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Unpaid Child Support
Since the mid-1980s, not a year has gone by without federal and state politicians making proclamations about unpaid child support. The proclamations often are followed up with new laws and regulations designed to improve enforcement and go after "deadbeats" Like the perennial "War on Crime," progress is slow and new laws are not a full solution to the problem.

The Census Bureau reports that only about half of the parents entitled to receive child support receive the full amount that is due. About one-quarter of parents to whom support is due receive partial payments, and the other one-quarter receive nothing at all. The Census Bureau estimates that each year, about $10 billion dollars in court-ordered child support is not paid.

In addition to that, there are several million mothers who have not obtained orders of child support for their children. A high proportion of those women had children out of wedlock.

For women who actually receive child support, the average amount owed is $3,767 per year, or about $314 per month. (These are 1995 figures--the last year in which a complete survey was done.)

Non-payment by fathers is not the only child support enforcement problem. Prosecutors who handle support collections estimate that between 2 and 5 percent of their cases involve mothers who did not pay their child support obligations. Mothers' payment rates are worse than fathers'. 57 percent of mothers pay all or a portion of their court-ordered child support payments; 70 percent of fathers pay all or a portion of their court-ordered child support payments.

Payment of child support correlates with visitation with time spent with the child. The Census Bureau reports that 74 percent of fathers with joint custody or visitation paid child support, whereas only 35 percent of fathers without joint custody or visitation paid support.

The cost of trying to collect unpaid child support is substantial. According to the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement, in Fiscal Year 1997, child support enforcement agencies spent $3.4 billion to collect about $13.3 billion in child support. In other words, each dollar of administrative costs generated about $3.91 of child support payments (although some portion of child support payments would have been made without involvement of an enforcement agency).


Guide to Consumer Law
Copyright 1995, 2000 American Bar Association


Barbara C. Johnson, Advocate of Court Reform and Attorney at Law
6 Appletree Lane
Andover, MA 01810-4102

email: barbaracjohnson@worldnet.att.net
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The judicial system is very broken. It must be fixed.
There are four people who can do the job:
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
Everybody thinks Somebody will surely do it.
It is a job Anybody can do. But Nobody is doing it.
At least I'm trying. What are you doing?

"Women are not men's life partners, but rivals favored by law."
                 Paul Craig Roberts, in "The Wars We Can't Afford to Lose,"
                 citing Professor Richard T. Hise, The War Against Men