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Child Support Statistics and Trends

Child support can be a very touchy subject between two parents. It's even worse if you're going through a difficult divorce. While getting legal advice is the right option when dealing with money matters like support or enforcement, keeping up with child support statistics and trends can be helpful when preparing for what is often a challenging process.

The following is a selection of nationwide statistics and trends on payment and receipt of child support, based on the most recently available statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau. Print out FindLaw's handy brochure on ways to ensure that you receive any owed child support payments for on-the-go reference.

Child Support Trends: Average Amounts Due and Received

The amount of child support you're required to pay is dictated by your state and depends on several variables, including your income and the laws of your state. If you fail to pay what you're required to, states can garnish your paychecks, void your professional licenses, and pursue other enforcement options.

Below are statistics pertaining to average amounts due and received according to the Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2017 report published by the U.S. Census Bureau in May 2020:

  • In 2017, the aggregate amount of child support that was expected for receipt was $30 billion; 62% of that amount was actually received, averaging $3,431 per custodial parent
  • There were 5.4 million custodial parents who were supposed to receive child support in 2017, 1.2 million of which (22.2%) had family incomes below the poverty threshold
  • The majority (58%) of custodial parents received noncash support on behalf of their children from non-custodial parents in 2017

Child Support Statistics: Demographics

The demographics of who pays and who receives child support has changed over the years, mostly from the perspective of mothers earning more than they once did, more fathers being awarded physical custody, and an increasing number of same-sex parenting relationships. Trends in child support demographics are summarized below.

  • In 2019, CPS estimated that 83% of children living with one parent lived with their mothers
  • While the majority of children under age 18 lived with two parents who were married, there is an increasing percentage of children who lived with unmarried parents in 2019
  • Between 2008 and 2018, children's living arrangements have become more racially and ethically diverse as the share of children living in interracial and interethnic households increased

Child Support, Custody, and Visitation Agreements

As the following child support statistics show, noncustodial parents are more likely to pay owed child support when they have a visitation agreement and/or custody agreement in place.

  • One-half of all 12.9 million custodial parents had either legal or informal child support agreements in 2017 (this includes court orders, child support awards, or some other type of agreement to receive financial support from the other parent)
  • The proportion of custodial mothers who had child support agreements increased from 59.8% in 1994 to 64.2% in 2004; however, the number has since decreased to 51.4% in 2018
  • Of the 6.4 million custodial parents with child support agreements, half of the non-custodial parents had visitation privileges with their children without having shared legal or physical custody. An additional 30.6% had some type of joint-custody arrangement, while 19.4% did not have either non-custodial parental visitation or any type of joint custody

Child Support and Public Assistance

Although child support is supposed to help custodial parents make ends meet, a growing percentage of custodial mothers also receive some form of public assistance.

  • The number of mothers who participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as "food stamps," decreased from 36.6% in 2015 to 30.5% in 2017
  • Custodial mothers were statistically more likely than custodial fathers to participate in at least one public assistance program in 2017
  • Fewer than 20% of child support cases are currently receiving public assistance

Need Help with a Child Support Matter? Get Professional Legal Assistance

As you can see from child support statistics and trends, these issues touch the lives of both mothers and fathers. The stakes are often quite high, especially given the high cost of raising a child and the income differences between the two parents. If you and your child's other parent are having trouble reaching a child support agreement, or you simply need some advice for your situation, nothing beats sound legal advice from an experienced child support attorney.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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