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  • Understanding U.S. Child Support Statistics and the Consequences of Failing to Pay

Understanding U.S. Child Support Statistics and the Consequences of Failing to Pay

In the United States, around 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, or some legal separation. If the spouses have a child and are looking to end their marriage legally, child support payments will be arranged by either the ex-spouses or by the court.

The court considers many factors when decreeing child support payments, such as parental responsibilities, income, earning potentialities and more. According to the United States Census Bureau's Child Support report from 2013, around 5.7 million parents in the US were due child support payments of some kind. The average child support payment that year was $480 per month, or $5770 a year.

Overall, there are 6.5 million parents who have custodial rights over a child, about 82% percent of which are mothers. This statistic has not changed much over the last 20 years. Custodial mothers are more likely not ever to have been married (40%) than divorced (30%), while custodial fathers are likely to have been divorce much more frequently (45%). Also, custodial mothers are likely to be older now than 20 years ago, as 38% of custodial mothers are over the age of 40, and only 24% are under the age of 30.

When one considers the racial demographics of U.S. child support statistics, we find that 45% of the custodial mothers are non-Hispanic white, 27% are black, and 24% are Hispanic. Custodial fathers, on the other hand, are more likely to be non-Hispanic white, at 60%, while 19% are Hispanic and 17% black.

Of the 6.5 million custodial parents, 5.7 million receive some form of child support. Currently, child support payments exceed 32 billion dollars in the United States. But, the 32 billion dollar child support figure was not paid in full, as child support obliges only received 22 billion dollars.

Similarly, statistics show that both sexes fail to pay child support amounts at about a 30% rate. Women were owed around 28 billion dollars yet only received 19 billion. Men were owed just over four billion and only received three.

Of course, it is illegal to refuse to pay child support willfully. If someone fails to pay court-ordered support, then he or she is subject to federal or state prosecution. Under Federal Law, if an obligor's payment has been due for longer than one year or exceeds $5,000 then that person may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor and may face six months in a Federal Prison.

If child support has not been paid for two years or $10,000 is owed, the offender may face two years in a Federal Prison and could be convicted of a criminal felony.

Custodial parents that are due child support have an average income of $35,580 a year, while the median dips far lower at $25,480. The average household income hovers around $45,000. For custodial fathers, the household income lies at $70,000, but custodial mothers have the average household income of $44,000.

In addition to monetary support, parents have to consider health care coverage for their child. Of the six million parents who receive child support, a little more than half have already had an agreement determining which parent provides health insurance for the child. In about half of the three million with a health care arrangement, the noncustodial parent provides the health insurance coverage, whereas the cases where health insurance coverage has not been prearranged, only 14% of the noncustodial parents provide any health care coverage.



Census.gov | Custodial Mothers and Fathers 2013 – This report, Custodial Mother, and Father and Their Child Support: 2013, was issued by the United States Census Bureau in 2016. The report details a range of statistics involving custodial parents from demographic characteristics, poverty rates, average incomes and more.

Spruce | US Child Support Statistics – Visit this webpage to find out more about child support in the United States. The Spruce offers practical parenting tips, statistics, and inspiration for parents looking to create their best home.

US Department of Justice | Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement – Learn more about child support from the official website of the United States Department of Justice. This webpage specifically covers how the U.S. Federal Law enforces child support obligations and punishes delinquent payers.

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