Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.

Dr. Sanford Braver:
"Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths"

  • Myth 1: Divorced Dads Are Deadbeat Dads

    "Where would such a damning belief arise from? From the most respected data gathering organization in the country, the U.S. Census Bureau ..."

    "First, similarly to the limitation of the U.S. Census Bureau survey on child-support compliance, Furstenburg's analysis (ff) does not distinguish between never-married families and the divorced families."

    "Virtually all the researchers who arrived at the conclusion that fathers are over whelmingly not paying child support used only one source of data in arriving at their findings: the custodial mothers."

  • Myth 2: Divorced Dads Are Runaway Dads:

    "This myth spins as follows: After divorce, fathers inevitably lose interest in their children, proving the old saying 'Out of sight, out of mind.' ... This myth can be largely attributed to one of the most influential sociologists in this country, Frank Furstenburg, Ph.D."

  • Myth 3: Divorced Fathers Impoverish Their Former Wives and Children

    This belief grew primarily out of the hugely influential 1985 book, "The Divorce Revolution: The unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America, by well-respected sociologist Lenore Weitzman, Ph.D., which purported to show that women (and children) suffered a 73% decline in their standard of living post-divorce, while men enjoyed a 42 percent increase."

    Having learned after dealing with more than 3000 Dads and second families that the "deadbeat dad" label is so odious to Fathers, DA*DI offers two tables demonstrating that this obscene myth is absolutely false:
    • Table 1: From Dr. Sander's Book: A post-divorce analysis
    • Table 2: From DA*DI: A post-divorce (Iowa) comparative analysis
    In one of the many anecdotes Dr. Braver shares, he tells of attending a 1988 conference at Arizona State on child support collections. Dr. Braver decided to comment on the problem of "trusting official records", "how official database statistics can be misleading" and then he provided his own results:

    "At this point, the moderator stood up and said, 'You know, I've heard about your findings. Our panel was discussing this very issue, of differences between mother's and father's answers, over lunch. And what we concluded was if the mother tells you one thing and the father tells you something else, then the father is a goddamned liar.'

    I was so flabbergasted, I could think of no response and sat down."

  • Myth 4: Divorce Settlements Tilt Unfairly in Favor of Divorced Fathers

    "This belief is fueled by the writings of several respected gender scholars (emphasis added) ... who have each come to the conclusion that fathers are favored in divorce settlements ... because laws ... are written by men for men."

  • Myth 5: Divorced Fathers Have It Easy Emotionally After Divorce; Only Their Ex-Wives and Children are Distressed

    "Fathers are Portrayed as personally fulfilled after divorce, in marked contrast to the mounting depression and gloom that envelops their overburdened ex-wives - and their troubled kids. ... it is in fact mothers who fare substantially better emotionally than fathers."

    D.F.S. -
    See DA*DI's: The Disenfranchised Father Syndrome

  • Myth 6: Fathers Initiate Most of the Family Breakups, Abandoning Their Families and Their Responsibilities

    "In this portrait, bad dads quickly lose interest in being faithful to one wife and working hard to preserve the family unit. While wives sacrifice everything for the betterment of the husbands and children, many fathers are just too immature to handle the responsibilities in the same way."

    "The 'dirty little secret' of divorce research: The result that women initiate the preponderance (63 - 75%) of modern divorces is hardly unique to our investigation ... Rather, there is not a single study which doesn't find almost the same proportions. ... Few policymakers in the divorce arena know or even suspect the finding."

    At DA*DI we have researched the myths which Dr. Braver so emminently refutes for the past five years. To his results we would like to offer these additional findings:

    It seems that the child support recovery program (IV-D) has lost its constitutional perspective as elaborated by the Supreme Court as recently as 1983 and later, i.e.;

    "A parent's right to the preservation of his relationship with his child derives from the fact that the parent's achievement of a rich and rewarding life is likely to depend significantly on his ability to participate in the rearing of his children. A child's corresponding right to protection from interference in the relationship derives from the psychic importance to him of being raised by a loving, responsible, reliable adult." Franz v. United States, 707 F.2d 582, 595-599 (U.S. Ct. App. D.C. Circuit 1983)

    The following excerpts from a 1996 publication of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee makes several important points. (1) The federal government has been steadily expanding its role in enforcing child support, without regard for non-custodial parental access to children, since 1975. (2) The program's success, as measured by growth, is largely illusory because it has grown by expanding its umbrella to include private collection services, and non-AFDC parents. (3) The federal-state child support recovery effort has had little or no impact on reducing poverty. (4) The greatest incentive for the states to continue the program may have nothing to do with a concern for "the children". This telling sentence in the report says it all: "And yet, most States, including those that spend up to three or four times as much per dollar of collections as more efficient States, still make a profit on the program." For the State of Iowa, in 1994, this amounted to a tidy "profit" of $12.4 million - which it can spend any way it chooses.

    The 1975 legislation (Public Law 93-647) added a new part D to title IV of the Social Security Act. This statute, as amended, authorizes Federal matching funds to be used for enforcing support obligations by locating nonresident parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support awards, and collecting money. Since 1981, child support agencies have also been permitted to collect spousal support on behalf of custodial parents, and in 1984 they were required to petition for medical support as part of most child support orders.

