For New Jersey Powerball lottery winner Pedro Quezada, the Dominican bodega owner who just collected $215 million, the adage “Mo’ money, mo’ problems” has already proven true. Just days after winning the fourth largest Powerball jackpot in history, New Jersey authorities say he’s subject to arrest for the $29,000 he owes in back child support.

Funny, I think he’ll be able to catch up. What wasn’t funny is the immediate flood of comments on the Internet saying that Quezeda is a deadbeat father who doesn’t deserve the prize.


First of all, burglaries and a fire impacted his bodega business, so it’s possible that he was in extreme debt. On the day he found out that he won the lottery, he was loath to close the bodega because he didn’t want to lose the business. Second of all, Quezada, who is married, has acknowledged five children so it’s possible that he was in arrears or behind in making payments to children he didn’t live with. Yes, all his children need to be taken care of, but as anyone with children in multiple households can tell you, the priority is usually the ones living with you.

No one is excusing any man or woman who deliberately refuses to pay child support. And it’s hard to do so. If Quezada, a lottery winner, is subject to arrest, then imagine someone who’s just fallen behind and is having trouble keeping up with the payments. The rush to judgment is ludicrous in his situation, since he’s currently in the position not just to pay his outstanding child support but child support until the youngest of the children he has turns 18 or is no longer subject to child support at all. So as far as this one individual is concerned, his debt to his children will soon be resolved.

But why are men demonized, especially men of color, who often don’t have the means to deal with what is becoming a draconian system of child support collection? Men are still largely non-custodial parents and, in some cases, are taken for child support despite the mother’s refusal to work. Men do have rights and child support can be adjusted in situations where income is lost. But as we see in the news daily, the court system is flawed when it comes to justice for men of color and the child support system is no different. Should a man be forced to pay child support for children the mother doesn’t allow him to see? According to the court system, apparently yes. Should a man go to jail when he can’t pay, thus putting himself into a deeper hole as he can’t earn income while incarcerated? In many cases, the courts will say, yes.

Family courts haven’t figured out a plan to differentiate obvious deadbeat dads from those that truly can’t afford to pay. But isn’t that what famiiy court judges are for?

A 2007 study by The Urban Institute for the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that in the nine states the study focused on- Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas – the highest debtors, those who owed $30,000 or more, were the ones who had the lowest recorded income. The study acknowledged that these men could be hiding assets, participating in illegal activities or self-employed but that they their recorded wages were $10,000 or less. Given the high rate of black unemployment in those states, it’s very possible that good portions of the top debtors were themselves struggling.

Child support enforcement means that any reported wages or those that the government knows about are taken almost immediately after a man or woman begins a new job. You cannot get a tax return or a passport if you are behind in child support. There are men and women in their 40’s and 50’s paying child support for children who are now grown. And in most of those cases, mothers deserve to be repaid for the care and feeding of a child they raised alone. But for parents who can’t pay, child support becomes a never-ending cycle that at the end of the day doesn’t resolve the very problem it attempts to eradicate – that of providing material support for minor children.

The issues of child support, parental irresponsibility and protection of children are not going anywhere. Given the personal nature of the decision-making involved in having sex and producing children, there are no easy solutions. But until we make it easier for men and women to fulfill their financial obligations and the court system is more discerning about the kinds of penalties they apply to the mothers and fathers who struggling to do their best, we will continue to watch children suffer who are caught up in the middle. No easy solutions mean no easy conclusions should be drawn about those who find themselves behind in payments.

For Pedro Quezada and his children, there is a happy ending. If he’s able to manage the money wisely, finances should likely not be a problem for him and his family for some time to come. For the other Americans facing child support payments and for those children who need the money, the outcome is much less bright.

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13 thoughts on “Deadbeat or Not? Child Support Isn’t Simple

  1. niko on said:

    as I don’t know the circumstances for him not paying child support, I would not call him a deadbeat dad. But I will say, the System is just as much as fault, because it allowed him to get that far behind. Why didn’t they arrest him before, only now because he won the lottery. And what about arresting the dads who do not win the lottery, and are behind. The system is outdated and does not work. Do an article on the mothers who take on both jobs of mom and dad, not because they want to, but because they have to. Do an article on the men who pay child support or who just take care of their children who do not live with them. Its time to stop promoting negativity and start reshaping what the media reports.

