Most custodial parents don’t receive full payments

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A fresh report from the U.S. Census Bureau offers a snapshot of child support in the U.S., finding:

  • A bit less than half of custodial-parent families have court orders or other financial agreements that obligated financial support from absent parents.
  • Almost 46% of custodial-parent families owed child support in 2013 received all due payments, up from 37% two decades earlier. See above chart.
  • Among custodial parents who received financial child support, the average monthly amount was $330 per month, almost 70% of the $480 due.

Cash isn’t the only support for kids

But cash isn’t the only way parents can help support kids. Last year the Journal of Marriage and Family took up the issue of “deadbeat dads,” or fathers who provide little or zero cash to support their kids. The study found some of these men do, in fact, offer valuable goods, such as clothing, gifts and food. Of note, while there are “deadbeat moms,” too, more than eight-in-10 of custodial parents are mothers, government data show.

According to the Census report, absent parents supplied non-cash support to almost 62% of custodial parents, offerings gifts, clothes, diapers, food, etc.

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Low-income dads provided an average of $60 per month per child in non-cash goods, according to the study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The authors interviewed more than 300 low-income noncustodial fathers in Austin, Texas; Philadelphia, and Charleston, S.C. between 1996 and 2003.

“I was really surprised by how much these disadvantaged guys, these truly marginally employed men, are putting all of this thought and what little resources they have into showing their children that they care,” said Kathryn Edin, a study co-author and sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University.

While non-cash support has its limitations, offering goods can provide non-custodial parents interaction with their kids.

“If fathers ‘come by’ on a routine basis to deliver the goods on which mothers rely, they can purchase regular access to the child,” the authors wrote.

–Ruth

 

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