents to fund their programs. The states are publicly vilifying struggling parents, while crushing them with insurmountable interest and debt.

Wouldn’t the agency funds be better spent by educating parents, improving their income, and then taxing their income? The kids would have a better quality of life and the state would be funded to serve the people, not turn them into indentured servants.

There’s Gotta Be A Better Way

We must create a better system. The money invested is clearly wasted.  Currently we are treating the symptom of the problem, missed payments, as criminal behavior. The state is spending countless taxpayer dollars to collect back due child support from those that can’t pay, as well as interest to pad the state’s bottom line.

We need a system to treat the cause of the problems. Unpaid child support is caused by low incomes, poor job skills, and skyrocketing child care costs.

Children of divorce will be better served if the funds budgeted for child support enforcement and collections are spent fighting the poverty cycle!

Are you fed up with the broken child support system?  What is your child support experience? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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The Truth About Child Support Arrears The Child Support System Is Broken, Part 2

The Truth About Child Support Arrears The Child Support System Is Broken, Part 2

Consider me frustrated, frustrated at ‘the system’ and its persistence in going after deadbeat dads and their alleged child support arrears. Don’t get me wrong. Real deadbeats are the scourge of the human race for not taking financial responsibility for their offspring. And, as the mid-term elections are grinding to a close these next couple weeks, I’m sure there will be many politicians proclaiming that the increase in households living below the poverty line is directly related to the increase in children raised in single parent households.

There are numerous websites that list and profile deadbeat dads in an attempt to identify them, expose them, find them and shame them into financially supporting their offspring. This is, among other things, no better than the public stocks located in the town square of our early American pilgrimage when those that broke the covenants of public reason and law were publicly displayed for rebuke and humiliation by the local citizens.

Many of these websites run public forums, and one such site run and supported by the Canadian Government has such a public forum as well. So, I joined in on the discussion about going after child support arrears.

Everyone was applauding the site and its goal when I arrived onto the forum. I chimed in and mentioned the first article in this series (which the forum managers removed shortly thereafter, but whatever) that plainly lays out the facts behind the myth that dead beat dads are the best un-tapped source of income for children living in poverty.

Note: Haven’t read it? No prob! Check it out here.

None in the forum knew how many so called “no-loads” were actually in prison with no chance at making an income. Even with that knowledge, many didn’t care. I received strongly-worded counterarguments about the many dads who hide income to avoid paying to support their children.

If you’ve read my work, you know how much I just love broad generalities and hyperbole! So, I moved the throttles to afterburner and asked about the moms who refuse to get jobs to artificially keep their incomes low to increase their child support award. My question also had no basis in fact, but since I was “discussing” grown-up topics with folks who weren’t, why not poke the bear!?

Cutting through the emotions, a real question emerged: What about parents with past-due child support arrears who aren’t in prison? Why aren’t they paying?

An excellent question, it turns out! And the FACT-BASED answer is the purpose of this article!

Breaking Down Child Support Arrears

The reality of over-due child support is shocking. In my previous article, I estimated the figure is at over one-hundred billion dollars!

Granted, that’s the total over decades, but armed with only that knowledge, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming we can go get that money and win the war on poverty.

The breakdown of the debt, though, crumbles the walls of that belief like a Christmas gingerbread house left out until May.

WARNING! REAL FACTS AND DATA AHEAD. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THESE, DON’T READ!

The US Department of Health and Human Services reports:

  • 40% of that hundred-billion-dollar pie belongs to people with NO INCOME! No income, as in zero! It’s a difficult source from which to pull, at best.
  • 30% is from individuals who make an annual salary anywhere from $1 (so that’s actually something) to $10K
  • 21% is owed by those who rake in an annual sum of $10K to $30K
  • And only 9% comes from people making over $30K

Remember that these individuals also need to sustain themselves!

Unfair Interest Rates on Child Support Arrears for Low Earners

I’ll save the debate on minimum wage for another series. But let’s at least consider the current system’s implications.

