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State, US data say no end in sight for child support problems

For custodial parents who are owed child support payments, the problem goes beyond making ends meet. As one Illinois mom puts it, "It takes a toll on everything, and the stress is overbearing." Her son, she says, hasn't seen his dad for 15 years. After years of financial and emotional struggle, two bankruptcies and unsuccessful efforts to collect the money his father owes, her 18-year-old son's distrust of men extends well beyond his dad.

This mom has one of half a million child support cases in Illinois. The majority of those cases have court orders for payment, and the number has grown over the past couple of years. The current 81 percent is 3 percent higher than 2010.

Nationwide, noncustodial parents owe more than $35 billion in child support. While more than half was collected, the number is down. The number of custodial parents who received any form of payment fell from 76 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2009 (the most recent data available) -- not helped, certainly, when the financial industry crisis hit in 2008.

What is even more troubling is that the $35 billion is owed in almost infinitesimal increments: In 2009, the average custodial parent received $300 a month. In some parts of Illinois, the number is slightly higher at $310 a month.

That is not a lot of money to raise a family on. Custodial parents, for the most part mothers, are not sitting idly by, though. In McHenry County, in northwestern Illinois, courts have issued payment orders for more than 88 percent of the 4,100 active child support cases, a full 8 percent increase over 2010.

A payment order does not guarantee payment, of course, so states have had to be creative in collection processes. We'll discuss Illinois' approach in our next post.

Source: Northwest Herald, "Chase for child support," Lawerence Synett, Nov. 14, 2012

Our firm helps parents like the ones in this post who are trying to collect or trying to make child support payments in Illinois. If you are interested in learning more about our practice, please visit the Lake County child support page of our website.

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