Child custody and support issues may be more complicated than they initially appear for many Minnesota families. Interaction with the family court system can be complicated by other social factors like race and poverty. The effect of the child support enforcement system on the relationships between fathers and children is explored in a documentary, “Where’s Daddy?” The film looks specifically at the situation of African American fathers and how their relationships with their children have been affected by their involvement with the family courts and child support enforcement.

While there are many widely held beliefs about fathers who are behind on their child support payments, the majority of these men are living in poverty. One study by the Urban Institute found that 70 percent of all child support debt across the country is owed by non-custodial parents who make $10,000 or less each year. Because unpaid child support can lead to severe consequences like losing a job or even facing jail time, fathers in these circumstances may reduce their child custody time and face a dwindling relationship with their children along with the threat of legal, financial or criminal consequences.

The documentary interviews mothers, fathers and children who have personal experience with the family court system. In addition, lawyers, psychologists and other experts speak about the effects they have witnessed on African American families due to child support enforcement efforts. It also explores media stereotypes about Black fathers, including the frequent presentation of child-support debt cases on courtroom TV shows and daytime talk programs.

Children benefit greatly from strong relationships with both of their parents, including those who may know little about navigating the court system. A family law attorney may be able to help parents seek child custody and to deal with child support issues that arise, from pursuing enforcement of an order to seeking a modification in the case of changing circumstances.