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Ability to Pay Child Support Affected by Great Recession

For the first time in 30 years, child support payments across the United States decreased and decrease for the first time in 2009. It is also predicted that child support payments in 2010 will also follow the negative trend. High unemployment and the capability of noncustodial parents to acquire court ordered reductions in payments have more than offset the ability of individual states' to garnish the income of parents who are behind on their child support payments.

Nationwide records of child support payments have been kept by the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Child Support Enforcement since 1976 and payments for 2009 are down almost one percentage point in comparison to 2008. There are a number of factors that have affected the amount of child support payments made in 2009. Employment and bankruptcy are among the major causes.

Unemployment numbers continue to remain at a historic high. The unemployment rate in November was 9.8 percent which rose 0.2 percent from October. The number of private jobs that were added to the economy was a fraction of what was predicted. The number of people who are underemployed has remained constant while the number people who have been unemployed over six months increased to 6.3 million. Bankruptcy filings have also been up during 2009 as well.

Parents who are behind on child custody payments and are in bankruptcy confront the problem of having their unemployment checks garnished or waiting to get their child support payments reduced as they try to find new jobs. Some states like Texas and Oregon have made it easier for parents who are behind on their child support payments and have lost their jobs. Parents who are behind and have lost their jobs can reduce their child support payments for a time period of six months. Generally, the process to do so is difficult.

Source: dailyfinance.com, "Another Victim of the Great Recession: Child Support Payments," Danny King, 1/1/11

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