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Journal Issue: Children and Divorce Volume 4 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1994

Child Support Orders: Problems with Enforcement
Paula G. Roberts

Endnotes

  1. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Poverty in the United States: 1991. Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 181. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992, p. 6.
  2. See note no. 1, U.S. Bureau of the Census. This figure is obtained by dividing the total number of mother-only families (7,991 million) by the total number of single-parent families (9,504 million).
  3. Bane, M.J. Marital disruption and the lives of children. Journal of Social Issues (1976) 32: 112. Also see Solomon, C. Mother-only families: Trends and issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 1993; and U.S. General Accounting Office. Mother-only families: Low earnings will keep many children in poverty. HRD-91-62. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1991.
  4. See note no. 1, U.S. Bureau of the Census, pp. 126–27.
  5. See note no. 1, U.S. Bureau of the Census, p. 115.
  6. It is beyond the scope of this article to make distinctions between the financial circumstances of children in various types of single-parent families. The focus here is on child support awards because the majority of these children are entitled to them by law. However, careful analysis of the economic conditions of the various types of single-parent families may indicate needs that are unique to the family type, for example, single-parent family due to divorce, single-parent family due to multiple divorces, or single-parent family due to out-of-wedlock birth(s).
  7. See note no. 3, U.S. General Accounting Office, p. 11.
  8. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Child support and alimony: 1989. Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 173. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991, p. 5, Table C.
  9. See note no. 8, U.S. Bureau of the Census, p. 4, Table B. According to 1989 data, 51% of the mothers received all that was owed, 25% received partial payment, and 24% received no payment.
  10. See note no. 8, U.S. Bureau of the Census, p. 1.
  11. Meyer, D., and Garasky, S. Custodial fathers: Myths, realities, and child support policy. Institute for Research on Poverty, Discussion Paper No. 982-92. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1992, p. 28, Table 6.
  12. The General Accounting Office estimates that at least one quarter of all child support cases involve parents who live in different states. Another 11% are cases where the noncustodial father's residence is unknown: both fathers living in different states from the ones in which their children live and fathers living abroad fall into this category. The custodial mothers in these cases were even less likely than those involved with instate cases to receive child support. U.S. General Accounting Office. Interstate child support: Mothers report receiving less support from out-of-state fathers. HRD-92-39FS. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1992, p. 3.
  13. Garfinkel, I., and Oellerich, D. Noncustodial fathers' ability to pay child support. In Child support assurance. I. Garfinkel, S. McLanahan, and P. Robins, eds. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 1992, p. 73, Table 3.6.
  14. There are a variety of studies on the issue each with some methodological limitations. Several of the studies suggest that the typical noncustodial father has income in the $25,000 to $30,000 per year range, however. The most complete of the studies, which provides a breakdown by fathers' race and marital status, is Garfinkel, I., and Oellerich, D. Noncustodial fathers' ability to pay child support. Demography (May 1989) 26:219–33.
  15. See, for example, Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S. 582 (1859); Penoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1878); Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888); Simms v. Simms, 1275 U.S. 162 (1899); In re Burrus, 136 U.S. 586 (1890).
  16. Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 404 (1975).
  17. Occasionally, the paternity of a marital child can also be challenged. See, for example, People in the Interest of L.J., 835 P.2d 1265 (Col. App. 1992).
  18. For a historical perspective on these issues, see Krause, H. Illegitimacy: Law and social policy. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs Merrill, 1971.
  19. Roberts, P. Childhood's end. Uniondale, NY: National Child Support Assurance Consortium, February 1993. Available from the Child Support Assurance Consortium, 773 Fulton Avenue, Uniondale, NY 11553. This study examines the child support experience of 300 low- and moderate-income mothers. It documents what happened to the families when the fathers left and failed to pay support. It also examines the experience of the mothers in trying to obtain support. There was no significant difference in the findings across the four sites.
  20. U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support. Supporting our children: A blueprint for reform. Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992.
  21. According to the Census Bureau, the women most likely to actually obtain child support are white, have attended four or more years of college, and/or have remarried. Those least likely to receive support are African-American, high school dropouts, and/or they never married. See note no. 8, U.S. Bureau of the Census.
  22. Glick, P.C. American families: As they are and were. Sociology and Social Research (April 1990) 74:139–45.
  23. See 118 Cong. Rec. 8291 (1975) (remarks of Sen. Russell Long [D-LA]).
  24. See 42 U.S.C. §651 et seq.
  25. See 42 U.S.C. §651.
  26. See 42 U.S.C. §654(4).
  27. See 42 U.S.C. §§602(a) (26) and 1396k. "Good cause" can be found when the case involves issues of domestic violence, when the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or when adoption is being considered, 45 C.F.R. §232.42.
