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Factors Associated with Nonpayment of Child Support

Despite the employment of an automated enforcement system, recent statistics show that only half of noncustodial parents pay the full amount of what they owe. Understanding the reasons for noncompliance is critical in improving the child support enforcement system and providing suitable financial support to custodial-parent families. In this report, we explore potential reasons why some orders are not fully paid despite the routinization of the enforcement system. We use a unique set of merged Wisconsin administrative data covering a six-year time period and examine noncustodial fathers in couples who had their first child support order in 2000 to document the potential reasons for noncompliance.

We found that the child support enforcement system generally works as intended. When fathers had earnings throughout the year and the earnings were more than $20,000, and when they also had no employer change or order change, about 85 percent paid the full amount of child support owed. Nearly all fathers who did not pay had unstable employment or earnings, and a significant minority of them was incarcerated.


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Enforcement, Incarcerated Parents, Orders & Payments, WI Administrative Data Core


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