Child Support Statistics 2014

Child Support Statistics 2014

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The national statistics associated with non-payment of child support betray a pressing societal issue. The prevalence of “deadbeat parents” has led to many children spending their formative years in poverty and uncertainty. According to research, parents who shirk the financial responsibility of child support may create for their children a home environment where the custodial parent must struggle to provide the daily necessities instead of an enriched environment that supports the children’s growth and future.

Nonpayment Statistics

State Child Support Collection rates 2012These statistics represent the amount of support parents currently do not receive, including non-payment of court-ordered child support and arrears. The total amount paid, $23.6 billion, is easily dwarfed by $100 billion that goes unpaid. The following statistics paint a descriptive picture of the economic reality for many households:

An estimated 25 million parents who do not receive child support from the non-custodial parent of their progeny have still yet to file for child support or arrears. Consequently, their unsupported children are unaccounted for in the societal safety nets created to ensure their well-being and development, according to authorities.

An estimated 59 percent of custodial parents who fail to receive any child support already have a support order in place for their children. According to authorities, this means that the non-custodial parent has been ordered to pay but has failed to comply without punishment.

As of 2011, only 19 percent of eligible custodial parents received the full amount of child support ordered by the court. Many parents received only partial or intermittent child support payments.

Around 37.5 million custodial parents are owed arrears. This includes those receiving only partial payments.

Unpaid child support, including arrears, totaled $100 billion in 2011.

Of the 12.5 million cases in which a custodial parent is legally owed support, 75 percent involve a noncustodial parent who can afford to make the payments but refuse to do so. Research indicates that the majority of noncustodial parents with child support warrants are not detained by law enforcement officials until they commit another offense.


Child support warrants are intended to rectify situations where non-payment is an ongoing issue. However, these warrants are notorious for the poor enforcement associated with them. Compared to other warrants issued by the courts, warrants pertaining to non-payment of child support do not receive the level of serious attention they are due, leaving many families to suffer financial hardship, according to authorities.

When a noncustodial parent is taken into police custody with an outstanding child support warrant, the cause for detention is typically for another offense, such as drunk driving. This leaves the children without support until the defaulting parent happens to be arrested for another crime.

An estimated 2.6 million outstanding warrants for both misdemeanor and felony offenses have burdened the US Judicial System to such a degree that child support warrants receive an unfortunately low priority from the system, authorities state. This provides a certain impunity for nonpaying parents, even with a warrant issued for their arrest.

When parents who default on child support orders in one state are arrested in another state, they are almost never extradited to face charges of violating a court order, according to authorities. This can make life even more difficult for children whose non-custodial parent is able to flee the state.

Poverty and Homelessness

Single-parent families are more vulnerable to the threat of poverty, including potential homelessness. Child support often constitutes the difference between abject want and making ends meet. Support can also make the difference in attaining educational goals, like completing high school or going on to higher education.

One out of every 50 children are without a home for at least 1 day per year, studies indicate. This includes those living out of cars or in shelters with their custodial parent. For parents not receiving child support, job loss or serious illness can easily precipitate the loss of financial security and the family home, throwing their children’s lives into chaos.

The average child support payment is about $4,433 for fathers and $5,160 for mothers. As of 2011, women constituted 82 percent of custodial parents.

What do These Statistics Mean?

All of this taken together points to the importance of establishing a child support order and working tirelessly to have the order enforced. The ramifications of nonpayment are dire, and the number of households affected by this issue constitutes a national problem.

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  • Grant

    This seems to be written from an somewhat biased point of view, and no source citation being made to support the statistics make me question the reliability. Personally I’ve never missed a payment – I still got threatened with passport being revoked and tax return with-holding as the agency processing support took months to update an adjustment to support (basically I was allowed to deduct health insurance and travel cost sharing directly from support). Biggest statistic missing here though is how many kids won’t get to go to higher education with parental help because of a system that has no other intentions than to break people financially and emotionally. I see people that genuinely try but have to spend tens of thousands in legal fees just to be allowed to be a visitor in their childs lives every other weekend, then when they’re penniless because of doing what should have been a standard human right and can’t afford to make full support payments they’re branded as deadbeats – a father that wants to actively involved (which is actually more important to a child’s emotional state) is considered less important than that father making their payments on time (which would be more plausible if not for a legal system that is set-up to gauge parents relentlessly). I believe in root cause analysis, the root of non payment is within the legal system.

  • Gwendolyn de Ashborough

    The most important Part of being a Parent is First “Being There” with No Excuses.

  • Kathy

    We need more education in K-12 to teach boys and girls, men and women, about parental responsibility and what it costs to feed and shelter a child before they go make babies.

  • ray allen

    This article fails to differentiate between ‘deadbeat’ and ‘deadbroke’ parents.

    I have written my legislators asking them to measure child support compliance by the percentage of parents (with the means to do so) who are sharing the responsibility for providing for their children’s needs.

    Using a self-support reserve to make this distinction would allow prosecutors to focus enforcement efforts on the small percentage of true ‘deadbeat’ parents while allowing ‘deadbroke’ parents (both custodial and non-custodial) to be offered job training and social service referrals to give them the opportunity to become self-supporting and better able to provide for themselves and their children.

    Missouri also has a form that allows courts to give parents credit for in-kind and indirect chlld support in non-welfare cases. There is no reason that this policy could not be extended to all child support cases instead of the courts viewing these in-kind and indirect contributions to children’s welfare as ‘gifts’ to the children.