The Case for Allowing Fathers to Opt Out of Paying Child Support

6 Dec

Up at Black Like Moi, the question being asked is, if a woman can choose to abort a child, can a man choose not to pay child support? Or to put it less bluntly, if having a child is a woman’s choice, is it still a man’s responsibility? I’m sorry ladies, but this issue warrants a good airing out.

For my part, I’ve always believed that the divvying up of reproductive rights, and by that I mean men having none, is the main reason that some men feel no responsibility toward their kids. In their minds, the mother chose – on her own, usually without or against his input – to have the child so she bears the sole responsibility of caring for it. As a friend reminded me, you have to ask yourself; what if a woman was forced to carry a child to term against her will, what kind of mother would she be? Point being, anytime one parent is forced into that role against their will, problems ensue. It’s a breeding ground for resentment.

This question of choice, or lack thereof, is poisoning the well. Women have  the right to control what happens with their bodies, but since what happens inside a woman’s body can lead to a child, isn’t it fair to ask whether a man has the right to control when (or if) he becomes a father?

A man’s only control with regard to whether he’ll become a parent is at the point of conception, and granted, if both men and women exhibited more self-control here, this whole discussion would be moot. But the point is that although it takes two people to get pregnant, it is the woman’s choice to remain that way. This isn’t politically correct, I know, but it is an underlying cause for child abandonment.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. And so you can’t discuss what’s best for the child once it gets here without addressing how the choices were made before the child was born, or should I say, who held the authority to make the choice of whether or not the child even made it here at all.

To be fair, it does seem that the man should either a) have a say in whether the pregnancy is terminated or b) have an avenue to opt out financially (at least to some degree). I don’t like either of these choices but when I think of it only in terms of rights, it does seem clear that there is an erosion of the rights of men in the reproductive arena. Once the child arrives, the courts make provisions to secure the child’s best interest. And I totally get that. But again, at whose expense?

In our society women have the right to choose and men do not.  But society has no problem using all of the state’s resources to enforce the father’s parental obligations once the child is born. That, to me, seems a bit lopsided. It would seem that fairness would dictate that a man should have more reproductive rights, and if he can’t have more rights, then he should have less responsibility.

And for those who are undoubtedly going to accuse me of giving men an opt out button, all I can say is – look around. Men are opting out at record numbers already. The question is how do we bring them back? In my estimation, we could begin by being fair.

We women have always made the case that we own the rights to our bodies, point blank and period. It does seem that we prematurely ended the discussion. It’s time to start talking again.

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23 Responses to “The Case for Allowing Fathers to Opt Out of Paying Child Support”

  1. Axiomatic December 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    A way to incriminate more men. Technically, the issue is a private matter, that involves a man’s economical ability, with the ‘courts’ ordering him to pay 17% of his earnings. When the man looses his job, that amount continues to grow into a debt most men (due to a crumbling economy and lack of employment) can ill afford to pay. What follows are warrants and the lost of drivers’ license, pass port etc… Damn! The kid becomes a crutch for the racist courts and a hateful woman to harass the man for twenty years! Damn! It’s not about the kid, although it should be. No. Its about that selfish lady.

    • Charles McGee December 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      I have a nephew who is under the gun because his adult child was a recipient, via her mother, of public benefits. He is disabled and is 58 years old, receives what the State of California leaves from his due. This is a person who crawled down a silo to disarm a nuclear missle that was loose in the tube. The base commander knew how to do nothing but declare a world wide emergency. Not one person in Rapid City, South Dakota, crawled down that silo but him. He understood the system more than did the base commander.

      I said that to say this: We are trapped in a social system not of our making. We have to perform and conform to the standards of White people. No one told us exactly how the social system worked when we were growing up. We found out later. When these uninitiated ladies listen to their mothers or aunts or grandmothers or cousins or friends, they go to the local welfare office and spill their guts. I was a social worker in the family services unit of a state system so I speak from experience. Remember, when we speak of an issue like marriage we are talking about a contract with the state in associated with two or more parties. It is a legal sanction that has nothing to do with how people feel about each other. Hence, we act like there is something sacred about how the state sees relationships. Again, the uninitiated never have a clue and create collateral damage without knowing the difference.