Some states have a higher minimum wage, but the federal minimum is $7.25 per hour. For a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, that’s just over $15K per year or $1,257 per month.

Out of that comes food, lodging, health insurance, transportation, clothing, etcetera. There’s not much left after that. Most who live on that salary will tell you zero is what’s left over.

Our child support system is designed so that both parents are tasked with supporting their children. And both should!

For many reasons, our system built up an enforcement network over the past decades to seek out and collect child support arrears. The problem was only compounded by the Bradley Amendment of 1986 that allowed states to add interest to those arrears.

Think about that for a minute.

We have people out there struggling to get by on nothing (or almost nothing) themselves. When they fall behind in child support, we pile on interest to their debt? How do we expect them to dig out of that hole?

The Government has been very willing to attack predatory credit lenders that impose egregious interest rates on the poor. When the housing market crashed, the Government attacked banks to renegotiate the terms of the horrible loans that families struggled under.

This same Government, though, is charging interest to poor working parents who can’t meet their child support obligations. We all know what it’s like to struggle to meet our bills. For these parents, the pain never ends. It’s a constant shell game to keep creditors and bill collectors satisfied just to make it through to the next month, sometimes even the next meal.

Child Support Arrears Collection Forecast

Some parts of the Government recognize how unlikely these debts are to be collected. Ironically, the same organization, the Department of Health and Human Services, reports their estimate about how much of the outstanding child support debt will be collected after 10 years.

  • 100% of the debt owed by those who earn >$30K annually will be collected
  • 50% of the debt owed by minimum wage earners will be collected
  • <25% of the debt owed by those making <$10K annually will be collected

I’m not presenting new math or even a new concept. The phrase “You can’t get blood from a turnip,” has been around for a long time. Yet we continue to bring up these parents as sources of income to solve the overall problem of children living below the poverty line in America. We spend a hefty chunk of change in tax dollars to go after these debtors.

How much does a federal enforcement bureaucracy cost per year?

Federal agencies don’t collect the debt themselves. Instead, they study the data and guide policy. The state enforcement agencies are actually charged with collections. So figure into your estimate another 50 collection and enforcement agencies in addition to the federal agency.

What did you come up with?

Remember how I told you the total child support arrears in America exceeds $100 billion dollars? Turns out, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement works for the same federal agency I keep harping on, the Department of Health and Human Services.

That division’s annual budget is public record and has been pretty steady for the past several years, around $4 billion EVERY YEAR!

Take that number and add in an agency for each state!

Want an example? California’s child support agency’s annual budget: $1 billion. That’s a big state, so assume most are 75% of that number. You end up with an estimate for state fiscal commitments around $37.5 billion. Add in the federal agency and you get $41.5 billion!

Seems to me that if you eliminated these agencies, you could cover the decades’ worth of debt in just under 3 years!

Final Thoughts

What if you cut the enforcement side of all those agencies completely? Take a portion of those funds and apply them to education programs for parents to help them get better jobs.

The same federal department I’m annoyed with myself for repeating shows that if individuals can earn over $30K per year, they have an almost 100% chance of making their payments.

If the real goal is to end child poverty, let’s attack it from all sides! There are 2 parents and both need to support their child.

One is tagged with paying child support. For those who can’t make their payments, help them get just twice above the minimum wage so they can. At the same time, we can help the parent receiving the child support earn a better wage and get more affordable child care while working so they can work full-time.

The result would be greater income for BOTH parents, which only benefits the children.

Assuming we only had about 15% of that annual budget, or $6.2 billion, do you think we could stand up a good program with the goal of increasing employment and eliminating (or at least decreasing) child poverty? Or is it better to keep spending our tax dollars on federal and state agencies tasked with collecting debts that THE SAME AGENCY ruled un-collectable!?

Let me know in the comments!

