Child Support Issues in the USA

In the US, the non-custodial parents are supposed to pay either directly or indirectly a specified amount of money which will cater for the maintenance of the child. These children are from past relationships and were born out of wedlock or couple who have divorced. The payments are usually made to the government, caregiver of the children, guardian or even custodial parent. Child support and maintenance is guided by family law which is often arranged and based on the policy that both parents are supposed to provide care and support of their children even when they are not living together as biological parents. Child support and maintenance in United States has been widely emphasized and the interest of the children must be put into consideration. The responsibility to support the children lies with their parent and they should adhere with the laid down rules. The rights of the child as stipulated by the United Nations Convention declares that the way children are brought up, developed and their living standards is determined by the responsibility and role played by both parents and also it is a fundamental human right for them. The Family Law Act asserts that the prime role and responsibility of providing child support and maintenance rests with both parents. The court rules out that one parent should be given the role of custody and primary caregiver when there is separation but non-custodial parents are allowed to visit their children. On the other hand the other parent is obliged to pay a proportion of the total cost incurred in raising the child. The responsibility of the supporting the child should be shared by both parent in a situation where both are custodial parents. In such cases, child support is supposed to be paid by one parent to another. The court may not order the parent with sole custody of his or her child to pay maintenance of the child to the non-custodial parent if the parent is taking care of his or her child. As noted by Joseph Lieberman, (2000), a child has a right to financial support from both parents. In child support calculation, a parenting role and responsibility to support the child should be the main goal in determining the amount of payment they should remit. The duration that a child stays at the non-custodial parent’s home determines the amount the parent is supposed to pay to the child support agency. The responsibility of raising a child should be shared by both custodial and non-custodial parents where the payments made should be wisely used to cater for the basic requirements of the children. There are situations whereby court allows and acknowledge that child sustain payments may do well to the custodial parent indirectly. For example, in a situation where the child’s residence requires warming, the members in that residence will gain from staying in a heated environment. Calculation of child support payment is usually influenced by several approaches which determine the amount that each parent should pay.

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In determining support, various factors must be put into consideration like the income of the parents, basic living expenses, school fees and the number and ages of children living in a certain home. “Many jurisdictions may consider special needs of a child like in a situation where a child incurs extra costs such as disability or treatment of a serious illness” (Kate, 1991). The Family Law stipulates that computation of child sustain should be based on the verity that non-custodial parents ought to reimburse an even entitlement of their yearly income towards the upholding of their children. The law governing federal agencies in United States of America asserts that the states should have well laid down procedures and strategies that must be followed in child support calculation. According to Webster, (2003), he recognizes these guidelines and procedures as programs that deal with financial information and provide relevant knowledge of parent’s earnings and all other factors that affects their expenses. There should be no alteration of the child support once they are established unless the government wants it to be reviewed. After one or more year of the establishment, the request can be sent to the court by custodial and non-custodial parents if they want the child support to be modified. In a case where non-custodial parent is in financial crisis, he or she may seek petition in court for reduction in support payments. On the other hand, when the child’s expenses increases, the court may consider revising the support payments but this is only done with the custodial parents’ awareness. However, both parents are sensitized that though they have the right to petition the court for support order amendment, they should not expect an automatic adjustment.

As observed by Hellmuth (2007) the judge reserves the right to decide either to alter or not the amount of support after fact finding of the case. The judgment of the court may rule out that though non-custodial parent’s income decreases, this might not have any effect on the child’s expenses and therefore the parents should continue paying the required amount. Alternatively, an increase in the child’s expenses may be exaggerated by the concerned individuals in calculating child support and therefore non-custodial parent should not carry the burden of paying more than expected. The Family Law requires that the payment to be paid to the federal or the agency in charge of child support. The governing federal therefore has the responsibility of channeling the funds to the custodial parent.