      Last statement. If a person has been in the public welfare system because of her decisions why would anyone take her word for anything. These young women are listening to their mothers and others close who are clueless. Why else would they be on welfare? I have yet to be in a setting where social organization was the topic.

      There might come to pass a gathering the weekend of February 11, 2012, in either Los Angeles or Atlanta, to discuss Blackness. We had such a gathering in Gary, IN, in 1972-BLACK POLITICAL CONVENTION.

  2. Charles McGee December 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Momma’s baby, Daddy’s maybe. In some places these issue has been successfully managed for generations. Management is a social convention that is chosen.

  3. Anonymous December 7, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    Why then can’t man CONTROL himself. Consider that EVERY act of sex will result in a baby. DO you want to have this woman and her family in your life forever? Then having sex of any kind (protected or unprotected) should be serious business. What about the guy that has several baby mama’s is it all on the woman? Why is this only a woman’s act. What about the man that doesn’t pay child support but when your kid is famous they show up with their hands out (ie Shaq, Martin,Lamar, D.L.’s absent daddy’s showing up). What then Mama and step dad did all the work but the one that did the deed and didn’t do a thing what something. Everybody be responsible period because the life you make DID NOT ASK TO BE HERE

    • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

      “Why then can’t man CONTROL himself.”

      Women are not obligated to ‘control themselves’ to avoid parental responsibilities, because if they get pregnant, they can have abortions. They can also abandon children at safe havens or put them up for adoptions. Mothers have these rights, and fathers do not.

      This is a sexist obligation and perception of the situation.

      ” What about the guy that has several baby mama’s is it all on the woman? Why is this only a woman’s act?”

      Yes, it’s all on the women. It’s a women’s act because only women currently have the agency to make a choice to have an abortion. Men do not have their finger on the abortion button, so they should not be at fault for children they don’t have equal capacity to prevent.

      “What about the man that doesn’t pay child support but when your kid is famous they show up with their hands out (ie Shaq, Martin,Lamar, D.L.’s absent daddy’s showing up).”

      That’s irrelevant. Shaq is not obligated to give his father money. The courts do not mandate that parents receive children’s money. This is a completely moot objection.

      “What then Mama and step dad did all the work but the one that did the deed and didn’t do a thing what something.”

      Again: Shaq is completely free to recognize his mother/step-father and help them out financially and he is under no obligation to give money to an absentee father.

      Irrelevant. You’re off topic.

      “Everybody be responsible period because the life you make DID NOT ASK TO BE HERE”

      The onus of responsibility is on women, because they have the exclusive agency to terminate pregnancies and give babies away. Men lack this agency. Men do not consent in the same months-long way that women do. Men can have their sperm stolen from them and used in ways they do not consent to use them.

      This is not consent. It is rape.

  4. Kimberly Solomon December 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    You know what, I , (as a female, and a mother of five), can understand the point of view from this article. There is no manual from the state telling us how to conceive, parent, abort and or deliver a baby. I can actually see how the choices we as women make, and how it un-equally disadvantages the male populous. Most of our knowledge and understanding, and ways of thinking has been brought down through centuries; (old school). Today, laws are being changed to meet the thoughts and newly formed laws of todays society; maybe this one too is on the horizon. In my case tho, the choice to conceive and carry my children, and subsequent births was a joint decision, so the financial responsibility was split 50/50.
    Kim

    • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

      “In my case tho, the choice to conceive and carry my children, and subsequent births was a joint decision, so the financial responsibility was split 50/50.”

      I argue that until men’s consent is recognized, until we are free from parental obligations unless we consent to them, that supposedly “joint” decisions actually are not.

