For the last two decades the image of the “deadbeat dad” – a father who has the income to pay child support but refuses to do so – has dominated public policy discussions regarding child support in Colorado and around the country. A crackdown on those fathers has largely worked, according to advocates who want to change the child support system. The problem now is that nationwide there are large numbers of men who simply don’t have the money to pay child support.

The current child support system was set up in the 1970s – when a man with no college education could get a factory job and earn middle-class wages. That world is gone. Today, the majority of the nation’s $113 billion of child support debt is owed by men who earn less than $10,000 per year.

Advocates for change argue that some policies, like jailing men for failure to pay child support, only make the problem worse. Another problem is that many jurisdictions impute income to fathers who don’t earn enough, basing child support obligations on what the court thinks they should be able to earn, rather than what they actually earn.

In Colorado, a parent who is unable to make court-ordered child support payments can apply to the court for a modification. If the parent can demonstrate a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that has reduced their income by 10 percent or more, the court can reduce the payment obligation. A Colorado parent who is facing this situation can benefit from getting more information about the available legal options.

Source: NPR.org, “From Deadbeat To Dead Broke: The ‘Why’ Behind Unpaid Child Support,” Jennifer Ludden, Nov. 20, 2015