Child Support or Welfare for Moms Paid By Dads?
 In April 2004, music and fashion mogul Sean "Diddy'' Combs was 
ordered to pay the mother of his first child, Misa Hylton-Brim, just under 
$35,000 per month in child support -- the largest amount awarded in New 
York state history.
  Combs and his lawyers had the sum reduced to $21,782 and then again 
to about $19,000 a month. But even that cut rate made his royal 
Diddy-ness the poster papa for men who feel child support awards are becoming 
increasingly unfair to fathers.
  "A court doesn't tell me what to do to support my child," a heated 
Combs said to the NY Daily News after the verdict. "This is not about 
child support, it's about adult support."
  Though most men are nowhere in the financial stratosphere of Combs, 
child support today is as volatile an issue to brothers in barber shops 
as it is to Bobby Brown. Many men feel as if they are being entrapped, 
stigmatized and even criminalized, when it comes to current child 
support laws. And many black women want their children supported. But 
because nearly 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock, there 
needs to be a happy medium if the community is to thrive.
  Whereas in the past, child support was seen as more a moral issue -- 
men who make children should always be responsible for them -- it is 
now more about economics, even if it's not politically correct to say so. 
After President Bill Clinton's welfare reform bill, the government (and 
tax payers) began aggressively shifting the burden of support to 
fathers, where many claim it should be.
  Yet, in a recent New York Times article on the perilous state of 
black men ('Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn,' March 20, 2006), 
Georgetown University economist Harry J. Holzer said that after 
incarceration, "the stricter enforcement of child support" policies
 is the 
largest factor in keeping young black men tethered to poverty. By keeping 
young black men overwhelmed by debt and therefore outside of legal 
employment, support obligations "amount to a tax on earnings."
    Christian Wilder, a writer from Philadelphia, PA, agrees. Wilder 
currently has custody of his 10-year-old son, and pays child support for 
his two daughters (ages 3 and 7), whom he says he rarely sees. An avid 
advocate of family court reform, Wilder believes that the ways the 
current laws are structured, that a man in essence can never have another 
family because he is already supporting one through child support.
  "When you're married, you're committed to a family," says Wilder. 
"When you have sex with someone you've met in a club, you haven't 
committed to a thing."
  "While a woman has all of those options of keeping the child and 
raising it, a man can only just
 follow the whim of the woman," he 
continues. "And when a woman has a child, the man becomes financially 
  Wilder advocates that when a man is married to a woman and they 
separate or divorce, that support obligations should be at their current 
rate which in some states is about 17 percent of a man's earnings. 
However, as is the case in Australia, if two people are not married, the rate 
of obligation decreases to about 8 to 10 percent of the father's 
  "If there wasn't a guarantee of financial support, a lot of these 
babies wouldn't even be born," argues Wilder. "There are people who can't 
afford babies, but they go ahead. Getting him for child support, then 
he can't support his own family. There shouldn't be a guarantee."
  In a recently filed lawsuit in a Michigan Court, 25-year-old Matt 
Dubay is fighting a court order to pay child support to his
because he said he was clear from the beginning that he didn't want a 
child. Dubay was ordered to pay $500 a month to a daughter born last 
year, although his girlfriend repeatedly told him she could not get 
  The National Center for Men brought the case on behalf of Dubay, and 
dubbed the case the "Male Roe vs. Wade." NCM argues that the present 
policies do not give men equal protection under the law. Mel Feit, 
founder and director of New York-based organization, asks why women have 
seemingly endless choices when it comes to dealing with pregnancy -- from 
birth control to adoption to abortion to abandonment (which is legal in 
most states), while men are limited to condom usage or celibacy.
  "I think that the whole point of Roe is that celibacy shouldn't be 
the only way to exercise birth control and reproductive choice," says 
Feit. "That's exactly what Roe
 means for women."
  Feit actually advocates a short (maybe 1-2 weeks) opt-out period, 
where the man can tell the woman that he does not want responsibility for 
the child. He then would have no obligation of support for the child 
but couldn't later change his mind and be in the child's life.
  Though most scholars and legal experts don't think this case has a 
snowball's chance in hell, Dubay has said that he wants to get the 
dialogue started, and Feit, possibly facetiously says he wouldn't have 
brought the case forward if he thought they couldn't prevail.
  Leslie Sorkhe, Director of Operations for ACES, the Association for 
Children for Enforcement of Support says the Dubay suit has no merit, 
legally or morally. "We feel that the suit is ridiculous, and we feel 
like children deserve emotional and financial support from both parents," 
she says. "Children are entitled to equal protection under the law."

   In terms of black men specifically, Wilder says that current system 
just increases criminalization.
  "Now, you're a criminal," says Wilder, speaking of existing court 
policies. "They're garnishing your paycheck. You're embarrassed throughout 
your life. Now there's a letter coming down to your job. You can't go 
to jail for any other monetary debt. There's no debtors jail in this 
country unless it's child support. They take your driver's license away, 
it's on your credit report, imputing income that you don't have. This 
stuff happens every day."
  "If you have sex without a condom, the punishment shouldn't be that 
you live at the poverty level for 20 years," Wilder continues. "The 
bottom line is that it changes your life too much for you to not have a