One of Legal Aid’s very own practice areas has become the subject of a widespread “fake news” story. Last month, articles and posts began circulating on social media, informing readers that child support would be ending in 2018. One article – which has been shared over 50,000 times on Facebook – claimed that Congress and the current administration were working to pass a law which would prevent parents from being ordered to pay support. Another article included a purported quote from President Trump, and reported that custodial parents have been protesting outside the White House.
With so many other previously unbelievable actions becoming reality these days, it is no wonder that some people might see these reports and take them as the truth. But thankfully, these reports are nothing more than fake news.
The reports of the Trump Administration and Congress ending child support obligations have been completely debunked. According to Snopes – a website dedicated to fact-checking urban legends – the posts were created using React365, an online tool which generates prank headlines. There is no indication that policymakers are working to terminate the child support system. Indeed, it’s unclear if Congress or the President would have the authority to “end child support” even if they wanted to as both the right to receive child support and the obligation to pay comes from state law. Child support litigants should be assured that child support will continue.
Attorneys from Legal Aid learned about this social media rumor recently, while spending some time speaking with residents at D.C. General Family Shelter and sharing information on how to access our services. One woman expressed concerns that she would stop receiving child support payments next year, based on what she had been reading online. Thankfully, we were there to inform her that this story was false. Engaging in outreach is always a rewarding experience that allows our lawyers to work with our client community beyond courtroom advocacy, but it was especially rewarding in this instance because we had the opportunity to dispel a troubling rumor like this one.
Every day, attorneys from Legal Aid and Bread for the City staff the Child Support Resource Center, located in Room 109a of the D.C. Superior Court. We meet with low-income mothers and fathers who need help navigating an incredibly opaque system. Complex laws and common misconceptions can create immense confusion for someone first arriving in court for child support. Through same-day advice and representation at the Resource Center, we work to provide clarity and guidance to those who need it, and to replace myths about the child support system with the facts.