April 24, 2018 By Ned Holstein, M.D. and Robert Franklin, J.D., National Parents Organization Board members
The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) claims that we should adopt even more draconian policies to collect child support than we already do by passing the Farm Bill currently before Congress. The National Parents Organization strongly believes that parents should responsibly support their children. But “cracking down” on parents who are poor has a long history of hurting children more than helping them.
Child support policy among the poor does not work for several long-known reasons.
First, state courts are incentivized by federal payments to the states to set child support orders at levels the poor cannot pay. For instance, in many states, a minimum child support payment of $1,200 to $1,800 per year is required no matter how little the payer earns; this is uncollectible from someone earning, say, $8000 per year. As a result, studies in both California and by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) have shown that about 70 percent of all unpaid child support dollars are owed by parents who earn less than $10,000 per year. The federal OCSE has explicitly recognized since at least 2006 that these child support amounts involve the very poor are largely uncollectible, but we’ve seen little change in state court orders.