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Census Bureau data paints grim picture of child support payments

One of the most crucial parts of a divorce for parents is determining how the two of them will share in the financial support of their children. It's generally best if the spouses, with the help of their attorneys, can reach an agreement on their own. If they can't, a court will decide the matter.

However, sometimes for the person granted primary custody of the children (usually the mother) whose co-parent has been ordered to pay child support, that's only the beginning of the battle. Recently-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau provides a disturbing look at just how bad the problem of unpaid child support is.

The data, which covers the period from 1993 through 2015, shows that the percentage of custodial parents who received none of the child support owed them reached the highest level in 2015 -- 31 percent. Interestingly, the total amount of child support due that year ($33.7 billion) was $14 billion less than it had been in 2003, when 24 percent of custodial parents failed to receive any child support payments.

The percentage of parents receiving part of the child support due them in 2015, 26 percent, was down somewhat from previous years. It's been pretty steady at about 30 percent since the late 1990s.

Just 43.5 percent of parents received the full amount of support owed them in 2015. For parents caring for children who fall below the poverty line, that percentage is even lower – 39.2 percent. The percentage of all parents who got all the child support due to them never reached 50 percent during the years covered by the report.

As noted, mothers are more likely to be custodial parents and receiving child support than fathers. They're also far more likely to be living in poverty (29.2 percent) than custodial fathers (16.7 percent.)

Of course, it's the children who suffer most, and in a multitude of ways, when the parent with whom they live isn't receiving the support he or she needs to provide adequate care. New York, like other states, has enforcement mechanisms in place to help parents collect the support that's due them. There are also actions that can be taken through the courts.

If you aren't getting your support in full and on time, it's best to let your family law attorney know so that he or she can advise you of your legal options.

Source: Bloomberg, "Less Than Half of U.S. Parents With Child Custody Get Funds," Vincent Del Giudice, Jan. 23, 2018

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