Last Updated on May 18, 2022 @ 4:52 pm

Reports Show Billions in Child Support Goes Unpaid

How Often Does Child Support Go Unpaid
How Often Does Child Support Go Unpaid?

The United States Census Bureau reports on information related to past-due child support payments that may be owed by individuals. The Census Bureau reports revealed startling statistics revolving around the payment (specifically the non-payment) of child support. This report focused mainly on child support that is supposed to be paid from non-custodial parents and included both monetary and non-cash assistance. The report revealed that more than $14 billion in child support payments were unpaid to primary custodial parents.

Many Parents Are Not Receiving Child Support

The $14 billion amount that is owed means that one out of every three dollars owed in child support was not being paid by non-custodial parents. This figure translates to less than one half of the child support eligible parents receiving the child support they are owed based on their court ordered arrangement, with about one quarter of those parents not receiving any of the support they were promised to receive. While child support is most often awarded during a paternity action or child custody case, the Census Bureau’s report confirmed that these orders for child support are all but “hollow” since the ordered payments are not being made.

Consistently paying under, late, or non-payment of child support often has the largest impact on lower-income child support recipients – although these parents have the option to seek government assistance in collecting the child support they are owed, reports show that less than 25 percent of those parents who are owed support payments work with the government’s enforcement resources. Experts believe this lack of payment and lack of seeking enforcement shows that receiving parents have “given up” on collecting the child support owed to them.

In addition to giving up on owed collecting payments, studies have shown fewer parents are engaging the government’s enforcement resources because they come up with their own, alternative agreement with the non-custodial parent outside of the court room. Another report also showed that parents who are younger or less educated were less likely to collect all of the child support they were owed from the non-custodial parent.

Research has also shown that the custody arrangement for the children parents share does have an impact on how or when child support is paid. In situations where the parents share joint custody, more than half of receiving parents have reported receiving child support payments in full. However, in custody situations where the children have no contact with the non-custodial parent, it has been shown that it is unlikely the receiving parent receives owed child support.

Enforcement of Past Due Child Support

Parents have many options available to them when it comes to enforcing a child support order. One of the most common, is the filing of a motion to hold a parent in contempt of court. This is commonly known as a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” or a “Petition for Adjudication of Indirect Civil Contempt.” When a motion for contempt is filed, the parent filing the motion needs to show a few basic, but necessary, things to the court to prevail:

  1. A Court order was entered for child support;
  2. Child support is not being paid or is being underpaid consistently;
  3. The person owing support is willfully violating the Court’s order;
  4. That the refusal to pay and follow the Court’s order impairs the other parents rights; and
  5. There is no justifiable reason for the refusal to make the child support payment.

When this is shown to the court, the burden of proof shifts to the non-paying parent to explain and give a reason, if they can, why they should not be held in contempt of court for their refusal to follow the Court’s order. Ordinarily, the non-paying parent does not have a good enough reason to avoid being held in contempt. If he or she lost their job, that parent might think that is enough reason to avoid contempt. In some instances, it might be. But ordinarily, it is on the non-paying parent to ask the court to modify child support because of a lost job and not let time go by waiting for the other parent to demand that the child support payments be made. Remember, a child support order is ALWAYS temporary – it can be changed when a substantial change in circumstances arises – such as a lost job – or even a significant change in child-related expenses (such as a special needs child, school tuition, etc.). 

Penalties for Contempt of Court

There are many penalties hat exist should a parent be held in contempt of court for their refusal to pay child support. Depending on the state, these penalties might include some or any of the following:

  1. Loss of drivers license (suspension of driving privilege’s until a lump sum and/or current payments are made over a period of time);
  2. Loss of a professional license (a suspension of a nursing license, teaching license, building contractor, electrician, truck driver/CDL);
  3. Payment of attorneys fees that the parent owed child support paid to hire a lawyer to enforce the Court order; or
  4. Imprisonment until payment is made.

What Should a Non-Paying Parent Do?

When a parent begins to fall behind on child support payments, be it because of a job loss or some extraordinary bill that interferes with payment being made, the non-paying parent must immediately file a motion with the court to modify his/her child support. Normally, a child support attorney should be used to make sure the child support modification court filing is properly filed and served on the other parent, but no matter what, the parent that owes support needs to move quickly. This should be done as soon as possible so that past-due support amounts will either not continue to add up, or they will be lowered so they are at a manageable temporary amount.

Non-payment of child support does not need to end up with a parent being held in contempt or the other parent being left high and dry without support for his/her child if the parents work together and talk about a temporary solution and handle things within the court in an amicable manner. Communication and acting quickly is key, and the only way to ensure that your case doesn’t end up with a contempt filing and contributing to the $14 billion owed nationwide.  

14 thoughts on “How Often Does Child Support Go Unpaid?”

  1. The non custodial parent owes me $25k and he had not paid anything for 20 years and recently paid $135. Twice so they would no suspend his drivers license. If he is working why doesn’t the child support take a portion of his wages or his ssi check. He is working and getting ssi. Also why doesn’t the IRS take his tax check. How can I get help with back child support?

