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Does the current child support system tear families apart?

The basic idea behind child support is that all of the expenses are covered that are needed, with both parents contributing equally. Unfortunately, child support systems fail repeatedly in this regard. There are three ways in which child support systems tear apart families:

-- Twenty-nine percent of families that are in the child support system "live below the federal poverty line." When a parent is laid off or otherwise loses his or her job, the child support obligation doesn't stop. Debt, including arrears, begins to build up, and the unemployed parent can't catch up. In some cases, a parent may be incarcerated for unpaid child support. The support payments don't stop while the parent is in prison, either. Some parents abuse the child support system but not making payments even when they are able; however, most parents would make the payments if they were able.

-- The child support system ignores the economic issues created by divorce. The formulas used to calculate child support are based on providing the same standard of living the child had before the parents' divorce. It can be very difficult to keep this quality of life because two households are now supported by the same incomes instead of just one household.

-- Other support is not considered. Even if the non-custodial parent is not contributing financially, he or she could still be contributing in important ways that the child support system doesn't take into account. Even some of the poorest fathers and mothers try to find a way to help raise their children.

While there would need to be a complete overhaul of the system to address all of these issues, there is a new plan that is supposed to create a system that is not as punitive but more rehabilitative. Thirty-five million is supposed to be allocated to help modernize the child support system by 2017. A five-year pilot program is also being used by several states that is similar to the above plan. It's a small sample of parents, but the initial results are very positive.

If you pay or receive child support and you need a modification of the divorce or separation order, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Source: Huffington Post, "3 Ways the Child Support System Rips Apart Families," Joseph E. Cordell, Dec. 17, 2015

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