Parents know that it costs money to raise children, and when parents are divorced or never married, a child support order is supposed to help ensure that custodial parents can meet children’s financial needs. Unfortunately, not all parents with child support obligations are conscientious about paying them.
According to a recent report from CNN, unpaid child support represents a huge debt nationwide. In 2009, says the federal government’s Office of Child Support Enforcement, parents with orders to pay child support were delinquent to the tune of $108 billion in back payments.
CNN points out that failing to pay child support can affect taxpayers, as public assistance may be required if a single parent cannot support children because of unpaid child support. When a child goes on public assistance and there is an outstanding child support debt, the debtor then is supposed to reimburse the government for the public assistance funds expended.
The National Women’s Law Center notes that almost half of the $108 billion in unpaid child support is actually owed to the government-about $53 billion in taxpayers’ money.
The impact of unpaid child support on America’s children is substantial. More than eight out of 10 custodial parents are female, and more than four out of 10 households headed by single women have incomes below the federal poverty line. In single-parent households headed by females, the poverty rate is twice as high as in households headed by single males and almost five times as high as in households headed by married couples.
Help for parents
Oklahoma has services in place that can help. The state’s Department of Human Services administers the Oklahoma Child Support Services program. OCSS is empowered under state law to help when parents fail to support their children financially.
OCSS works to establish legal paternity and orders for child support and medical support payments. OCSS puts its resources to work to identify parents’ employers and addresses. It can also enforce and modify child support orders and collect and issue payments.
Government attorneys provide legal services to DHS, working on behalf of the state to get child support orders established and enforced when the state would otherwise have to pay assistance for children’s support. It is important for parents to realize that the attorneys who work for DHS do not represent individuals; they are protecting taxpayers by compelling parents with child support orders to pay them so the state is not left supporting children with public assistance.
Parents who want to be sure a court awards appropriate child support are best served by consulting with an experienced family law attorney. Whether a parent receives or pays child support, an attorney will help gather and analyze accurate financial information and represent the parent in arguing for a fair child support award that covers a child’s needs.