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Numbers Show Child Support Payments Falling

The recession was likely the reason child support payments fell in 2009, the first such decline in over 60 years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not completed the analysis of 2010 child support data, but preliminary results suggest another year of losses.

The results may have been worse had states not enacted tougher collection laws. Through wage garnishment, even garnishing from unemployment payments, states have increased their access to funds that custodial parents are entitled to.

The reality remains, though, that unemployment has hit record highs, with some workers reaching the end of their benefits with no job in sight. In their favor, noncustodial parents have been able to convince courts to lower their monthly support obligations. Custodial parents, living in the same economy, likely see this is a problem.

The court orders, however, don't come overnight. The rock-and-a-hard-place situation that so many noncustodial parents find themselves in now is going through the months-long court process or having a large portion -- up to 25 percent -- of their unemployment garnished. If they're receiving unemployment, that is. Workers entering the shadow economy, getting paid under the table, are harder for state agencies to find.

The HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement reports that $26.4 billion in child-support payments were collected during fiscal 2009 (ending September 30, 2009). The decline over 2008 was 0.7 percent -- a small percentage, but the first recorded since the agency started tracking the numbers. Nationally, child support payments averaged about $250 a month.

In Illinois, late payments are a chronic problem, according to a state spokesman. The most recent figures show that 88 percent of child support cases were behind at some point in the year; the year before, the figure was even higher, at 91 percent.

Resource: Daily Finance "Another Victim of the Great Recession: Child Support Payments" 01/01/11

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