Barriers to Meeting Formal Child Support Obligations: Noncustodial Father Perspectives.

Mar 2020 | Lisa Klein Vogel.

ABSTRACT: Changes in family demographic patterns and the erosion of the social safety net have contributed to the centrality of child support as a source of income for many families. Many custodial mothers and their children rely on child support to meet basic needs; yet, most do not receive all of the support they are owed. Given the importance of child support as a financial resource for many families, and the gap between child support owed and received, understanding why some fathers do not meet their formal support obligations is important for improving the well-being of children in single-parent families. This article contributes to the evidence base on barriers to compliance with formal child support obligations by the sharing perspectives of noncustodial fathers struggling to find work and pay child support. Data were gathered through focus groups with noncustodial fathers conducted for the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration. Results indicate four types of factors contributing to noncompliance: (1) practical impediments, including income constraints, high-burden orders and obligations to other children; (2) system-imposed barriers; (3) noncustodial father preferences and (4) prior interactions with the child support system. Findings from this study suggest a number of policy changes that could help facilitate compliance among struggling noncustodial fathers. These include access to services to help overcome practical barriers to work; administrative and statutory changes within child support to help address high burden orders, enforcement actions that impede employment and state-owed arrearages; and changes to TANF pass-through policies. 

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