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Use of Enforcement Actions and Their Relationship to Payments

The child support program has a number of tools to facilitate child support collections. Despite policy interest in raising levels of compliance with child support orders, little research exists on the use of enforcement actions or their effectiveness. This report uses administrative data to examine the frequency of use of enforcement tools when noncustodial fathers fall behind on their support obligations, patterns of use, and how use of tools in Wisconsin compares to use of tools in selected other states. It also examines whether there is a relationship between use of actions and payment of owed support.

Results indicate that nonpayment spells are fairly common, and enforcement actions occur for most noncustodial parents who do not pay for two months. Notices to suspend licenses and license suspensions are less common, as is being placed in contempt. Our results also suggest substantial cross-county differences in the extent to which these tools are used. Limited cross-state research suggests that states vary in the use of tools and, tentatively, that Wisconsin is generally not an outlier in how often enforcement tools are used. Though not causal, results suggest that warning letters, notices of intent to suspend licenses, court hearings, and holding noncustodial parents in contempt of court, are all associated with a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of making at least one payment among nonpayers. On the other hand, suspending licenses does not consistently show a positive relationship with payments, and is sometimes statistically related to a lower likelihood of beginning to pay.


Child Support, Child Support Policy Research, CSPED, Enforcement, WI Administrative Data Core


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