Tulsa, OK Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Unaffordable Child Support Orders are said to motivate poor non-custodial fathers to stop working and paying, the opposite of the intended effect.

The original idea behind the American child support system was to force deadbeat dads with income to pay for the custodial parent’s raising of the child. But United States child support debt is currently estimated at $113 billion dollars.

The problem that some see with the current state of affairs is that a large majority of this child support debt is owed by those making less than $10,000 a year. This support is owed by poor parents who have shown that they cannot pay. One study has found that among parents with reported annual incomes of $10,000 or less, the median child support order represents 83% of their paycheck. Some are now finding out that such a burden has succeeded in motivating such non-custodial parents to discontinue working.

Recently there has been a push by some to change practices and policies that some say are not appropriately calibrated for today’s economic times and to discontinue this backwards motivation. For example, Vicki Turetsky of the Office of Child Support Enforcement has stated that courts often “impute” income to the noncustodial parent when none exists. This means that courts will base child support payments on a full time minimum wage job, even when the noncustodial parent does not have one.

In addition, child support debt cannot be erased by bankruptcy or the growing up of a child. It can result in incarceration, which can make matters worse. On top of that, it can encourage young mothers to become dependent on young fathers who are just as poor. In an even worse scenario, some young fathers who are incarcerated can sometimes accrue child support arrears while in jail with no way to pay them. And when they are released to the community they have a difficult time finding work due to their criminal record, making it even harder to pay these arrears off.


One idea which has been floated around is forbidding such child support arrears from accruing while the non custodial parent is incarcerated. The idea is said to have bipartisan support. But other measures that go farther do not appear have Republican support, as they are said to undermine the principle of personal responsibility that is an important part of the current system.

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