The child support program has been affected significantly by noncompliant parents who evade payments because of one reason or another. Child support evasion occurs when deadbeat parents deliberately avoid taking care of their children. The consequences of evading payment vary by jurisdiction, the period a parent has been noncompliant and the amount that he or she owe the agency. Some of the penalties that the noncompliant are faced with may include being denied passport to move from one state to another under regulation by the Passport Denial Program. They may also be prone to being sued in court of law and if found guilty to suffer jail sentence. That is to say, they may end up in prison, pay fines and their property seized. (Hellmuth, 2007) The effect of state child support enforcement agency not receiving payments is rampant and it has affected negatively not only the life of the child but also the nation and society at large. As a result of parents evading payments the repercussion is social as well as economic problems that affect the welfare of the children. The biggest challenge is that the interests of the children must be met and this includes feeding them, education and providing medical cover for the sick. When parents evade their responsibilities, their children will come across insurmountable problems which will be infinitely more dramatic in their day to day activities. Children who receive little or no support from their parents are more likely to be depressed and withdrawn. Children will no longer receive moral education and consequently they become assertive and fiercely independent and they tend to believe in ignorance and conservativeness. When the children lack moral values, they develop a bad attitude towards their parents and therefore this condition complicates things such that some of them become rebellious and also parents are unable to control them.

Parents are usually frustrated and disillusioned by the resentment on the part of the child. According to the report by Council of Europe, (2008) they emphasized on strategies to stop the vicious cycle for this will affect the communication between child and their parents negatively. Consequently, a child who is resented, depressed and discontented may turn to the streets to look for support where he/she considers being a more refreshing and exciting life to his or her troubles. If the evaders are not compelled to obey policy commitments of child support but continue to evade payments then the situation will go from bad to worse. If the payment is not received, then the system will affect one-side in that it will favor the evaders at the expense of the children whose demands need to be met. Statistics shows that majority of the Americans are not complying with the child support order and this is affecting the standard of living of the children. As noted down by Jerome (2007) in the research carried out in the year 2003, out of three million poor single mothers who were supposed to receive child support order, only half of them received any payment. When states keeps child support payments which are meant to help children then this means that children’s life is at stake for they will not receive their basic requirements. This is to say, they go against the laws of child support. Parents with little education and/or job prospects find themselves with debts and arrears and this may result in complicating things which will make it harder to start earning and paying.

In conclusion, it is clear that “payments for children on welfare are being used in almost every state to cater for general state and federal welfare expenses” (Sanford, 1997). In United States when the child support system was established by the Congress, the main and explicit goal was to control the mismanagement of the collected child support payments by the federal agencies. However, more than half of the states did not remit the collected child support payments while others paid only a small percentage of the amount collected which was as little as fifty dollars per child despite the fact that some non-custodial parents paid more than what they were expected to. The states are supposed to collect and remit all the child support payment to the families for the sake of the child. Nowadays, more non-custodial parents are volunteering and paying the arrears they owe and this has made families not to rely on aid as well as making up for the money that might have been spent by federal agencies. In order to minimize the effects of evasion, the states should emphasize on the policy focus of income adequacy and family supports. It is quite unfortunate that majority of the parents are finding child support care and other family supports in United States wanting. The government should therefore devise strict laws and regulations that will make sure family sustaining income, child support programs are provided to all the affected children.


  1. Council of Europe, (2008) Causes and Prevention of Child Abuse, New York: University of Virginia
  2. Jerome Hellmuth, (2007) Exceptional Infant, New York: University of Michigan
  3. Joseph I. Lieberman, (2000) Child Support in America: Practical Advice for Negotiating-and Collecting-a Fair Settlement. New York: Yale University Press
  4. Kate J Stirling, (1991) Child Support Issues: What the Research Tells Us. New York: Washington State Institute for Public Policy
  5. Sanford N. Katz, (1997) The Youngest Minority: Lawyers in Defense of Children, New York: American Bar Association, Section of Family Law
  6. Webster Watnik, (2003) Child Custody Made Simple: Understanding the Laws of Child Custody and Child Support. New York: Single Parent Press
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