According to CNBC, the federal government estimates that job losses could total 47 million and the unemployment rate could hit 32% because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The historical impact on the economy has had a drastic effect on the daily lives of most families.

Our society has a deep, heart-felt empathetic understanding that many single-parent families are hit even harder by layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs, reductions in hours, etc. In response, the government has said it’s going to send money to every adult earning less than $75,000 per year.

However, this monetary help will not be sent to the families of parents who are late on support payments. This is stereotyped-bias, illogical and destructive to the children.

When it comes to single-parent families where the parent is an obligor for support payments, our society has difficulty recognizing the hardship the loss of income has on that family. This is because of an offensive gender-based stereotype peddled by many that is based on an incorrect assumption that obligors are all potential absent deadbeats and not really part of the family.

Our message to obligor parents is this:

— Once that parent has a loss in income, consider immediately filing a request for a downward modification with the administrative agency and a request in court.

— Also, every parent should complete a Missouri Form 14 that can be found on the Internet to calculate your monthly obligation after the reduction in income.

Our courts/agency fail to acknowledge that every obligor parent is not an absent selfish deadbeat. Our courts/agency fail to establish the ability to pay as the legal criteria for how much, if any amount should be paid to the other parent when most parents are sharing custody. We all know a mother or father who are not meeting their responsibility, but when we begin to prejudge all parents and change our legal structure to reflect this bias, we are harming the families, especially the children.

Visiting the support-agency website, you clearly see how to file for services, but there is no easily located tab labeled “modifications.” 

With a loss of income, you MUST get the monthly obligation lowered so you can pay it or else the balance will accrue and you will be treated as if you had the money and were simply too selfish to pay it. There are groups that provide basic free information on child support. You should reach out and visit them and if they charge a modest fee it is money well spent.

The bias against the families of obligor parents who fall on hard times is real and not warranted. Most parents love and want to raise their children. It is shameful that in this epic crisis our government officials would choose to ignore the suffering endured by the families of obligor parents, especially their children.

Linda Reutzel is the chair of the Missouri Chapter of National Parents Organization

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