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Documentary highlights the inequities of child support

Advocacy groups have long claimed that child support systems in Arizona and around the country are disproportionately harsh on poor fathers, and these arguments are supported by research from the Urban Institute. According to the think tank, fathers who report no income or have earnings of less than $10,000 a year owe 70 percent of the nation's delinquent child support. Critics have also claimed that the way child support is awarded and collected in the U.S. is inherently racist.

These issues are addressed in a recently released documentary called "Where's Daddy." The film reveals how poor fathers who have never been in trouble with the law can find themselves behind bars after falling behind on court-ordered child support payments. The documentary also points out that the vast majority of the fathers who find themselves in such situations are African-Americans.

According to the filmmakers, poor fathers often fail to meet their child support obligations because they are unable to afford legal representation when their cases are heard. Furthermore, many are not aware that they can petition the courts to have unreasonably burdensome child support orders modified. The documentary argues that the media coverage of child support often singles black fathers out for criticism and stigmatizes them as irresponsible, unreliable and uncaring.

Experienced family law attorneys may urge parents involved in child custody or support disputes to remember that the welfare of the children involved should be the first priority. Legal counsel could seek to negotiate child support arrangements in a cooperative manner and suggest that they be revisited on a regular basis or when the financial situation of one or both of the parents changes. When noncustodial parents refuse to meet their obligations, however, attorneys could take all available legal steps to ensure that custodial parents receive the financial support that they're entitled to.

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