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Challenges with the child support program

Parents in Colorado and other states across the nation base many of their decisions on the best interests of their children, whether it is a major or minor life event. However, when it comes to the financial needs of a child, a parent will often work endlessly to ensure that these needs are met. This is especially true during and after a divorce. While a divorce order might detail a certain amount owed to a custodial parent, if the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support, this presents challenges for everyone involved.

The child support system can be looked at from various angles. First, it is a way to ensure that child support orders are complied with. It is also considered an antipoverty program because it forces a noncustodial parent to contribute financially for his or her child's care. However, the child support program also operates as a government cost-recovery strategy. This means that the state and federal governments are reimbursed for benefits paid to mothers on behalf of children.

When considering child support orders as a whole, they are proportionately very high given that many of the parents owing child support have low incomes. In fact, 70 percent of the national uncollected child support debt belongs to noncustodial parents that do not have quarterly earnings or earn less than $10,000 per year.

For some fathers paying child support, 65 percent of their wage goes to the child support they owe and arrearages to the state. This high level of garnishment generates a strain on the noncustodial parent, driving them further into poverty. Moreover, this situation makes it even harder to stay on top of child support owed.

When a noncustodial parent cannot pay child support or fails to pay it, enforcement actions could be taken. This could result in penalties for the noncustodial parent such as fines and even incarceration.

Because child support issues can be complex and the financial needs of a child are often pressing, divorced or separated parents need to understand how to best navigate these issues. In some cases, this might mean modifying an order to more reasonable terms. Those dealing with this or other family law issues should understand that they have options available to resolve these problems.

Source: The New York Times, "The Child Support System Should Support Families, Not Government Coffers," Kenneth Braswell, Accessed on Aug. 1, 2016

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