Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems

October 26, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


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.

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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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Marriage, Divorce, and Single Parents
Dec. 01, 2017  Future of Marriage
May 07, 2004  Future of Marriage
Jan. 19, 2001  Children and Divorce
Jun. 02, 2000  Fatherhood Movement
May 10, 1996  Marriage and Divorce
Jan. 13, 1995  Child Custody and Support
Jun. 07, 1991  Children and Divorce
Oct. 26, 1990  Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems
Jul. 06, 1990  Are Americans Still in Love with Marriage?
Feb. 03, 1989  Joint Custody: Is it Good for the Children?
Mar. 12, 1982  Trends in Child Custody and Support
Jun. 03, 1977  The Changing American Family
Sep. 10, 1976  Single-Parent Families
Jan. 25, 1974  Child Support
Oct. 10, 1973  No-Fault Divorce
Oct. 06, 1971  Marriage: Changing Institution
Nov. 27, 1963  Divorce Law Reform
May 24, 1961  Mixed Marriage
Apr. 20, 1959  Rise in Illegitimacy
Feb. 02, 1949  Marriage and Divorce