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The Child Support System Is Broken, Part 1 Men in Prison Are Crushed by Accumulating Child Support Debt

The Child Support System Is Broken, Part 1 Men in Prison Are Crushed by Accumulating Child Support Debt

So, you’re incarcerated. You’re in prison for crimes against the state and society in general. But, can the state ever believe that while incarcerated you could still pay your child support obligations to your spouse or ex? Frankly, it’s clear, the child support system is BROKEN.  PERIOD.  Who in their right mind can reasonably expect an incarcerated prisoner to pay their $100 per week child support obligation when they earn, on average, $0.86 per hour, down from $0.93 in 2001?

But, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Division of Policy and Training, “about one quarter of states treat incarceration as “voluntary unemployment” and refuse to allow prisoners to seek adjustment of their child support obligation. However, a new ‘Final Rule’ prohibits states from refusing an inmate from modifying a child support order.

Thank God the other remaining states permit incarcerated individuals to request a modification to their child support order. Each state has different rules and standards for this, but, for the most part, one must only show a substantial change in circumstances. That alone should be a low hurdle for most incarcerated individuals. Of course, he must still take all the necessary steps through the bureaucracy to make it happen.

And, their obligation continues during the modification request process.

Still…Incarcerated? That’s their problem!

On the surface, having a limited concern over the child support induced debt buildup for those who can’t follow the law may make sense. However, when you look at the numbers, it really is shocking.

Because the child support system is broken, these men leave prison $20,000 in debt, with no job, and almost zero prospects. Incarceration is supposed to be the punishment. When the time is served, the punishment is over and the crime behind them. These fathers are trying to get back into society and rejoin the workforce.  Where does that debt leave them? Look at the numbers:

  • Minimum wage monthly income at 40 hrs a week (before taxes): $1,200
  • Child support payment including arrears (5 yr loan, 6%): $387
  • Remaining: $813

To pay down their debt, they have to lose >30% of their income. After that hit, they still have to pay their current child support obligation. One can quickly see how they have no hope of meeting their living needs, paying off their debt, and meeting current child support obligations!

Factor in court-ordered wage garnishments of up to 65% to meet child support obligations (not counting your debt) and you can see how hopeless the spiral becomes. After the garnishment, they’ll likely have their driver’s license suspended, reducing their access to resources to get to work. After that, bank accounts get frozen

With all these obstacles, it is easy to see why most guys give up and never pay again. Eventually, they back away from their children.

So what? How does that affect a law abider like me?

It affects you by perpetuating the poverty of these children in our country. Government assistance for single parents was reduced in the 1990’s to shift the emphasis and responsibility onto the child support system and the non-custodial parent.

While it makes sense on the surface, but fathers in prison can’t pay child support. 

Multiple studies have proven again and again that there’s a huge benefit to children from having both parents involved in their lives. The only solutions available to newly released dads are either taking on additional jobs or returning to their old criminal activities. Additional work greatly reduces the time they can spend with their children can create problems for the kids later when they are adults. Returning to crime clearly is not the solution, but studies show it is what’s most probable.

There is the third option which almost guarantees they will fall behind in current obligations, further exacerbating the struggles of the children.

If they can’t pay, who will?

There’s only one pot of money for these struggling families: State or federal support, so back to tax payer. As a tax payer, you are funding a huge government agency tasked with enforcing child support obligations. But at the same time you, like it or not, are also funding support to these families anyway.

This is the very support we were supposed to reduce or eliminate through child support enforcement. Instead, we just created another government agency that only increases the total cost of tending to the original issue.

There are new programs being developed and pursued by many states that recognize the problem with the current approach. These states are forgiving debt, offering employment assistance to the dads coming out of prison, and training for both parents to assist them in navigating the current job market. Maryland, as an example, offers a staggered debt forgiveness program. The actual amounts forgiven are calculated based on a series courses and training designed to help dads in these situations find and retain work. The results of are impressive and should be mirrored by the rest of the nation.

The Child Support System Is Broken-1How much of the unpaid child support is this?

Incarcerated people fall into the category of those with no reported income up to $10,000 per year. A 2007 study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that about 25% of the no-wage earners in this category were incarcerated. No-wage earners account for 40% of the unpaid obligation debt in this country.

