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Learning More About Unpaid Child Support

Learning More About Unpaid Child Support

By M. Scott Gordon

When we talk about child support, we often focus on ways of ensuring that non-custodial spouses make the child support payments that a court has required of them. We focus less often, it seems, on the striking amount of child support that goes unpaid in Chicago and indeed across the country. Do we have a problem in the United States when it comes to unpaid child support? Can we track certain trends when it comes to the failure to make child support payments? And what do child health and safety advocates suggest we do about the problem?

According to an article in CNN Money, as of 2009, non-custodial parents throughout the U.S. owed a total of $108 billion in back child support payments. What are the consequences of this shocking amount of unpaid child support?

Public Assistance Programs When Child Support Payments Are Not Made

By and large, kids in single-parent families who have been denied child support because of deadbeat parents will see some of that money in the form of public assistance. For example, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program can provide certain benefits for “families with one or more dependent children,” according to the Illinois Department of Human Services website. To be eligible for TANF benefits generally, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Currently be pregnant or have a dependent under the age of 19;
  • Live in Illinois;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or otherwise meet immigration requirements; and
  • Create a plan that will allow you to become self-sufficient, and follow through with that program.

When single-parent families that are owed back child support payments receive benefits through the TANF program, they are eligible for some of the following services:

  • Cash assistance to provide for basic needs like food, clothing, or housing;
  • Transitional services to help a parent gain the education or training she needs to become self-sufficient, such as vocation training, English-language classes, childcare assistance, and GED classes;
  • SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps); and
  • Certain medical assistance programs.

In many situations, Chicago families turn to TANF benefits when a non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments. But as the CNN Money article emphasizes, when these families rely on various forms of public assistance to make up for what they are not receiving in child support, taxpayers often end up making up for the funding gap.

Taxpayers End Up Covering for Deadbeat Parents 

How do taxpayers make up for deadbeat parents? As the article explains, when non-custodial parents fail to make child support payments—requiring single-parent families to rely on public assistance to meet basic needs—the government is supposed to receive reimbursement for those costs. However, as of 2012, “about 49 percent of back money—or roughly $53 billion—is owed to the government.” And taxpayers tend to make up for government losses.

But taxpayers are not the only losers in these scenarios. To be sure, the article highlights that “child support payments represent 45 percent of [poor mothers’] income,” and as such nearly half of all single-mother households are currently below the poverty level.

A Dedicated Chicago Child Support Lawyer Can Help

In short, child support payments are essential lifelines for children in Illinois, and we may need to take action to ensure that such payments are made in a timely manner. If you have questions about filing a claim for back child support, an experienced Chicago child support lawyer may be able to help. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information about our services.