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Documentary looks at challenges in child support system

Some fathers may not keep up child support payments because they cannot afford the amount ordered and they are unaware that it is possible to get modifications made. A documentary by the filmmaker Rel Dowdell, "Where's Daddy?", examines the child support system and its affect on African-American fathers in particular. Dowdell interviewed a number of fathers in Pennsylvania to find out what their experience had been in this regard.

An Urban Institute report found that 70 percent of delinquent child support is owed by parents who have less than $10,000 annually in reported income. Failing to pay child support can have a number of repercussions including a strained relationship with family, financial problems and even jail.

According to Dowdell, fathers in this situation feel upset and guilty. Many cannot afford an attorney, so they lack legal counsel in helping them navigate the system. They may lose their jobs if they are jailed for failing to pay child support, which puts them even further behind. They might also lose their driver's license so they are unable to find another job or see their children. It is ultimately the children who are hurt by this cycle.

Issues around child custody and child support may be among the most difficult to navigate in a divorce. Parents may struggle with the idea of spending less time with their children. They may also worry about how they will survive as a single parent or how they will pay child support. An attorney may be able to help a person better understand the system and how to seek a modification in case of changed circumstances.

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