To put real numbers to the problem, there are 2.2 million people incarcerated this year. Half are parents, and a little over 1 out of 5 has a child support obligation, or 440,000 people. The zero wage earners account for around $40 billion of the total unpaid obligation!

Do we really think we are going to solve the poverty problem by leaning on that group to somehow come up with money they not only don’t have but are purposefully kept away from earning? What does it take to get the limited government resources shifted to groups that can actually help bring these dads back into working society and become active participants and fathers for their children?

It seems clear that when you hear the news media lament about how the total amount of unpaid child support in our country exceeds $100 billion that we could solve many of our poverty level, single-parent household woes by going after the deadbeats!

But what if the news media revealed the details behind the numbers and exposed the truth about how the bulk of this debt resides on the shoulders of American fathers who, themselves, exist below poverty standards?

In this three-part series, I’ll reveal the whole story to show the reality of life for these so-called “deadbeat” dads and how the child support system is broken on many levels that continue to exacerbate the financial problems of not just single-parented children, but also the support-paying parent as well.

Why Does this Matter?

There are three main reasons why we all need to be concerned about the state of children living in single parented households below the poverty level:

  • This is the United States, a beacon of hope and prosperity in the world. The fact that statistics continue to rise in the wrong direction clearly identifies a problem. Here is an area where we are failing this group within our population. It’s a slight on our founding beliefs and a stain on our reputation throughout the world.
  • Like it or not, the support and sustainment of these kids hits your wallet through welfare, school reduced lunches provided by local taxes, and the wide array of other programs in your area to help them.
  • Their plight is pinned on the non-payment of child support which taints the opinions of lawmakers and enforcement agencies nationwide towards ALL child support payers, even those of us that always meet our obligations.

With single-parent child poverty on the rise, child support became the main focus to ensure the other parent assisted in paying for the children’s well-being. Over $24 billion dollars is collected and distributed annually in child support. Even with this large amount paid, the total unpaid obligations are estimated in excess of $100 billion.

The gap in child support obligations versus collections led to the Child Support Recovery Act in 1992, and then it’s emotionally labeled amendment in 1998, the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (I’m not making that name up). The goal of these laws was to increase the likelihood of payment to reduce the drain on the welfare system.

The country was fed up with deadbeat parents and with having to pay for their kids through welfare. Emphasis was heavily placed on awarding child support in divorces and paternity cases, and laws were passed with strict punishments, including jail, for parents who didn’t keep up.

Decades later, we look back and wonder if these laws worked? No, the trend is still bad for these kids. The statistics for single-parent raised children are eye-opening. Almost 4 out of 10 children are born to unwed mothers, with a total of 17.4 million children raised without a father. Half of those children live below the poverty line.

If you aren’t especially saddened by the fact that this occurs in the US, and that isn’t enough to concern you, then the impact on your wallet, based on the second and third points I mentioned above, should.

Who gets impacted?

Everyone feels the pain to support children living below the poverty level through their taxes. For those who pay child support, the majority are the dads. Just over 82% of custodial parents are the mothers.

The child support-paying dads fall into one of three categories:

  • Sustainable wage earners
  • Poor
  • Incarcerated

With these being the three categories of child support paying dads, they are also the three categories of deadbeats. Those in jail, not surprisingly, have a difficult time making their payments.

The Bottom Line

As my father, and many like him, always said, “You do the crime, you pay the time.” Piling worthless, noncollectable debt on prisoners for back-due child support, though, almost goes against the cruel and unusual punishment stance our Constitution outlaws very clearly. As this series progresses, you’ll see the vast majority of the remaining portion of the unpaid child support debt falls into a similar, noncollectable category of parents. It’s time to recognize the flaws and that the current child support system is broken. Once we do that, we can head back to the drawing board and come up with real solutions to help these kids.

Think our child support system is broken? Where do your stand on the matter? Let us know in the comments!