    1. if you sign up for title IV D (I believe that is what it is called everywhere but I’m not 100 percent on that) then they will automatically take it out of his checks. He wont have a say in it and they will also begin taking his tax checks. I had no clue what title 4 was until I got with my fiance and he has his support taken through title 4 because that’s what he and his ex agreed upon. They also revoke the license and file criminal charges if need be. I live in Indiana and this is how it is here. I called the child support office to find out how to sign up and they signed me up over the phone. It was pretty quick and easy!

      1. Very nice explanation. Title 4 (IV-D) is a federal law, actually, part of the Social Security Act, which requires each state to set up a child enforcement process department. Child support cases can be collected a variety of different ways, either through ‘judicial means’ (going to court), or ‘administrative means’ (no court, but an administrative agency within the state collects support on behalf of a custodial parent).
        Whether a person utilizes the IV-D program or a private attorney, child support can be pulled direct from a payors checks through a Notice of Income Withholding for Support, that is sent to the employer. The employer has an obligation to follow it and pay support or they can be liable for hefty fines and penalties.
        Using the State resources is great for some people, but always remember, the State is dealing with millions of cases – they aren’t usually going the extra mile as many cases require (people with 2nd jobs, overtime, self-employed, etc).
        Thanks for getting this info out there, it is important for people to have options!

  2. Child support is one kind of child care policy in USA, but some time it not applicable the terms of child law. Also i do not support to pay for a child support.

  3. Noe beauvaisnoe

    I heard i am on child suport. But i never meet my child for 20 years i never paid the child suport because i dont have no control about my case now my licence is suspended i decide to find out ;ow i can pay my child suport. But i have no adea what to do or hoe to start i dont even know my child name what can i do about that

  4. Tammy Roberson

    I draw disability check SSI and rsdi and the child support office in my. said that I owe 182.00 but they aren’t taking that much of my money they are taking half of my disability check instead of my check. Is 638.00 rsdi and they have been taking 319.00 a month .I’m not able to pay my rent of five hundred a month. I’m on the verge of being put out on the streets .I can pay the 182. a month ssi is 165.00 a month for a total of 484.00 month. In need help so I can get off the streets

  5. Margaret R. Brantley

    I know it has been years since he have not paid me but are there anything that can be done. I ran across a form where it showed in 1981 I was owned $3, 162.38. Yes my daughter is now grown with kids of her own.

    1. If there is an order in place that he was to pay child support and he never did, the courts can still go after him for the past-due support that he might owe, which most likely has accrued a substantial amount of interest.
      Give us a call so we can go over the details with one of our local team members.

  6. In some,if not many, cases it is because the court has assessed an unreasonably high amount to be paid by the parent, and unemployment issues resulting from loss of CDL because of late or non payment in emergent situations. Lack of reasonable negotiations concerning the employment circumstances of the non- custody parent by the child social services agencies, etc, etc.

  7. Walter Hernandez

    I HAVE PAID CHILD SUPPORT TO THE TREASURER AND NEVER CREDITED AND SO THE DCSE AGENCY KEEPS ON SENDING ME OUTRAGEOUS AMOUNT OWNED ON CHILDREN EVEN THREAT TO COLLECT FEDERAL REFUNDS AND THEY NEVER REVIEW OR REVISED MY CASE MY TWOS SON ARE GROWN AND ONE IS 24 YEARS OLD NEVER WENT TO COllage AND LIVES IN ANOTHER STATE AND HE HAS HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD THE OTHER IS 16 YEAR OLD, MY EX MAKES MORE THAN ENOUGH I SICK AND DYING UNABLE TO SUPPORT MY SELF YET I HAVE PROVIDED FOR THE CHILD SUPPORT COMMITMENT AND THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT KEEPS IGNORING MY PLEAD FOR REVIEW OF THE CASE, PLEASE HELP THEY TOOK MY HOUSE < MY HALF OF THE 401K WE HAD WITH THE EX, MY BAK ACCOUNT money, SOLS MY TRUCK TO PAID NOW I HAVE CANCER AND HOMELESS, WHERE CAN I SEEK HELP? MY SISTER LET`S ME SLEEP IN HER EFFICIENCY, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF "GOD" I NEED HELP!! THANK YOU!!!.

  8. Question: CAN A FATHER OF A CHILD.WHO DOESN’T PAY HIS COURT ORDERD CHILD SUPPORT.GET COURT ORDERD VISITATION RIGHT’S.EVEN IF THEY HAVEN’T NEVER BEN MARRIED.AND HAS NEVER IN ANY WAY BEN INVOLVED IN CHILD’S LIFE.OBTAIN SUPERVISED VISITATION BY THE COURTS.
    THANK YOU. CHILD IS NOW 4 YRS OLD.I HAVE A COURT ORDERD CHILD SUPPORT ORDER.FATHER DOESNT PAY.
    & NOW A COURT SAYS HE CAN HAVE SUPERVISED VISITATION..HE HASNT EVEN CONTRIBUTED 1 DIPPER IN THE PAST..PLEASE JUST TELL ME CAN THIS BE RIGHT.OR CONTESTED?.

  9. This is such a sad reality. I do not understand why some parents cannot fulfill their financial responsibility for raising a child. One parent will have to pick up the slack and be burdened by the others’ lack of responsibility resulting in increased stress and pressure.

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