    Basic responsibility for administering the program is left to States, but the Federal Government plays a major role in: dictating the major design features of State programs; funding, monitoring and evaluating State programs; providing technical assistance; and giving direct assistance to States in locating absent parents and obtaining support payments. The program requires the provision of child support enforcement services for both AFDC and non-AFDC families and requires States to publicize frequently, through public service announcements, the availability of child support enforcement services, together with information about the application fee and a telephone number or address to obtain additional information. Local family and domestic courts and administrative agencies handle the actual establishment and enforcement of child support obligations according to Federal, State, and local laws.

    With minor exceptions, the child support program does not provide services aimed at other issues between parents, such as property settlement, custody, and access to children. These issues are handled by local courts with the help of private attorneys. ...

    Clearly, although the IV-D program has been growing steadily since 1978, and although its performance on many measures of child support has been improving, the improvement appears to have had only modest impact on the national picture. How can these two trends be reconciled?

    The last panel of table 9-9 suggests an answer. This panel shows collections by the Federal-State program as a percentage of overall national child support payments. In 1978, less than one-fourth of child support payments were collected through the IV-D program. This percentage, however, has increased every year since 1978. By 1991, more than 60 percent of all child support payments were made through the IV-D program. The implication of this trend is that the IV-D program may be recruiting more and more cases from the private sector, bringing them into the public sector, providing them with subsidized services (or substituting Federal spending for State spending), but not greatly improving child support collections. Whatever the explanation, it seems that improved effectiveness of the IV-D program has not led to significant improvement of the Nation's child support performance.

    As measured either by expenditures or total collections, the Federal-State program has grown about tenfold since 1978.

    When Congress enacted the child support program in 1975, the floor debate shows that members of the House and Senate supported the program primarily because retaining AFDC collections would help offset AFDC expenditures.

    The point here is that although AFDC collections are growing, non-AFDC collections are growing much faster. And since the State and Federal Governments receive virtually no direct reimbursement for non-AFDC expenditures, the child support program loses more and more money every year.

    As shown in table 9-1 above, AFDC collections have in fact been rising every year since 1978, growing from less than $0.5 billion in that year to nearly $2.7 billion in 1995. Equally important, the child support agencies collected a level of payments on behalf of AFDC parents that equalled 13.6 percent of all AFDC benefits in 1995.

    Of course, it will be recalled that despite this impressive rise in AFDC collections and cost offset, the overall impact of the child support program on taxpayers is negative. As shown in table 9-5, taxpayers lost over $0.8 billion on the program in 1995 and the loss has increased every year since 1988.

    By 1989 the overall ``savings'' in the combined program went negative. For the first time that year, Federal losses exceeded State gains--by $77 million. The net losses have increased almost every year, reaching $826 million in 1995.

    The point here is that although AFDC collections are growing, non-AFDC collections are growing much faster. And since the State and Federal Governments receive virtually no direct reimbursement for non-AFDC expenditures, the child support program loses more and more money every year. Why, then, critics ask, should the Federal Government encourage greater expenditures by providing incentives for non-AFDC collections. Ignoring for the moment possible social benefits from the non-AFDC Program and based entirely on a public finance perspective, some critics argue that non-AFDC incentives encourage inefficiency.

    (NOTE:) Although the number of families with a mother who has divorced has tripled since 1970, the number with a mother who has never married has increased fifteenfold from 248,000 to 3,829,000.

    Another good measure of child support performance is the impact of collections on poverty. In 1991, 1.26 million (24 percent) of the 5.3 million women and men rearing children alone who were supposed to receive child support payments had incomes below the poverty level. If full payment had been made to these custodial parents and if none of these families had received welfare payments, only 140,000 of them would have received enough income from child support payments to put them above the poverty level (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995, pp. 7 & 26). Thus, the potential of child support to greatly reduce poverty appears to be modest.

    Defenders of child support financing respond by pointing out that allowing States to profit from the program makes it very popular with State policymakers who control funding of the State share of expenditures. Without financing arrangements favorable to State interests, according to this view, the child support program would not have posted the impressive gains that have characterized the program since its inception in 1975.

    The method of financing child support enforcement has received considerable attention in recent years. Perhaps the most important issue is that States have little incentive to control their administrative spending. The last column of table 9-4 presents a measure of State program efficiency obtained by dividing total collections by total administrative expenses. The table shows the dramatic differences among States in how much child support is collected for each dollar of administrative expenditure--a crude measure of efficiency-- ranging from only $1.78 in Arizona to $8.58 in Pennsylvania. And yet, most States, including those that spend up to three or four times as much per dollar of collections as more efficient States, still make a profit on the program.

    Table 9-5 shows one consequence of child support's financing system. The first two columns of the table show the net impact of program financing on the Federal and State governments respectively. The Federal Government has lost money on child support every year since 1979, and the losses have grown every year since 1984. Overall, losses have jumped sharply from $43 million in 1979 to $1.257 billion in 1995.

    State governments by contrast have made a profit on the program every year. In 1979, the first year for which data are available, States cleared $244 million on child support. By 1995, States cleared $431 million. As Federal losses have mounted, State profits have increased.

    - [1996 Green Book] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office Online via GPO Access]

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