  2. $29,000.00 is a tidy sum in back child support. It didn’t just happen, it has been going on for some time to accumulate that much child support in arrears. Sorry, but he is a deadbeat dad.

  3. Good article.

    I have a brother who pays faithfully and my mom, brother, and sister still have to give her money for daily food, clothes, personal needs, school supplies, etc.

    I have a cousin who’s mom raised his kids from elementary school to high school and he ended up paying 40,000 in back child support.

    I’ve raised a daughter, who’s not biologically mine for for years and her mom is yet to pay a dime and who’s divisive.

    How about an article on moms who misappropriate funds, or don’t pay child support?

  4. Child support laws are so outdated. IM a father that’s not behind on childsupport. I went to the office to have my daughters mother to report her income and she didn’t. The office never looked into it. I think its sad because if I wasn’t paying I would be the irresponsible one.

  5. yele99 on said:

    The image of a blackwoman(welfare queen) and of blackmen(not paying for their children) was used durimg the 80’s rally (white people) to support child support laws. little did the common white man knew that the law would be ised by white women against them.

  6. The part about children live in the home being more of a priority than the ones who do not had me a little lost. Is it their fault because the parents are not together anymore? That’s no different than when a man takes care of his live in girlfriend’s kids, but doesn’t take care of his own! That deserves a SMH!

  7. Good article indeed. All men are not deadbeat dads. There are a lot of good fathers, young and old. However, some women, and I say some, not all, stop looking at child support as a means of income, there will always be problems. Men have to take advantage of the few rights they have from the judicial system also. If not allowed to see their child, they should go to court to force the issue. Women are just as responsible as men when it comes to children, they are required to contribute to that child’s support also. Remember, not only men are having sex unprotected. We all have to be accountable for our behaviors. The media focuses on the negative, its time someone wrote something positive for men regarding child support.

  8. zombiesnthechurch on said:

    BOTH should be accountable PERIOD…just as they were both PRESENT and ACCOUNTED for when they procreated!!!!!!!!!! and we know that the average that are refered to as ‘deadbeat’ have allowed themselves to get caught up in the system often time trying to ‘work’ the system and others just say F*$%K it……

  9. Men of color should not be held to a different standard. If you are so pathetic to create a child and not man enough to take care of the the child then shame on you and seeing the child should not be on the table. If you are going to have sex witha women and do not want to produce children then use protection!! That may not be the popular statement but bringing a child in the world that you will not take care of is a more heinous crime. The child did not chose the parents he or she was born too and the child cannot take care of him or herself.

    • I’m a woman with grown children…(I rasied by myself with NO Child support)…My reply to you is this…it takes two, but when a woman goes and have different children by different men, it seems to me that’s HER problem and she should take care of them…Some women are so trashy having babies by everybody and the rest of us has to take care of them…

  10. Monique on said:

    All children are a priority, not just the one in the current household! And the reason Black men and women get harder? They think they can just get it and quit it! If you don’t want the debt, keep yo skirt down and pants up! Simple.

    And yes i have 1 daughter, I learned from that! Unless I am married, no more!

    • Monique on said:

      And another thing, a man should pay if the woman does not allow to see the children. Why? He still helped to create the child! Don’t worry about that, the woman will reap what she’d sown! I am kind of wishy/washy about jail, yet, if there are no consequences; the guy is off ‘scott free!” Bottomline it takes 2 to make a child and ALL THE RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD NOT FALL ON THE WOMEN!! Which is 95% of the time!! Yes, we have women who don’t do right and should be held accountable the same way!

  11. TRUTH BE TOLD on said:

    Love this article! This is the truth. It’s easy for people aren’t in these men and women shoes to call the deadbeats. Child support is like any other debt…hard to pay. I’m glad this writer put this out there. The system is awful.

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