Moms Can Be Deadbeats, Too

Everyone knows about fathers who fall behind on child support. People call them “deadbeats.” Deadbeat moms may escape the public eye, but they do exist.

Even though mothers are more consistently awarded custody of children by the courts, the percent of “deadbeat” moms is actually higher than that of dads. One set of census figures shows only 57 percent of moms required to pay child support – 385,000 women out of a total of 674,000 – give up some or all of the money they owe. That leaves some 289,000 “deadbeat” mothers out there. (This compares with 68 percent of dads who pay up, according to the figures.)

Some mothers who don’t have the kids simply can’t afford to pay child support since they are poorer, said Geraldine Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support. Studies show the average income for non-custodial moms is only $15,000 a year, whereas non-custodial dads average about $40,000 a year.

Men also pay much more in child support. Census Bureau statistics show fathers paid an average of $3,000 to custodial moms in 1997; women paid little over half that. Moreover, custodial mothers also get about 60 percent of what they are owed; custodial fathers only get about 48 percent.

Not only do fathers pay more when they don’t have custody, but they work more than moms who have custody. While only 7 percent of custodial moms work more than 44 hours a week, 24.5 percent of single custodial dads work more than 44 hours. And only about half as many custodial dads get government help than moms.

Men due child support tire of deadbeat moms who can’t pay the money, but the problem of deadbeat dads dwarfs deadbeat moms. Many more men than women have to pay child support, making the overall number of deadbeat dads much greater. The numbers show 4.3 million mothers out of 6.3 million who are supposed to receive child support actually get it. That leaves the alarming figure of about 2 million deadbeat dads, putting them more in the media spotlight than deadbeat moms.

Mothers are no less responsible than fathers for a child’s financial support. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or dad, you should meet your child support obligations,” says Jensen, president of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.

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