There is good news to report about child support. With tough new federal laws passed in the 1980s, the amount of child support awarded and the amount actually collected are both up. But the child support system is facing huge hurdles as it tries to deal with the fastest growing population of single mothers: women who have children out of wedlock. There, better child support can be only a small part of the solution to a very large problem.
The obligation of parents to support their children has long been clear. But only in recent decades have the federal and state governments seriously tried to enforce the financial obligation absent parents have. In the last few years, those government efforts have posted significant gains.
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial support of their dependent children. And when the parents are divorced, legally separated or had never married each other in the first place, state laws generally require the parent who does not have custody of the children (usually the father) to make payments to the parent who does (usually the mother). The requirement is formalized in a divorce decree or other court order.