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Film examines child support system's impact on fathers

Charlotte fathers dealing with the child support and custody system after divorce can face difficulties, especially those confronting poverty and social racism. A study by the Urban Institute noted that 70 percent of all child support debt in the United States originates from individuals who have no reported income or make less than $10,000 a year. This means that many stereotypes about deadbeat fathers may be false. The inability to pay may rank far higher as a cause of child support debt than an unwillingness to do so.

Stereotypes about the child support system after divorce can be particularly damaging to African American fathers, according to the director of a documentary that explores the relationship between child support orders, family courts and African American fathers. "Where's Daddy?" looks at the relationship between the child support system and African American families, including the negative role that child support enforcement can play. The director noted that black men are often portrayed in media as uncaring fathers who are behind on their child support payments, leading to negative beliefs about the role of African American fathers.

The film interviews fathers, mothers and attorneys about the child support system and its impact on children. It also explores the spiraling results that can follow after fathers go to family court unprepared and unrepresented. This is a particular concern for people in poverty who cannot afford legal counsel. The effects can escalate after fathers who cannot meet their child support obligations face jail time, job loss or other consequences.

Legal representation can be critical for fathers going through a divorce or negotiating the child support and custody system as single dads. A family law attorney can help a father seek child custody or modify a child support order in light of the loss of his job or a change to his employment situation.

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