Deadbeat Daddy: Defying the Odds and Getting Child Support

By Melissa Chapman

After leaving an abusive marriage, Elaine Garretson, author of Deadbeat Daddy, spent decades petitioning the states of Virginia, and later New Mexico, for child support for her daughter Michelle. Unfortunately, her efforts were met with indifference and sometimes contempt by a deadbeat enforcement system. Her case was labeled a worst-case scenario. The obliging parent could not be located. When he was located, he showed no legal income or assets. He was also residing in a state with statutes of limitations on the enforcement of support. In January 2007, after 32 years, she finally began receiving the overdue support with interest. Her case established a legal precedent.
“In telling my daughter Michelle’s story, I’ve put a name and a face on a problem that is overwhelming,” says Garretson who spent over $4,000 of her own money to ensure the publication of her book and intentionally published it in paperback to make it more affordable for those who need it most. “My daughter (like all children) did not deserve to be abandoned by her father to a life of poverty and illness with no emotional or financial support from him. She was not some throwaway object to be discarded because her existence was inconvenient to him. Moreover, she certainly did not deserve to have him speak to her 30 years later with no remorse or acceptance of responsibility for his actions.”
However, Deadbeat Daddy is much more than a manual on collecting child support it is also about Garretson’s journey of self-empowerment and victory against overwhelming odds. And although Garretson initially sought child support to provide Michelle with the basic necessities of life, what pushed her to continue was the extent of the failure of the enforcement system.
“After my daughter was grown, my goal of obtaining support remained the same but my reasons changed,” says Garretson. “I knew that I could not change Michelle’s past or what she had experienced. However, I felt that if I continued in my efforts with my case, I could possibly change the future for other little girls and boys. I wanted to support, inspire, and empower other custodial parents so that they could benefit from my efforts. I documented everything I did, all my successful actions and the ones that were setbacks, in order to short circuit other custodial parents’ journeys through this bureaucratic system.”
Even though the necessary laws pertaining to Garretson’s case are in place, the laws are often not being enforced. Unfortunately, the child support enforcement system in this country remains severely inadequate. Under the current legal system, getting delinquent support payments to children can take years.
“Many individuals within the enforcement system still do not know the steps to take to enforce an interstate support order, such as mine,” says Garretson. “Hopefully, because my case was successfully prosecuted it will make it easier in the future for mothers to receive support from fathers who have chosen to circumvent the system.”
Garretson offers single Mothers these five tips to help them work through the system in their attempt to get child support payments from a Deadbeat Daddy.
1. Even in a broken system, perseverance is the best weapon in your arsenal. You must maintain consistent and frequent communication with your child support enforcement worker. If you are not satisfied with the progress of your case, do not be afraid to go to the next level of management, or higher. Document all of your communications, written or verbal.
2. Gather as much information about the obliging parent as possible; employment history, names and addresses of family and close friends, association memberships, etc. This will assist your caseworker in locating an absent parent and/or uncovering assets
3. Educate yourself on the federal laws and the laws of your state. Do not assume your caseworker is fully informed. Many caseworkers have thousands of clients.
4. Don’t be afraid to go to higher levels if your case is not progressing.
5. If your state enforcement agency fails to collect your support, consider seeking the services of a reputable private support enforcement agency.
“Child support is about supporting children,” says Garretson. It is not a gift to a child and their custodial parent. It is not an unjust debt levied upon an obliging parent. It should not be predicated upon the relationship between the parents of a child. Child Support is the responsibility of every parent to support his or her children.”

Click here to get a copy of Elaine Garrestosn’s book, Deadbeat Daddy.


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