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Divide Your Assets: Real Estate and Divorce Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Agent

Divide Your Assets: Real Estate and Divorce Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Agent

Anyone who has headed down the road to divorce will agree that the entire journey is full of emotionally charged issues. Aside from the children and the associated custody decision, the real estate decision about what to do with family home is usually one of the top issues fighting for second place.

In terms of divorce advice for men, Guyvorce always recommends that as much as you need a qualified attorney to help you through the legal process of divorce, you need a qualified real estate professional to help you through the decisions surrounding the family home.

Options for Dividing the Family Home

In simple terms, there are normally three options for how to divide and settle the family home.

  1. One spouse keeps the house, the other moves out. This option is usually the one that we see in the movies. It generates great visions of drama, with the potential for a lawn full of clothing and stuff. However, in reality, it can make sense. One spouse may clearly be able to continue owning and managing the house and associated payments or they may be the obvious choice for primary custody of the children. If the kids have spent years in the family home, you both may agree their best interest is served by continuing their residence in that home for stability. No matter the reason, the other spouse usually is entitled to some other property as a tangible asset of equitable value to their portion of the home’s value at the time of divorce. Your attorney will provide you the best options for this offset.
  2. Sell the house and divide the proceeds. For many, especially the dual income families, the cost of the mortgage, utilities, and home maintenance was managed through both incomes. Once the marriage goes away, and there is a need for two residences, the old family home becomes unaffordable for one. This is especially true for those households that managed the family home on a single income.
  3. Continue to own the home jointly, then sell and settle the profit division later. This option is becoming much more common as a result of the housing bubble rupture a decade ago. For many families, selling the family home is not an option if the house is underwater, meaning the couple owes more on the home than it is worth. For many, they become landlords, renting the home for a period of time while the rent helps buy down the debt as the property value recovers. At a certain point, the financial situation resolves and the home can be sold.

Making Informed Decisions

Take a look around your home. You see the familiarity, feel the sense of security, and understand the relief that comes when you arrive home from work. With those feelings, you can understand why choosing your path from the options above can be emotionally charged and difficult. That’s the main way a realtor can help you make the best decision. Don’t continue to fight it out between the two of you. Bring in a qualified realtor to give you the best advice for you both. Remember, if you can’t decide together, the court will decide for you. That path will come with a sizable legal bill and time, so you should try to reach a common agreement, even if between your attorneys, without handing the decision to the judge.

Even when selling a home while happily married, the process is lengthy and full of potential slip ups if you try to do it on your own. Missing a few key steps could keep you legally tied to that property, negatively impacting your ability to buy another home later on.

Financial Reasons for Hiring a Pro

During divorce, one poor decision can easily lead to another, making it even more vital you bring in a professional to make sure you have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. While not all inclusive, here are four important financial reasons you need a hire a professional to guide you through the real property division:

  • Closing the mortgage for both spouses. After divorce, you both will likely want to own another home. If you aren’t removed from the current mortgage correctly, you will have that debt on your credit report. The best case outcome will be you will have to find your ex, hire an attorney, and show through much paperwork that you do not have any financial ties to that home. The worst case outcome is you will be denied the loan for your new home. Save yourself the pain and get a realtor to help.
  • Clearing the deed. Just as the mortgage, there is a separate process to making sure you are clear of the title and not legally tied to the property. If this action is not handled correctly, you may find yourself owing taxes on a home you thought was off your books, or potentially liable for another’s injury that occurred on this property. Why set yourself up for this nightmare when a qualified realtor can clear it for you?
  • Capital gains exclusion protection. This one is huge and often overlooked. When you sell your home, and make money, you may owe capital gains tax. Then again, if you lived there long enough, you may not. And if divorcing, how do you divide the gains and the exclusion? Not sure of the answer? You aren’t alone. But your real estate professional will help you identify the documentation you may need during tax preparation to satisfy the IRS.
  • You can also check with the IRS and try to figure it out yourself, but that is NOT recommended!

