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Deadbeat Parents Story Has Two Sides

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

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

By law, support and custody are not related, but many parents say theyshould be. Every month James Speight has $400 deducted from his paycheckto 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 ina year.

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

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

The only option for a father like Speight is to get a lawyer and fightfor 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 paternitytest he needs to go to court. And throughout the process, he must stillpay child support.

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

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

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