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Documentary looks at child support, African-American fathers

Some Georgia fathers may fall behind on child support because of a low income and a lack of understanding about how to navigate the system. A study by the Urban Institute found that more than two-thirds of child support debt is owed by fathers who have no reported income or whose annual income is under $10,000.

A documentary by filmmaker Rel Dowdell, "Where's Daddy?", examines how the child support system affects African-American men in particular. He found that while there is a stereotype that African-American fathers neglect their children, there are in fact a number of hindrances that disproportionately affect them. Many are unable to afford legal counsel and are unaware of the processes they must go through to get a child support modification if they are unable to pay the amount originally ordered.

These fathers may suffer guilt and shame as a result of their inability to pay support, and the children are the ones who lose in the end. Dowdell found that in some cases, fathers lost their driver's licenses, and this restricted their ability to work or see their children. Fathers who were jailed because of failure to pay child support might also lose their jobs, and in turn, they would fall behind on support payments even more.

Child custody and child support may be difficult issues to navigate in a divorce. \ Child support payments, which are usually paid from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent, are based on several factors including income. Parents who lose a job or who cannot keep up with the payments because of other changed circumstances may find it advisable to go to court and ask for a modification. Until this is approved, they will continue owing the same amount.

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