      If a man will be forced to support a child whether he agrees to or not, we can not respect any past so-called agreements to conceive or support children by males.

      Only when men are given the right to abdicate that forced responsibility, to opt-in as parents, only then can they truly make an agreement.

      I expect many will. I expect many will not. But that is when the truth will come out.

  5. denise December 8, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I’ve never received any assistance from my “sperm donor”. I refer to him in this regard because that’s all he ever did and nothing else. My mother never used the courts to force him into doing what he should have done – be responsible. Since no one forced him to “do the do” then he should have been man enough or human enough to share the financial and emotional responsibilities of parenting. If men don’t want to be financially and emotionally available to their children then they should take the time and make the effort to utilize proper and effective birth control.

    • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      “I’ve never received any assistance from my “sperm donor”. I refer to him in this regard because that’s all he ever did and nothing else.”

      Parents, mothers or fathers, are not inherently good things. Calling your sperm-donor your father should not be taken to imply that he was a good parent (or that he was present to guard and provide for you).

      “My mother never used the courts to force him into doing what he should have done – be responsible.”

      You are assuming your father was not responsible. That is sexist of you. The ‘irresponsibility’ of males is merely having sex. Women are more irresponsible in having undesired children because they do not have abortions.

      “Since no one forced him to “do the do” then he should have”

      If we obligate men to support children merely because they were not raped (note: even men who are raped have to pay child support) then shouldn’t we also obligate women to support children conceived? Yet we do not, because women can have abortions after conception to avoid that responsibility.

      Double standards.

      “been man enough or human enough”

      That’s stupid. Humans, males, females, these are neutral terms without positive or negative moral attachments. Someone is not less human if they do bad things. Someone is not less of a man if they do bad things.

      “If men don’t want to be financially and emotionally available to their children then they should take the time and make the effort to utilize proper and effective birth control.”

      This is an unfair expectation: women who do not utilize effective birth control pre-conception can make up for that by taking post-conception steps such as abortion, or post-birth methods such as abandonment and adoption, both of which are legally protected.

    • Jakes May 19, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      Unfortunately little boy, men and women both dislike using condoms because they decrease sexual pleasure. Bring out a cheap pill for men and unwanted pregnancies will be a non issue

  6. Charles McGee December 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    This dialogue is getting closer to a time when we can openly talk about all issues that impact humankind. Who can give license to another is a fundamental proposition worth discussing. When can one reclaim that authority is the other half of the equation. This is becoming a scholarly venue. We have moved beyond rants. Jubilee 2012 is coming.

    • SMG December 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

      ITA with Denise.BOTH people should be held accountable. If you lay down with someone without using protection, you should know that there is a very high chance that it will result in pregnancy. Common sense should tell anyone that and I don’t know why it should even be a topic of discussion. The children don’t ask to come here, nor is it there fault how they came to be, planned or, most likely unplanned. It’s not about FORCING a man to take financial care of a child proven to be his that he didn’t want, it’s about being a man and stepping up to his responsibility. The woman who gets pregnant for the first time or the 5th time by a man who has other kids he isn’t taking care of needs to understand that she has to live with her choices as well. It’s simple, birth control is cheaper than taking care of a child for 18 plus years.

      • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

        “BOTH people should be held accountable. If you lay down with someone without using protection, you should know that there is a very high chance that it will result in pregnancy.”

        That’s irrelevant. Undertaking an activity with a high chance of accidents doesn’t change the fact that it’s an accident. This would be like denying the right to medical care for someone if they tried to do a backflip and fell on their head, because they should’ve known the likelihood of bailing the move and getting hurt.

        Women are NOT held accountable for pregnancies. They have the right to abortions. The cost for the agency of choice, the right to be or not be a parent (which men lack) should be parental responsibility if the choice is made to procreate.

        “I don’t know why it should even be a topic of discussion. ”

        It’s a topic because men and women are not equal in biology and women’s agency over pregnancy (to keep or to abort) is contrast with men’s lack of agency over birth control and parental rights when it comes to the pregnancy period.

