A: Child support agencies use their enforcement tools for fathers who actively evade child support. For fathers who lack the financial resources to pay support, strong enforcement measures often do not result in increased child support payments. These policies may well keep fathers from participating in the formalized system. Developing policies that make it more feasible for fathers to pay support can help ensure they will pay continually over time.
A: Most child support decisions regarding establishing and modifying orders are a matter of state law or regulation. Federal law sets general guidelines regarding enforcement, but states can use their discretion to decide how orders are set and modified and when they are enforced. State legislatures can affect these policies by directly putting policy in statute, directing agencies to follow specific guidelines, or developing outcome-based performance measures for agencies to follow.
A: In most cases, the mother and child are not getting any support, so applying a downward modification can be an investment in ensuring future payments. It can help to establish a positive relationship between the father and the child support agency.
A: Agencies can modify support orders to make the current order more feasible and reflective of current earnings. Child support programs can also collaborate with state workforce development agencies and fatherhood programs to connect fathers to service providers who can help them find jobs or find better jobs. Courts can order employment or training programs instead of jail time for those who are behind in payments. States can also provide transitional subsidized jobs for those who are considered harder to serve, including welfare recipients, ex-offenders and other disadvantaged parents.
A: Depending on the amount of the debt, it may be unrealistic for a low-income father to repay massive amounts of past debts; in many cases, these amounts are thousands of dollars. Forgiving a portion of past debts also can help ensure future payments if fathers see repayment as a realistic achievement, reducing the likelihood that fathers will revert to providing “underground support.” Given the poor collection rates for this population, states have little to lose by trying a new approach.
A: States are not collecting large amounts of money on state debt from this population. Essentially, they are spending money on enforcement with little cost benefit. Forgiving some portions of past child support debts may help generate future payments.