  28. See 42 U.S.C. §654(6).
  29. See 42 U.S.C. §655(a).
  30. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement. Sixteenth Annual Report to Congress. Washington, DC: DHHS, 1993. The total number of full-time workers (Table 63) was divided by the full-time case load (Table 34) to obtain this figure.
  31. In 1984, this provision was changed slightly to allow custodial parents to have the first $50 collected on time each month without reducing their AFDC grant or eligibility. 42 U.S.C. §602(a) (8) (A) (vi). A few states allow clients to keep even more than $50, U.S.C. §602(a) (28).
  32. For a more detailed description and an overview of the legal challenges brought against these systems for their poor performance, see Roberts, P., and Mason, M. Improving the quality of IV-D programs through litigation. Chicago: National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, 1989. Available from the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, 205 W. Monroe Street, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60606-5013.
  33. Mills v. Halbluetzel, 456 U.S. 92 (1982); Pickett v. Brown, 462 U.S. 1 (1983). See, also Clark v. Jeter, 108 S.Ct. 1910 (1988).
  34. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (5), now codified at 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (5) (A)(i).
  35. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (5) (B).
  36. See 42 U.S.C. §668.
  37. For a more extensive discussion of recent developments in this area, see Roberts, P. Paternity establishment: An issue for the 1990s. Clearinghouse Review (1993) 26:1019.
  38. See, for example, Mo. Ann. Stat. §454.485; Or. Rev. Stat. §416.430
  39. See, for example, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §12-852; Mass. Gen. Stat., Ch. 209C, §11; Va. Code Ann. §20-49.1.
  40. See, for example, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2301.357(B); Wash. Rev. Stat. 70.58.080.
  41. In River v. Minnich, 107 S.Ct. 3001 (1987), the Supreme Court upheld the use of a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, rather than proof "beyond a reasonable doubt."
  42. See, for example, Ark. Code Ann. 9-10-108(a); Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 19, §§526.1 and 280.1(d); Wy. Stat. §14-2-109(c).
  43. See, for example, Mt. Code Ann. §40-5-231 et seq.
  44. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a)(2) and 45 C.F.R. §303.101(b)(2).
  45. For a more detailed discussion, see Roberts, P. Expedited processes and child support enforcement: A delicate balance. Parts 1 and 2. Clearinghouse Review (1985) 19:483 and 620.
  46. See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§552.501 et seq.
  47. See, for example, Col. Stat. Ann. 26-13.5-101 et seq.
  48. For a more detailed discussion, see Chambers, D. Making fathers pay: The enforcement of child support. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
  49. See 42 U.S.C. §666(b) (3) (A)
  50. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (8).
  51. See 42 U.S.C. §666(b) (5).
  52. See 42 U.S.C. §654 (19).
  53. See, for example, Ohio Rev. Code §2301.35; Va. Code Ann. §20-60.5.
  54. See, for example, Col. Rev. Stat. §26-13-114(7) (f).
  55. See 42 U.S.C. §405(c)(2)(C).
  56. See, for example, Wash. Rev. Code §26.23.040; Mass. Gen. L. ch. 62E.
  57. U.S. General Accounting Office. Interstate child support: Wage withholding not fulfilling expectations. HRD-92-65BR. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1992.
  58. U.S. General Accounting Office. States proceed with immediate wage withholding: More HHS action needed. HRD-93-99. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1993.
  59. See 42 U.S.C. §664. For a more detailed description of this program, see Roberts, P. Federal income tax intercept. Clearinghouse Review (1985) 19:853.
  60. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (3). For a more detailed description of this program, see Roberts, P. State income tax intercept. Clearinghouse Review (1986) 19:1168.
  61. See 42 U.S.C. §652(b) and 26 U.S.C. §6305.
  62. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (4).
  63. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (1) and (a) (8).
  64. See 42 U.S.C. §666(a) (7).
  65. See, for example, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 15, §792.
  66. See, for example, Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code §11350.6.
  67. For a more complete discussion, see Roberts, P. Securing medical insurance coverage for children through the child support enforcement system. Clearinghouse Review (1992) 25:1436.
  68. See Va. Code §20-79.3(5). See, also, Minn. Stat. Ann. §518.1271(3) and (4).
  69. For a more complete discussion, see Roberts, P. Enforcing medical support orders. Clearinghouse Review (1992) 25:1562.
