Local News

Deadbeat Parents Story Has Two Sides

Posted June 18, 1997

— There are new reports about deadbeat parents almost daily, but there's another side to this story. In addition to the parents to don't make their child support payments, there are the parents who do pay, but don't get to see their children.

Governor Jim Hunt has been pushing to make parents take responsibility for their children. Friday he announced a plan that would require unmarried fathers to claim their children at birth, but some parents who arepaying child support are not being allowed to see their children.

By law, support and custody are not related, but many parents say they should be. Every month James Speight has $400 deducted from his paycheck to pay child support for his 9-year-old son Brandon. Although Speight has a court order giving him joint custody, he says Brandon hasn't visited in a year.

Bill Miller, assistant chief of North Carolina Child Support, says the system isn't perfect, but it helps.

Unless, and until the law changes, Miller says being denied visitation does not mean a parent can neglect paying support.

The only option for a father like Speight is to get a lawyer and fight for visitation, but he says he doesn't have enough money to do that.

He's not even sure the child is his, but again, to get a paternity test he needs to go to court. And throughout the process, he must still pay child support.

Speight says if feels like he has no rights at all.

It's not just fathers who are experiencing this problem. It often happens to non-custodial mothers as well. Regardless of which parent is affected, it's a frustrating situation, but state officials say due to current laws, their hands are tied for now.


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