A recent report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed startling statistics regarding the payment of child support. The report, titled “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011,” focused on child support from non-custodial parents, including both monetary and noncash assistance. In 2011, in excess of $14 billion in child support was left unpaid to American parents, meaning that more than 1 out of every 3 dollars that were due had not been paid. This translates into less than one-half of eligible parents receiving all the child support they are owed, with roughly one-quarter of the parents receiving none of the support ordered to be paid to them.
Although child support is often awarded in the course of parentage or dissolution actions, the report confirms that such awards prove hollow where those required to pay support fail to do so. Further, consistent under- or non-payment of child support most negatively impacts lower-income recipients. Although parents may turn to the government for help in collecting child support payments, the number who sought government assistance to recover payments they are owed fell by 25% between 1994 and 2012. Some experts believe that this decline reflects the stark reality that many parents ultimately give up trying to collect child support, as this complex system is often difficult to access and navigate.
In addition, fewer parents may be requesting government help because they have forged agreements with the non-custodial parent for alternative solutions. The report revealed that some parents who were supposed to get financial support turned to informal arrangements with the other parent, often because that other parent could not afford regular cash payments. Such in-kind assistance includes receiving food, clothes and other essentials from the non-custodial parent.
The report also revealed other interesting statistics. Younger and less educated parents were less likely to get all the child support they were owed. However, in such families, full child support payments can account for as much as two-thirds of the income of the custodial parent and are therefore play a critical role in making ends meet. Further, the custody arrangements impact the payment of support. Where the parties shared joint custody of the child, more than half of the custodial parents reported receiving full child-support payments. However, if the child had no contact with the other parent, chances for collection of support were especially low, with less than one-third collecting all the money they were due.