        “The children don’t ask to come here, nor is it there fault how they came to be, planned or, most likely unplanned.”

        People are not disputing this. Please don’t waste time with obvious stuff.

        “It’s not about FORCING a man to take financial care of a child proven to be his that he didn’t want”

        Actually, that’s EXACTLY what this is about. Men are obligated to pay. If they do not, their wealth will be taken from them. If they don’t have wealth to take, they will be jailed. This is debtor’s prison and slavery.

        “It’s about being a man and stepping up to his responsibility.”

        The expression ‘being a man’ is sexist. Do we tell women to “be a woman” and not have abortions? This is exactly the same thing. After all, if it’s a man’s ‘responsibility’ to financially support any conception that results from his sperm (regardless of whether or not he consents to become a parent) then why isn’t it a woman’s ‘responsibility’ to keep and care for any conception resulting from her egg?

        “The woman who gets pregnant for the first time or the 5th time by a man who has other kids he isn’t taking care of needs to understand that she has to live with her choices as well.”

        I agree. But currently our system doesn’t force women to confront their choices. By mandating that a man support her children, that the government or welfare support her children, we are taking the responsibility of support AWAY from her. Women retain their agency, but not the consequences associated with misusing that agency.

  7. saquan jones December 8, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    How To Fix The Economy With Child Support Reform

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/saquan02/how_to_fix_the_economy_with_child_support_reform.html

  8. Charles McGee December 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    The estimated cost of rearing ONE child is about $220,000-and that is with out college expenses. The decision to take on the task is a major decision that impact a person for a long time. Should the result be a child disabled it is a lifetime proposition. Until an offspring is able to be independent the parent is responsible-that could mean cradle to grave.

    • Anonymous December 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      A man can be forced into this $220,000 deal but may not be able to get a mortgage for half that amount. Ironic.

      • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

        One would think having an informed consent form, a contract, written for such a thing, would be very important, but no, ejaculation is the contract for us. That is the value of our voice.

  9. Crys December 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Reading this was VERY disappointing because WE ALL have a choice.I was a teenage mom and I clearly told my children’s father…I’m NOT on birth control and I will have my baby if ever I get pregnant. We still continued to be sexually active with and without protection. He played a part in their lives occasionally, then changed his mind after 4 years because I wasn’t with him anymore. So now he doesn’t feel the NEED to be a parent anymore. He never wanted to be a father BUT continued having unprotected sex with me knowing I would have my child,and then did it a second time after we already were thru. MEN’S decision should be GET FIXED if u don’t want babies!! It’ll save you money!! Trust it’s cheaper to do that,then pay child support…!!

    • Anonymous September 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      sad but true. A man’s decision should be to get fixed – which is to say you can’t trust your partner when they say ‘don’t worry, i’ll take a pill in the morning’ . In our current culture, snipping is the only way to have a choice.

      • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

        It is a harsh reality indeed sir. It just sucks that we have to do this and worry about sperm granulomas just to avoid women stealing our money for stuff we didn’t consent to.

    • tyciol December 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      “I clearly told my children’s father…I’m NOT on birth control and I will have my baby if ever I get pregnant”

      I don’t care. Men’s freedom should not rely on women being as honest as you are. Many (probably the majority) will not be.

      In your case we don’t have any evidence that this agreement occurred, either.

      In the scenario of requiring male contract: you could have demanded that this man sign a contract promising (consenting to) parental responsibilities in the case that the two of you conceive a child.

      You are not obligated to consent to sex, so you could have abstained from sex until getting such a contract of support from a man.

      “He never wanted to be a father BUT continued having unprotected sex with me knowing I would have my child”

      That doesn’t matter. You are the one who controls abortion, so children should be your responsibility. You should not become pregnant (you should use contraceptives) if you don’t want to have abortions or don’t want to support a child alone. You should have abortions if you want to have unprotected sex and don’t want to support children alone.