Added Benefits of Hiring a Realtor

Beyond the financial protection advantages of bringing a real estate professional onto your divorce team, they also will be able to provide you guidance and support relative to your current sale and future property decisions.

  • Emotion-free sale price establishment. Setting the sale price for your home is loaded with emotion, even when married. Add divorce to the equation and you can quickly see the arguments starting. A professional takes away that problem. They know your area, know the nuances that affect pricing, and will tell you what the right price is to sell your home. You don’t want it on the market forever, you need it gone and off the books. They will get you to closing.
  • Sheltering you from quick sale temptation. There are two dangers here. First, is from one of the spouses, the one that wants a quick divorce and doesn’t care about the bottom line. They just want it sold. The other is from buyers who learned about the divorce and think they can low ball the offer. In either case, the realtor adds the unbiased layer to negotiate a fair price.
  • Understanding of the area to help you find your next home. When your home sells, where are you going to live? What is your budget? Your professional isn’t just there to sell your home, but they can guide you to the right area and home for your needs when you make a fresh start. On your own, you may miss a neighborhood or an option that would have been perfect.

About That Commission

Some sellers shy away from realtors because of the commission. These commissions are usually between 5-6% of the home sale. During divorce, though, keep in mind that the commission is applied to the final sale price, so the division of the profit occurs after all expenses, including the commission.

If you’re still worried about the commission, many real estate professionals cite studies that show homes sell for far more than the commission when listed and worked by a realtor.  Others suggest that it depends on the type of property and location, and the Realtor vs. FSBO numbers are skewed by  lower-priced sales of mobile homes and condos.

In a divorce, the benefits of using a realtor outweigh the small percentage of commission on the sale. The professional will sell your home at the right price and handle the details. You paid for that service. You got sound advice, a fair price for your home, and are able to focus your energy on the myriad of other divorce issues on your plate. You will be free to live your new life without real estate worries hanging over your head.

Tips for Choosing Your Real Estate Agent

A quick internet search will show you tons of qualified professionals from which to choose. In your effort to narrow the search, you may get frustrated, or tempted to go with a recommendation from family or friends. Don’t jump to a conclusion too fast. The circumstances are different now, so you need to pick based on a focus on your upcoming divorce. Stick to these characteristics and you will be on the right path with the right professional.

  1. There are two facets to experience. The first is overall experience as a real estate professional. Secondly, you are looking for experience working with divorce situations. Some realtors have this listed on their website. You can narrow your search via the web by including divorce in your search.
  2. Divorce training. Similar to experience, there are specific seminars or training sessions that realtors can attend to help them work with divorcing couples and their property. If you find a large field of realtors that cite divorce experience, see if any cite relevant training to narrow the search further.
  3. Sales record. You want a realtor that knows how to make money selling houses. Sales record is really what counts. Look for someone who has a proven track record of sales, including sales in your neighborhood’s price range.
  4. Knowledge of the area. Remember, you are hiring this professional to help you sell your current marital home, but you may also want them to help you find that next home for your new life. Both areas require a solid understanding of the local market.
  5. Demonstrates no bias. More than likely, your professional will be working with both you and your ex to sell the home. You have a right to expect neutrality from your realtor, and so does your ex. So don’t plan to let your cousin’s husband handle the sale.
  6. Rapport. Just as with your lawyer, you need to be concerned about whether your realtor “fits” with you. You will be working with them often, reviewing many details about your home, and seeking a common approach to moving the home on the market. If the realtor doesn’t “fit” with you, the relationship and result will be unfavorable and stressful for you.

Emotions are going to wrap their way around so many decisions during divorce. Don’t let the headache of dividing the family home unnecessarily consume precious energy. Hire a realtor, get that burden off your shoulders and move on to the next issue.

What happened to the family home in your divorce? Tell us in the comments below.

 

If you are a Real Estate Agent who is interested in providing services to clients facing divorce, we’d like to help you by connecting you with the Guyvorce Community. Because every little bit helps. We know. We’ve been there.

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(c) Can Stock Photo / Feverpitched

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