Research shows that child support is an important source of income for single parents, yet many low-income single parents, who are often mothers, receive inconsistent payments from non-custodial parents.18 There are several reasons for the irregular payments that include: constraints on non-custodial parents’ ability to pay such as spells of unemployment; non-custodial parent is incarcerated; tensions about the amount of the child support payment especially if they are several delinquent payments; non-custodial parents’ concerns about how the income is spent by the custodial parent.
There are currently programs in different states designed to help non-custodial parents who make a good faith effort to make more consistent payments. These programs assist with the following:
- Better align obligations with fathers’ ability to pay and make it easier to modify order if needed.
- Forgive arrears if non-custodial parents make good faith efforts to make payments.
- Reduce the amount of child support that non-custodial parent reimburses the government so that more income goes to low-income children.
- Through marriage and family strengthening programs, improve parents’ communications skills to help deflate conflicts over child support payments could lead to more consistent payments over time.
- Set up electronic payment systems that include direct deposits into savings account or debit cards.
Although child support payments are cash transfers that occur within families from one parent to another, they can also be used build by families to build future assets for children.