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Child Support: Shifting the Financial Burden in Low-Income Families

NCJ Number
Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy Volume: 20 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 2012 Pages: 1-53
Stacy Brustin
Date Published
53 pages
This article examines the issue of child support and the financial burden it places on low-income families.
Child support is often used by policymakers to enable low-income families to work their way out of poverty. This article discusses how child support is used in divorce cases and how it can often be detrimental to low-income families. The article focuses on how low-income families often earn too much to qualify for public assistance payments, yet when these same families are required to pay child support, they are often thrown into more financial hardship. Several methods currently exist which can be used to reduce the detrimental effect of child-support payments on non-residential low-income parents. Current methods in use for helping low-income families dealing with child-support payment problems include self-support provisions and low-income adjustments. The self-support provisions, which can take several forms, ensure that parents who owe support have enough income to meet their own basic needs. These provisions have been enacted in 28 States and the District of Columbia. The article also discusses the results of studies that have examined the effect of current child-support guidelines on families when both parents are low-income. The author proposes short- and long-term remedies for improving the financial situations of low-income families dealing with problems associated with child-support payments. These remedies include refining the application of self-support reserves, expanding employment opportunities for nonresident parents, increase earnings for low-income resident and nonresident parents through minimum wage increases and living wage initiatives, allowing both resident and nonresident parents to use the earned income tax credit, and strengthening the safety net for both resident and nonresident parents. By instituting all or some of these remedies, policymakers can ensure that both resident and nonresident low-income parents can financially provide for the needs of their children.