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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Study Shows Murky State of Child Support in U.S.

(CN) - Americans owe more than $14 billion in back child-support payments, accounting for 38 percent of what should be received annually, a U.S. Census Bureau study shows.

The report, titled "Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011," focuses on child-support income from noncustodial parents that includes both monetary and noncash assistance, as well as health insurance. It highlights the fact that child support is most often paid in full when the noncustodial parent has regular interaction with the children.

While over half of custodial parents who have joint custody arrangements with their exes reported receiving full child-support payments, only 30 percent said they received regular child support from parents who had no contact with their children at all. The vast majority of all custodial parents - nearly 82 percent - are women, according to the study released Wednesday.

Interestingly, courts award child support less often today than they did in 1993. Then, 57 percent of custodial parents received support awards, compared with just 49 percent in 2011.

Mothers are over four times more likely to be custodial parents than fathers. They are also eight times more likely to be awarded child support.

The biennial study tells a harrowing story of poverty for custodial parents as well. While the level for custodial-parent families has declined since 1993, they are more likely to live in poverty now than in 2001 - and twice as likely as the total population today.

Custodial mothers are also twice as likely as custodial fathers to fall below the poverty line, and 57 percent of these women have less than a high school education. In these cases, full child-support payments account for two-thirds of the custodial parent's annual income and are critical to the family's survival.

Racially, under half of all custodial mothers are white, more than 25 percent are black and 21 percent are Hispanic. But most custodial fathers are white, while only 16 percent are black and 18 percent are Hispanic.

Half of all black children in the U.S. live in custodial-parent families, the bureau found.

Child-support payments should have reached $38 billion in 2011, though only $23.5 billion was actually received. This averages to $3,770 per custodial parent to whom support was due.

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