From Deadbeat To Dead Broke: The ‘Why’ Behind Unpaid Child Support

Harrelle Felipa with five of his children and a granddaughter. -Photo: Jennifer Ludden/NPR

Harrelle Felipa with five of his children and a granddaughter. – Photo: Jennifer Ludden/NPR

On a recent Saturday afternoon at his West Baltimore row house, Harrelle Felipa fields a steady stream of interruptions as he breads a large plate of fish and chicken for dinner.

His 4-year-old son wants to recite his letters. The 3-year-old brings him a toy that’s broken. The tweens play Minecraft on the Xbox while Felipa’s teen daughter checks her email. Felipa says he loves it.

“This is what my life consists of,” he says. “I arrange my life around these guys.”

It’s not the typical image of a “deadbeat dad.”

Yet 47-year-old Felipa owes $20,000 in unpaid child support. Over the years, he has lost his driver’s license for that (for two months), and spent time in jail for missing a court appointment (for two weeks).

He is part of a shift: Despite a two-decade crackdown on delinquent dads — an enforcement push that officials say has largely worked — the U.S. has more than $113 billion in child support debt. The Obama administration, and others who support changes to child support enforcement, say this isn’t because men who have the means won’t pay.

“That problem has been solved,” says Vicki Turetsky, the head of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. That’s thanks to welfare reform in 1996, which included tougher rules that tracked down men with money.

The problem today, Turetsky says, is the many men without money. They don’t earn enough, and they’re accruing mountains of debt in back child support.

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Petition – Helping children have both parents.


I am a mother, stepmom and a grandma. I have watched dad’s fight to have their children in their lives. Dad’s who were at one point the primary care giver of the children. I have tucked crying children into bed at night reassuring them that one day they can live with both daddy just as much as mommy. I have held my grown son while he cried because all he wanted was to be in his son’s life. I have been through all the heartache with many children and dad’s.

I have also seen the benefits of a child who may be from a divorced home but has 50/50 parenting time with both parents.My adult son has 50/50 parenting with his son and my grandson has benefited greatly from this. He has two homes, two parents that love him and he feels loved by them not torn or made to chose between them. Children don’t understand nor should they the dynamics  of the court system. When shared parenting isn’t given the child feels they have to chose from one parent to the next.I have sadly also witnessed this.It is our job to protect children from this. The laws desperately need to be updated here in Canada. Times have changed and mom’s don’t stay home anymore. Dad’s are more involved in their children’s lives.Family court is supposed to be what’s best for the children, and what is best for the majority is 50/50 parenting.

I am starting this petition because my family is affected daily by this. My partner’s children love him very much and want to be a part of his life as much as they do their mom’s sadly they can’t because their mom doesn’t want him to have anything more than what the courts have ordered. He is slowly loosing the incredible bond he once had with his daughters. Please  Help change this law and have 50/50 parenting a given when it comes to divorce and separation. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to see to it that they have two loving parents in their lives even if it has to be in separate homes.


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Alberta Family Law Information

Family Law Information services are provided at various locations throughout Alberta (scroll down this page for specific locations). Staff at these locations help the public (including self represented individuals), the legal community, the judiciary and government offices/agencies, by providing the following:

  • General information about family law;
  • Plain language explanations of court procedure;
  • Court forms for most family law applications in either the Court of Queen’s Bench or the Provincial Court;
  • Help in making sure that the court forms are properly filled out; and
  • Child Support Guidelines calculations to self represented litigants and to the judiciary.

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Alberta MEP How to Send a Complaint

How to Send a Complaint

MEP asks that you first speak with the MEP employee who provided the service. MEP employees are required to make all reasonable attempts to resolve a client’s concern. If resolution is not possible, you may request to speak to the employee’s supervisor for further assistance.

If the supervisor cannot resolve your concern, then you will be directed to submit your complaint to MEP’s Complaint Review Process. Complaints must be submitted in writing by mail or fax. If submitting via fax, please write “Complaint Review Process” at the top of the fax or on the fax coversheet, and send to 780-401-7515. If submitting via mail, please write “Complaint Review Process” at the top of the letter, and send to:


Maintenance Enforcement Program
7th Floor, J.E. Brownlee Building
10365 – 97 Street Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3W7


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