Help Me Help You: Identifying and Addressing Barriers to Child Support Compliance.

Mar 2020 | Lisa Klein Vogel.

ABSTRACT: 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. Understanding why some fathers do not meet their formal support obligations is important for the well-being of children in single-parent families. Research about noncustodial fathers' compliance with formal support obligations has focused predominantly on quantitative analyses of individual, family, and structural factors affecting compliance, with a more limited body of qualitative work exploring noncustodial father perspectives. Generally missing are the perspectives of staff who work with noncustodial parents on overcoming compliance barriers. Staff provide unique and useful insights, given their vantage point from within systems and across fathers. However, staff perspectives alone are inadequate for understanding the full context of noncustodial parent experiences, as noncustodial parents possess a unique view into the child support system as customers. This article contributes to the evidence base on barriers to compliance with formal child support obligations by the sharing perspectives of staff who work with noncustodial fathers struggling to find work and pay child support on overcoming these barriers, and comparing their perspectives to those of noncustodial fathers. Data were gathered through interviews and surveys with child support, employment, and parenting staff conducted for the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration, and are compaerd to perspectives of fathers gathered through focus groups for the same evaluation (Vogel, 2020). Results indicate five types of practical, system-based, and experiential factors contributing to noncompliance: (1) an array of barriers to employment; (2) insufficient income to meet obligations; (3) child support system-initiated barriers; (4) resistance to paying support without visitation access; and (5) prior interactions with the child support system. Findings suggest a number of policy changes that could help facilitate compliance among struggling noncustodial fathers, including: access to services to address practical barriers to work; system-level health care, child care, public infrastructure, and criminal justice reforms; administrative and statutory changes within child support to help address high burden orders, enforcement actions that impede employment, and state-owed arrearages; and providing pathways to visitation when safe and appropriate. 



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