is a pejorative term referring to parents of either gender that have freely chosen not to be a financially supportive parent in their children's lives. Primarily used in the US, the gender-specific Deadbeat dad
and Deadbeat mom
are commonly used by the child support agency to refer to men and women who have fathered or mothered a child but fail to pay child support ordered by a family law
court or statutory agency such as the Child Support Agency
. The real definition is an unrestricted parent treated equally who chooses not to be a regular or supportive parent in his or her child or children's life or lives.
Child support arrears
According to the US Census Bureau
, 47.3% of custodial mothers received all child support that they were owed and 77.5% received some. Additionally, 46.2% of custodial fathers received all child support that they were owed and 74.5% received some.
Child support assessments are made based on a variety of formulae, and vary from state to state in the United States. According to one study 38% of Illinois non-custodial parents not paying child-support said they lacked the money to pay. 23% used non-payment to protest a lack of visitation rights. 14% complained of no accountability over the spending of their child support money, while 13% said they didn't want their child or children and 12% denied parentage. (See paternity fraud.) Additionally, some non-custodial parents who have been subject to acrimonious divorces often see these payments as unfair and excessive. Some custodial parents who have been victimized in abusive relationships view the avoidance of child support payments as another means of their spouses perpetuating the abuse.
Legislation in the US
The U.S. law commonly known as the Bradley Amendment
was passed in 1986 to automatically trigger a non expiring lien
whenever child support becomes past-due.
- The law overrides any state's statute of limitations.
- The law disallows any judicial discretion, even from bankruptcy judges.
- The law requires that the payment amounts be maintained without regard for the physical capability of the person owing child support (the obligor) to make the notification or regard for their awareness of the need to make the notification.
Many U.S. states have passed laws that allows the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state to use its information to find the non-compliant parent and call them to account for their actions.
There are now many collections-oriented sites on the Internet that mention or highlight deadbeat parents, some even showing mug shots and marking the photos as "found" in the style of the FBI's "most wanted" list.
Action taken against defaulting parents
In the United States, many states suspend an individual's licenses (i.e. driver's license
, business license
license) if that individual has significant arrearage
in support payments or does not consistently pay support. This authority does not extend to professionals who receive licensure through non-governmental agencies
. In 2000, the state of Tennessee
revoked the driver’s licenses of 1,372 people who collectively owed more than $13 million USD
in child support. In Texas non-custodial
parents behind more than three months
in child-support payments can have court-ordered
payments deducted from their wages, can have federal income tax
refund checks, lottery
winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources intercepted by child support enforcement agencies, can have licenses (including hunting
and fishing licenses) suspended, and a judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support. However, on September 4
, the Supreme Court
upheld a law allowing state agencies to revoke driver's licenses of parents seriously delinquent in child support obligations. And in the case of United States of America v. Sage
, U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Cir., 1996), the court upheld the constitutionality
of a law allowing federal fines and up to two years imprisonment for a person willfully failing to pay more than $5,000 in child support over a year or more when said child resides in a different state from that of the non-custodial parent.
The term “Dead-beat parent” is a descriptive term used more by Child Support advocacy groups than by Child Support Agencies. Child Support Agencies described clients either as in compliance
, not in compliance
or criminally non compliant
. Compliance is judged by the paying party's performance in meeting the terms of the Child Support court order. However, some local authorities have mounted campaigns targeting so called "deadbeats".
Opposition to the use of the term
The men's rights
activist Glenn Sacks
regularly publicizes situations in which government authorities target so called deadbeat parents, noting that jailing
people for non-payment (whether men
public campaigns naming and shaming
such people can be ineffective and fraught with error where the identification is incorrect.
The late men's rights activist Wilbur Street was an activist in the father's rights movement. Wilbur lost his high paying job when he developed Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as "Lou Gehrig’s disease"). The New Jersey system ignored Wilbur's disease and imputed a high income to him, despite his level of disability. In 2005, Wilbur was jailed for a child support arrearage based upon his imputed income. He died in a New Jersey jail on the second day of his incarceration from complications of ALS. Wilbur's daughter has taken up Wilbur's campaign and has become an activist in the cause of father's Rights.
Shared Parenting Advocate Stephen Rene has also been lobbying State and Federal Legislators since 2001 to share the message that comes from sharing positive parenting results. The United States Congress responded with the new Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act. This balances the legislation passed in 1996 on Child Support Enforcement for parents that should not be discriminated against based on race, gender, religion or parenting status.
- The Deadbeat Dad Myth: Strategies and Research in Defense of Men in Divorce by William N. Bender and Renet L. Bender, The University Of Georgia, Institute of Government. NBA Legend [(Larry Bird)] has been referred to as a "Deadbeat Dad".
- Shackelford, T. K., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., & Schmitt, D. P. (2005). An evolutionary perspective on why men refuse or reduce their child support payments. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 297-306. Full text
- Warsak, Richard A. (1992). Custody Revolution: Father Custody and the Motherhood Mystique. Simon & Schuster.
- Braver, Sanford L., and O'Connell (1998). Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths. Penguine Putnam Inc., New York.
- Baskerville, Stephen (2007). Taken into Custody, The War against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family. Cumberland House, Tennessee.