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Documentary examines shortcomings of child support system

Noncustodial parents in Tennessee often have an obligation to pay child support. Falling behind on payments can have devastating consequences on parents and children. A documentary film from Rel Dowdell called "Where's Daddy?" examines the child support system and the challenges faced by men who go into default on their support payments.

According to a study from the Urban Institute, parents who owe child support overwhelmingly lack income. About 70 percent of them either have no reported income or only earn under $10,000 a year. When people fall behind on payments, they often lose close contact with children, experience financial ruin and sometimes go to jail. The documentary looked at how these pressures cause men to self destruct from the guilt of missing payments.

Problems often begin when people go to court without a lawyer. When they change jobs, the system might reassess their support payment amounts. The change undermines their budget. A court might also take away their driver's license, which easily leads to job loss. When people are in default, jail time is possible. Incarceration makes them lose their jobs and fall farther behind on payments.

Child support payments ]are meant to help cover the every day expenses of raising children. Government guidelines determine amounts based on the income of the parents. When a person needs to go to court to either enforce a child support order or answer for missed payments, the representation of a lawyer could provide important guidance. A lawyer could present financial records for the person and strive to gain a decision from the judge that does not impose financial hardship.

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