According to a recent press release by the U.S. Census Bureau, 53.2 percent of parents who are supposed to be receiving child support are not receiving the full amount they are due.  23.7 percent aren’t receiving child support at all.

What’s worse, is that in 2007 the average income of the 1.5 million single parents who received no child support was only $29,300 per year.  The average income for single parents who were receiving at least some child support was over $34,000.

These numbers illustrate what was probably obvious: people with lower income have the hardest time getting the support they need.

How common is this?  According to the report, 26.3 percent of all children (under the age of 21) in the U.S. live with one parent.  With few exceptions, every one of them should be receiving support from the other parent.

If you have been ordered to pay child support, or you are supposed to be receiving child support, you need to understand how unforgiving the local judges are about this issue.  Each and every missed payment can be considered to be criminal contempt of court, and is punishable by serving 10 days in jail.

If there have been 18 or more missed payments, a judge can order up to 180 days in jail for contempt, and judges regularly send people to jail for 6 months for not paying their child support.

Granted, times are tough and a lot of people are out of work.  However, the parents are expected to keep their children a top priority.  The judges commonly ask people “Did you eat last night?  Did you put clothes on this morning?  Do you understand your children need to be fed and clothed as well?”   If you’ve spent any money on yourself that you could have spent on your children, you will have to answer these questions carefully.

Does sending the non-paying parent to jail really help them pay their child support?  Actually, it can.  They will be allowed to leave the jail during the day to work, and return to the jail at night.  The child support will be taken out of their paycheck and sent to the other parent.

Jail time isn’t necessarily mandatory either.  Often, particularly when the paying parent has clearly tried to keep up as best they can, the judge can use other methods to motivate the payer to improve his track record.  Even so, the threat of spending time in jail will be ever present, and the slightest mistake may mean a free say at the graybar hotel.

If you are supposed to be receiving child support, but aren’t, the other parent can easily be motivated to send the support your way.  Broaching the subject of jail time isn’t pleasant, but then neither is struggling to pay for the things your child needs without help.

In this posting I’ve tried to express how serious the courts are about this issue and how easy it is to spend time in jail for not paying timely.  In a future post I’ll share some stories about how misguided these laws can be.

Whether you are a parent who is not receiving the support you’re due, or you have been accused of underpaying your child support, contact me to find out what type of solutions may be available to you.