Facts on Child Support

10% of fathers not paying ordered child support are resisting (the “deadbeats”). 66% lack the financial resources.
[US Government Accounting Office, HRD-92-39 FS.]
95% of fathers having no employment problems for the past five years pay regularly; 81% in full and on time.
Among non-custodial fathers having experienced any unemployment, one third paid nothing. [Have given up. Due to the Badley Amendment, once the debt is over your head, there’s no way out. You will always be a criminal. —Ed.]
[Judi Bartfeld and Daniel R. Meyer, “Are There Really Deadbeat Dads? The Relationship Between Ability to Pay, Enforcement, and Compliance in Normal Child Support Cases.” Social Service Review 68, 1994.]
Only 4% of non-custodial parents are able to get a reduction in support payments when their earnings drop by over 15%.

[Elaine Sorensen. “A Little Help for Some ‘Deadbeat’ Dads,” Washington Post (November 15, 1995). p. A25.]

90% of fathers with joint custody pay the ordered child support. 79.1% of fathers with visitation rights pay the ordered child support. 44.5% of fathers with no visitation rights pay the ordered child support.
[Census Bureau report. Series P-23, No. 173.]
In 1990, Lockheed employee and divorced father Bobby Sherrill was captured in Kuwait and spent nearly five months as an Iraqi hostage. The night after his release Mr. Sherrill was arrested for not paying $1,425 in child support while a hostage.
In 1980, Texas high school janitor Clarence Brandley was wrongly accused of murder. He spent nearly 10 years in prison, most of it on death row, until his exoneration in January 1990. In 1991, Mr. Brandley sued the state for wrongful imprisonment. The state handed him a bill for nearly $50,000 in child support that Mr. Brandley had failed to pay while in prison.

[The Bradley Amendment [42, U.S.C. 666(a)(9)(c)] says that once a child-support obligation has been established, it cannot be retroactively reduced or waived. If, before your comma, abduction, or imprisonment, you failed to hire a lawyer to request a reduction, you will loose your business license, drivers license, car, food stamps, and jailed. Father abandonment has correspondingly increased. But we measure child-support compliance, not child care. — Ed.]

Lenore Weitzman’s 1985 book The Divorce Revolution claimed that women and children average a 73% drop in standard of living after divorce; fathers’ increase by 42%. It caused a sensation whose effects are still driving social perceptions and policies. It was wrong. Weitzman refused to provide her data to others until, when she left the Murray Center at Stanford University, Richard Peterson of the Social Science Research Council, New York City, reassessed it. There were many data errors, arithmetic errors, and doubtful methodology. Even following Weitzman’s methodology, the data showed only a 28% drop for women, and a 7% increase for men after divorce. Eleven years, many false witch hunts, dozens of oppressive measures, and untold suicides later.

[Two articles by Peterson, one by Weitzman, American Sociological Review, 1996, Vol. 61:528-36.]

When Dr. Sanford Braver of Arizona State University and a team of economists and psychologists assessed their own data using more accurate equivalency tables, accounting for taxes, and other corrections to method, they found no change in the standard of living between men and women after divorce.

[Sanford L. Braver and Diane O’Connel, Divorced Dads, Tarcher Putman, 1998, ISBN 0-87477-862-X.]

79.6% of custodial mothers receive a support award.
29.9% of custodial fathers receive a support award.
26.9% of non-custodial fathers totally default on support.
46.9% of non-custodial mothers totally default on support.

[Meyer and Garansky, Technical Analysis Paper No. 42, U.S., Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Income Security Policy, 1991.]

“Child support is our system for replacing fathers with money. Everyone, including mothers, would be better off if we replaced money with fathers.”


The Office of Child Support Enforcement was established by the U.S. Congress in 1975. In the eleven years from 1978 to 1989, when it revved up, the average child support payment to custodial parents FELL from $2,370 to $2,252. This was a period of high inflation.
[US Health Department figures, cited by David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, Harper Collins, 1996. ISBN 006092683x.]
From 1993 to 1997, when the “toughest” enforcement measures were introduced, net collections of child support FELL from 61.7% of the 1993 $23.9 billion due to 58.8% of the 1997 $29.1 billion due.

[US Census Bureau, Dec 13, 2000.]

In 1978, the average annual child support payment was $2,370. In 1997, the average payment was $2,440, a DROP of 58.2% in consistent dollars.

[US Census Bureau, Dec 13, 2000.]

Amount of child support collected as a percentage of amount owed:
1989: 75% [Current Population Reports, Series P-23, No. 173, 1989.]
1991: 67.1% [Current Population Reports, Series P60-187, p10.]
1993: 61.7% [US Census Bureau web page, Dec. 13, 2000.]
1995: 63.0% [US Census Bureau web page, Dec. 13, 2000.]
1997: 58.8% [US Census Bureau web page, Oct. 13, 2000.]

[US Census Bureau.]

In 1998, the state of Florida spent $4.5 million to collect $162,000 in child support.

[Kathleen Parker, “Deadbeat Dads More Myth than Reality,” Orlando Sentinel, Jan 24, 1999.]

“Our whole sole-custody / child-support paradigm is a giant failure. When will society come to grips with this? Forcing what fails is just making it fail better”

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