Child Support: Separating the Myths from The Facts

There are a number of questions, when it comes to the issue of financial responsibility for divorced parents. The issue of support is often determined by the court, but parents are still fearful about what to expect.

The Truth About Supporting Your Children

  1. Only One Parent Pays
    While one parent may be ordered to pay the other by family court, both parents do bear the financial burden of raising their child. The cost of raising the child is calculated and that sum is divided between the parents.
  2. Yes, You Can Go To Jail
    Failing to pay court-ordered child support is punishable and the delinquent parent can face any number of consequences from wage garnishment to jail time. The court may also assign fines or late fees to the parent to discourage future payment lapses.
  3. When You Fall On Hard Times
    Suppose you lose your job, or suffer some other financial disaster? The court is not blind to such personal downfalls and may defer your payments, until you get back on your feet. If it looks like this will be a longer-term situation, the court may also lower payments in relation to your new financial situation.

Support Statistics Paint An Unsettling Picture

The latest studies on child custody and support that the courts still prefer to place children with the mother. As of 2009, fathers were granted custody in only 17.8% of cases, while 11.2 million mothers were granted sole custody and, of those cases, 55% were also granted support payments from the father.

Those numbers suggest a great deal of money is exchanging hands between parents in the United States. In fact, $35.1 billion was owed in support cases in 2009, though only 61% of that sum was actually paid.

Truthfully, children aren’t living as well as these numbers imply. That sum is divided among millions of children and, in actuality, most families involved in custody and support issues are in the lower classes. Of parents granted custody, only 49.5% worked full time jobs 28.3% lived below the poverty line.

The supporting parents were struggling financially, as well. In the 2009 study, only $3,630, or around $300 monthly, was paid to custodial parents. That number is slightly bolstered by other forms of support, such as gifts of clothes, groceries, and other items intended to aid in caring for the child. These types of support contributions were given in 60.3% of cases.

While this paints a grim picture for divided families and the raising of children in those situations, not every family faced these economic hardships. 34.1% of custodial fathers and 42% of custodial mothers received the full amount of designated support payments. Meanwhile, 70.8% of custodial parents received some payments, though below the actual amount owed.

Courts and families are working together to improve these situations, but, as these statistics prove, our society still has a long way to go. As we evolve and concentrate on improving economic factors for society as a whole, we will also be helping parents to do better for their children.