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Remedies sought for people in poverty with child support debt

Although almost a quarter of children living in America are entitled to child support payments, less than two-thirds of the money due them is paid. The good news for North Dakota is that our state is above the national average. In fact, as of 2012, it was second only to Pennsylvania in the percentage of child support payments collected -- at about 75 percent.

Not surprisingly, poorer states have the greatest problem with child support debt. Those with more than 15 percent of people below the poverty level for the most part had the lowest amount of child support collected in 2012. A study a decade ago found that 70 percent of child support debt was owed by people with an annual income of $10,000 or less.

In 2011, over a quarter of parents who were owed child support were also below the poverty line. The average parent below the poverty line relied on that support for over half of their income. To make matters worse for the children involved, if the parent receiving the child support was on welfare, he or she had to use that money to pay back the state. If the parent who owed the money could not be found, the other parent could even be fined. Meanwhile, a parent who didn't pay child support could be imprisoned, only exacerbating the situation.

Child support is intended to help children whose parents are no longer together. However, for poor people, it can serve to drive the person who owes the money deeper into poverty, while not helping the children it is meant to assist.

Some states have implemented measures to try to get those parents who can pay some portion of child support owed to do so. One method has been reducing a parent's child support debt by at least half if he or she begins paying child support on time. This experiment has shown some positive results in Wisconsin.

Even for people not living below the poverty level, most everyone goes through tough economic times at one point or another. If someone finds themselves not able to keep up with their child support payments, alternative arrangements can be sought via the courts. A North Dakota family law attorney can help parents who find themselves in this situation before it spirals out of control.

Source: Washington Post, "How our child support system can push the poor deeper into poverty" Jeff Guo, Sep. 26, 2014

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  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
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