Getting out of the Child Support Hole

Midwesterners in Minnesota and other nearby states are advocating changes for the tens of thousands of residents paying child support in the area. In Racine County alone, more than 14,000 active child support accounts are in arrears because of defaults. Most payers owe more than $13,000; sadly, that amount accrues significant interest each day that it goes unpaid.

Budget cuts could allow cuts in the interest rates, but advocates say that even more change will be necessary in order to fix the broken child support system. Decreased interest rates could make child support payments less overwhelming for those with overdue balances, which could actually improve the amount of money that is collected.

Among the most vulnerable parents are child support payers who have recently been discharged from prison. Those parents already struggle to find housing and employment after their incarceration, and past-due child support payments can make their situation even more untenable. Noncustodial parents may also be required to pay for birthing costs and other bills. As a result, some of these parents return to the very behaviors that landed them in jail in the first place, including dealing drugs and stealing.

Many people who have accrued significant child support debts wake up every day with the terrifying reality that they owe tens of thousands of dollars that they cannot pay.

Research shows that parents are more likely to pay overdue child support when interest rates are reduced. Other measures could improve the rates of child support collection, including flexible payment plans for parents who are seeking jobs. Parents are often jailed for failing to pay child support.

By including new provisions to facilitate child support payment, not only will noncustodial parents benefit, but children and custodial parents will also receive the financial support they need. Those who have paid off their child support through assistance programs say they are proud of their efforts, and they advocate additional help for the huge numbers of people who need systematic reform.

Source: The Journal Times, "Digging out of a child support hole - With back payments adding up, some say system needs change," Stephanie Jones, March 30, 2013

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