      You effectively want to have unprotected sex, not have abortions, yet force men into parental responsibilities when they lack the choice and agency that you have for merit of being woman.

      “MEN’S decision should be GET FIXED if u don’t want babies!! It’ll save you money!! Trust it’s cheaper to do that,then pay child support…!!”

      Here we agree. Vasectomy is a very wise choice for any man who wants to have a sex life (ejaculate) and have women anywhere near their lives.

      I would say this to men who don’t have vaginal intercourse, or even to those with exclusively homosexual relationships. Even if you’re not directly depositing your semen into a woman’s vagina, it could end up there anyway, so your best protection is to take steps to make sure the semen is free of your sperm.

      That said, I do not believe that men should be forced to do that. Men should not have to become infertile to avoid being raped into becoming a parent. Abortions have a lower rate of permanent infertility than vasectomies do, so it is more reasonable to expect women to have those.

      Women’s birth control is more reliable here. A mans’ condom can be stolen and used, it’s not fair that men have to become spermless simply to avoid rape parenthood.

      • Charles December 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Brothers and Sisters: This is an interesting dialogue. Let me add a word. Should all physically capable adults be allowed to concieve? Should two individuals come together who are socially incapable and produce an offspring likely incapable of mastering the rigors of social life? Should this troubled individual hook up with another individual lacking social capacity to be a parent, thus producing incapable children?

        Social life is so complicated. I am not sure, but I think we need the dialogue. It appears that maybe the parents of Adam Lanza of Newtown, CT, might have been incapable and produced a socially retarded individual. It is not all about money, it social mastery. There was a blog that said that the history of mass murders shows that the overwhelming majority are White males. In look at society, what does that mean in terms of social policy. Should they all be look at with suspicion-riding and walking while White, as if they are the next mass murderer? Ideas about child rearing and responsibility are social conventions. They are not absolutes. They there is so-called shared responsibility for children is the thinking of the misguided. If you examine the social history of the world you might see that the social convention is not universal. Look at the biological world and see what is there. It might surprise you.

        Charles McGee

  10. tyciol December 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Why I would oppose an opt-out system is that system still implies an inherent ‘opted in by default’ state for men.

    If we did succeed in getting opt-out rights, this would probably be accompanied by a statute of limitations (otherwise you could have fathers opting out 5 years into a child’s life, at which point a mother might have undertaken additional pregnancies).

    Another tactical problem with opt-out advocacy is I think the opposition it would receive would make it unlikely to succeed, because people would worry about the social stability of fathers with existing obligations (ones they didn’t agree to, but which have created expectations) abandoning them. Due to that, I think too many would resist.

    I think a better idea is to make parenting for fathers an ‘opt-in’ procedure. Basically like how it works with parents who adopt.

    Fathers should always inherently lack any responsibilities and any rights to their children. All rights and responsibilities should be held by mothers, as they have the most choice and agency over procreation, abortion, etc. They consent to become parents through maintaining a pregnancy 9 months, something far more decisive than merely ejaculating, which is all a man needs to do (in a state of orgasm one could argue consent is compromised in) to make it possible.

    What should happen is that a mother can sell her exclusive parental rights to their child(ren) to another parent (or parents) for the price of obligating parental responsibilities.to them. So basically, if a father wants equal rights, he must give informed consent (preferably through a combined written and video contract) to take on those responsibilities by expressing consent to parenthood (and in return, receive those rights).

    Thus it would be in the interest of women to receive that consent ahead of time before having a baby, or before becoming pregnant altogether, ideally.

    Such agreements could also be conditional. For example, a male could only agree to support a biological child sharing his DNA, for example. That way, if a woman is pregnant, and she doesn’t know who the father is, a man may not be tricked into supporting a child which is not his. Or, if a man agrees to support a future pregnancy (perhaps as a marriage clause) it would not apply to children not biologically his if he didn’t want it to.

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