Child support issues can be particularly overwhelming when the California parents in question are living in poverty or are dealing with the social effects of systematic racism. A study by the Urban Institute indicates that of the total child support debt in the United States, 70 percent is held by parents who make less than $10,000 each year, putting them below the poverty line and barely able to sustain themselves. A film called “Where’s Daddy?” aims to look at the question of the child support system and how it impacts African American fathers in particular.

Child support decisions can lead to complicated outcomes; when parents don’t pay their court-ordered child support, they are considered deadbeats and face social stigma. At the same time, however, there can be legal consequences, including jail time. In one well-known police shooting case, a man was shot in the back by police as he ran away. His brother says that the reason he ran was fear that his $18,000 child-support debt would cost him his liberty.

The film also aims to address overall stereotyping about African American fathers, particularly around ideas that they do not seek custody and are delinquent on child support. The director of the film noted that the portrayal of these stereotypes in media can be damaging to the reputation and realities of everyday black fathers. In addition, the director noted that many fathers, especially those living in poverty, are unfamiliar with how to navigate the system and often lack legal representation.

Fathers have the right to seek child support modifications if they lose their jobs. By working with a family law attorney, a father can protect his relationship with his children and also protect himself from jail time and other severe consequences.