University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Recent Changes to State Child Support Guidelines for Low-Income Noncustodial Parents

This report examines recent changes (and proposed changes) to state child support guidelines for low-income noncustodial parents. A central purpose of the child support program is to ensure that parents who live apart from their children contribute to their well-being by providing them with consistent financial support. The child support system has been generally successful in facilitating payments to children whose parents have a moderate and regular source of income. The system is less successful, however, in transferring resources from low-income noncustodial parents to the custodial parents with whom they have children. A wide array of factors, including limited earnings capacities due to barriers to employment and competing obligations across multiple families, can limit the abilities of noncustodial parents to comply with their child support orders. A recent federal ruling requires states to consider noncustodial parents’ abilities to pay when setting child support orders [45 C.F.R. § 302.56(c)(1)(ii)], but leaves it to states to determine how much support low-income parents can or should be expected to pay. As Wisconsin prepares to review its guidelines in 2020, this report provides detailed information about the approaches that other state child support agencies have taken or considered to make their child support guidelines for low-income parents consistent with the recent ruling, and examines the implications of these approaches for child support order amounts.


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, Economic Support, Family Income, Financial Security, Guidelines, Orders & Payments


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