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Should missed child support payments mean jail?

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 1, 2012 at 2:01 a.m.
Updated July 2, 2012 at 2:02 a.m.

Pro: To read why parents who skip child support payments should go to jail, click here.

Con: To read why parents who skip child support payments should NOT go to jail, click here.


•  Monthly child support payments in the United States averaged $430 per month in 2010.

•  59 percent of the $41.7 billion in total payments were for child support for children under 21 ($24.4 billion), which was paid by 4.8 million parents. The remainder was paid to children over 21, parents, and other relatives or non-relatives of the providers. Monetary support in 2010 was primarily for children, although it also included support for other non-household members, such as parents or other relatives.

•  Child support payments averaged $5,150 annually, or $430 per month.

•  About 85 percent of child support providers were male and 15 percent were female.

•  Annual child support payments averaged $5,450 from men providers and $3,500 from women providers.

•  About three of every four child support providers had some type of an agreement or court order for support.

•  About six-in-10 child support providers paid support for one child, three-in-10 supported two children, and the remaining one-in-10 supported three or more children.

•  About 2.1 million providers supported people other than their children younger than 21, with 32 percent of these providing support for their parents.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2010 statistics.

Last fiscal year, the Texas Attorney General's Office collected a record-breaking $3 billion in child support.

For the past five years, Texas has ranked first in the nation for total child support collections - even though the state did not have the nation's highest caseload.

Attorney General Greg Abbott attributes these successes to an efficient and effective child support collection program.

The program is one that uses incarceration, which is viewed as a viable last resort option for parents who willfully and repeatedly violate the law.

When other enforcement efforts fail, the attorney general's office can file a civil contempt order, as well as ask a court to impose jail time for delinquent parents who violate court orders to pay child support, according to Texas law.

Delinquent parents who owe more than $5,000 are subject to an arrest warrant and may be placed on the state's "Most Wanted Child Support Evader" list.

For years, policy makers, judicial officers, researchers and of course, parents have debated whether jail is an appropriate consequence for non-payment of child support.



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