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Negative effects of child support on African-American families

In 2015, an African-American man was fatally shot as he ran away from a police officer in South Carolina. According to his brother, he attempted to evade arrest due to unpaid child support. Many men who make less than $10,000 per year face jail, loss of driving privileges or other consequences because they cannot afford to pay the amount determined by the court. African-American men in New Jersey and elsewhere in the country are disproportionately represented in this demographic.

A new documentary sheds light on the issues that affect African-American fathers. In putting together this documentary, the film maker learned that the current child support system sometimes separates families rather than help ensure children have financial support from both parents. When poor fathers go to court because they've gotten behind in their payments, they are less likely to be prepared or have an attorney to advise them. A father who goes to jail for being delinquent in child support may lose his only source of income and get further behind as a result.

Without stable employment, it may be challenging for a father to financially support two households. This could also make it harder for fathers to visit their children or maintain a joint custody arrangement. Fathers who want to be involved in their children's lives may have a difficult time doing so when they have overwhelming child support debt.

It may be possible for a father to get their child support adjusted to reflect their current income. With the help of an attorney who focuses on child custody and support issues, a father may have his monthly payment reduced to one he can afford. Making payments in full and on time might help a father avoid jail, license suspension or fees associated with late child support.

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