  70. See, for example, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources. The child support enforcement program: Policy and practice. WMCP 101-19. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 1989; and Mathematics Policy Research. Income withholding, medical support, and services to non-AFDC cases after the Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1991.
  71. See, for example, U.S. General Accounting Office. Child support: Need to improve efforts to identify fathers and obtain support orders. HRD-87-37. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, April 1987; Child support: State progress in developing automated enforcement systems. HRD-89-10FS. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, February 1989; Child support collection efforts for non-AFDC families. HRD-85-3. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, October 3, 1984; Child support enforcement: A framework for evaluating costs, benefits, and effects. PEMD-91-6. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, March 1991; Child support enforcement: More states reporting debt to credit bureaus to spur collections. HRD-90-113. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, July 1990; Child support enforcement: Opportunity to defray burgeoning federal and state non-AFDC costs. HRD-92-91. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, July 1990; Interstate child support: Better information needed on absent parents for case pursuit. HRD-90-41. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, May 1990; Medicaid: Ensuring that noncustodial parents provide health insurance can save costs. HRD-92-80. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, June 1992; States' progress in implementing the 1984 amendments. HRD-87-11. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, October 1986.
  72. U.S. General Accounting Office. Interstate child support: Case data limitations, enforcement problems, views on improvements needed. HRD-89-25. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1989; see note no. 12, U.S. General Accounting Office.
  73. These treaties include the United Nations Convention on the Recovery of Maintenance Abroad, the 1958 Hague Convention Concerning the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations Toward Children, the 1973 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations of Children and Spouses, the 1973 Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations, and the 1980 Hague Convention on International Access to Justice.
  74. See note no. 30, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This figure was obtained by dividing the average number of cases in which a collection was made (Table 39) by the total number of cases with an order (Table 35). If one looks at the entire IV-D case load, a collection is made in fewer than 20% of all cases (Table 39 divided by Table 35).
  75. For a more detailed discussion of the reasons for nonpayment as articulated by the parents themselves, see Furstenberg, Jr., F.F., Sherwood, K.E., and Sullivan, M.L. Caring and paying: What fathers and mothers say about child support. New York: MDRC, July 1992.
  76. Furstenberg, Jr., F.F. Marital disruptions, child custody, and visitation. In Child support: From debt collection to social policy. A.J. Kahn and S.B. Kamerman, eds. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988, pp. 277–305.
  77. See, for example, H.R. 1961, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess., §101 (a) (1993).
  78. Endorsers of most or all of these basic ideas include the National Commission on Children, the U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, the American Public Welfare Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Ad Hoc Committee to Improve Child Support.
  79. See P.L. 100-485, 104 Stat 1388, codified as a note to 42 U.S.C. §666.
  80. See note no. 20, U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, p. xiii.
  81. See note no. 20, U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, Appendix B (views of Schuyler Babb, Judge Battle Robinson, and Judge Frances Rothschild).
  82. See, for example, National Conference of State Legislatures, Committees on Human Services and Law and Justice, Official Policy on Child Support Enforcement, 1992.
  83. See 42 U.S.C. §654(16).
  84. See note no. 20, U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, chapter 5.
  85. U.S. General Accounting Office. Child support enforcement, timely action needed to correct systems development problems. IMTEC-92-46. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office, August 1992.
  86. See note no. 20, U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support. The full Act is printed as Appendix E.
  87. The Downey-Hyde Child Support Enforcement and Assurance Proposal (May 12, 1992) available from the Subcommittee on Human Resources, Committee on Ways and Means, B-317 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515.
  88. For a more detailed analysis of Downey-Hyde, see Roberts, P. An idea whose time has come: Child support assurance. Clearinghouse Review (1992) 26:766.
  89. Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, 102nd Cong., 2d Sess., June 30 and July 1, 1992.
  90. See H.R. 773, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess. (1993).
  91. Child support for children: Making it work. July 1992. Endorsers of this document included IV-D directors from Georgia, Guam, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia, as well as the Organization for the Enforcement of Child Support, Second Husbands' Alliance for Fair Treatment, Children's Defense Fund, Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc., and the Center for Law and Social Policy. This document was assembled by the Ad Hoc Committee on Child Support, and copies are available from the Center for Law and Social Policy, 1616 P Street, NW, Suite 50, Washington, DC 20036.
  92. See note no. 20, U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support, Appendix B (dissenting opinion of Geraldine Jensen).