The Ripple Effect of the Shutdown on Single Parents

My ex-husband (and father of my children) is an air traffic controller. At one time, his child support was a third of my income.Therefore, I was always willing to adjust our visitation to coincide with his work schedule. I had to — if he lost his job, we couldn’t eat. I’m lucky that I’m no longer in a position of such dependence, but I’m deeply aware of what this shutdown means to other divorced families.

  1. Why doesn’t he just quit and get a paying job? Air traffic controllers can’t quit. It’s in their contract. So he doesn’t have the option of just finding a full-time job somewhere else. He has to show up for work every day. Also, he works a combination of day, evening, and overnight shifts, making a second job hard to schedule.
  2. Well, he’s still responsible! He needs to pay child support! I’m lucky in that he is willing and able to continue to pay child support while not getting paid. Not everyone has the resources to do so, and to be honest, I don’t know how long he can keep it up. Child support is a hefty chunk of change.
  3. So he writes you a check and moves on. Quit your whining. Actually, he can’t pay me directly. Child support has to be paid to the state Department of Job and Family Services, who then pays the other person. Payments must be monitored and recorded for posterity, since there are substantial penalties for failure to pay, including the issuance of a warrant for their arrest, loss of driving privileges, fines, and jail time, depending on where you live.
  4. So he paid the DJFS. What’s the problem? Well, it’s been a few weeks, and I still haven’t received a check. If I needed that money for rent, groceries, or gas to go to work, I’d be SOL. The system isn’t designed for maximum efficiency.

In other words, even in the best case scenario — a paying parent who is able to make a child support payment — it still impacts the other parent. And that doesn’t take into account the people who can’t afford to pay child support when they aren’t getting paid themselves. For example, according to, the average TSA employee makes $37,000 a year. There’s not exactly a lot of room left over at that salary to accrue substantial savings.

So how many of the 800,000 federal workers are divorced and have children? I don’t have a figure on that, but since approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, I’d wager it’s quite a few.

Obviously, there are many federal employees who are the sole income providers for their kids, with no other parent in the picture. That’s a whole other issue. I’m just trying to explain how this “800,000” figure doesn’t adequately measure the effect of the shutdown.