Child Support Receipt

Publication Date:

Nov 08, 2018

Key facts about child support receipt

  • Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed to them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1993 to 44 percent in 2015.
  • The percentage of parents who were due child support but received no payment increased to 31 percent in 2015 from 26 percent in 2013.
  • Parents with lower educational attainment were less likely to receive their total child support payment than more educated parents; in 2015, only 39 percent of parents with less than a high school diploma received their full payment, compared with 56 percent of parents with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Trends in child support receipt

Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who in the previous year received full payment of all support owed to them increased from 37 percent in 1993 to 47 percent in 2005 and 2007, before falling to 41 percent in 2009. The proportion rose again to 46 percent in 2013, before falling slightly to 44 percent in 2015. The share who received partial payment declined during the 1990s, from 40 to 30 percent, but it has remained steady over the last decade; in 2015, it was 26 percent, a slight decrease from the 29 percent share in 2013. The percentage of custodial parents who were owed support but received no payment remained relatively stable from 1993 to 2007, ranging from 24 to 26 percent, with a large rise to 29 percent in 2009, before reaching 31 percent in 2015.

From 1993 to 2003, the percentage of custodial parents who had a support award increased slightly, from 57 to 60 percent. Since then, the proportion has decreased and was 50 percent as of 2015 (Appendix 1).

Differences by marital status

Most custodial parents who have been married were granted custodial orders from divorce agreements.1 A greater proportion of custodial parents who have ever been married receive the full child support payment owed to them than custodial parents who have never married. In 2015, about 36 percent of never-married custodial parents reported that they received full child support payments in the previous year, compared with 48 percent of ever-married custodial parents (Appendix 2).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin

In 2015, a higher percentage of non-Hispanic white custodial parents received full child support payment (47 percent), compared to Hispanic and black (Hispanic included) custodial parents (37 and 42 percent, respectively).

Differences by educational attainment

Custodial parents with at least a college degree receive the full amount of child support payments owed to them at higher rates than those without a high school diploma. In 2015, among parents who were due child support payments in the past year, only 39 percent of custodial parents with less than a high school degree reported that they received their full child support awards in the previous year, followed by 37 percent of those with a high school diploma only, 43 percent of those with some college or an associate’s degree, and 56 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (Appendix 2).

Differences by age

The percentage of custodial parents who receive full child support payments varies considerably by age. In 2015, 39 percent of custodial parents ages 18 to 29 who were supposed to receive child support payments in the previous year received full payments, compared with 37 percent of those 30 to 39 years old and 52 percent of those 40 years and over (Appendix 2).

Differences by gender of custodial parent

In 2015, 36 percent of custodial fathers had been awarded full child support, compared with 45 percent of custodial mothers (Appendix 2).

Differences by poverty status of the custodial parent

Especially for families with incomes below the federal poverty line, child support payments represent an important component of their income. In 2015, among all families who received child support, the average amount was $5,760—about 17 percent of their average yearly income ($34,812). For families living below the poverty line, if they had received the full amount of support they were owed, their average annual incomes would have increased by $2,313.2

Non-cash payments

The majority of custodial parents also receive non-cash payments from absent parents. In 2015, 61 percent reported that their child’s absent parent provided some form of non-cash payment in the prior year. Also, 39 percent of all custodial parents reported that their child’s absent parent provided health insurance in the prior year (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

Data on collections and expenditures, by state, are available annually from the Office for Child Support Enforcement at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/css/data.

States’ policies regarding pass-through and disregard of child support payments for recipients of public assistance are provided by the National Council of State Legislatures at http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-policy-pass-through-disregard-child-support.aspx.

Data and appendices

Data Source

U.S. Census Bureau. (1999-2018). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 1995-2015 [Detailed Tables 4, 8, 10]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/topics/families/child-support.html.

Raw Data Source

Current Population Survey April (Child Custody) Supplement.
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/about/supplemental-surveys.html

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Custodial Parents with Child Support Awarded, Due, and Received, and with Non-Cash Payments: Select Years, 1993-2015
Appendix 2. Number and Percentage of Custodial Parents Who Were Due Child Support and Who Received Full Payments: 2015

Background

Definition

Data are based on parents who live with their own children under age 21, without the child’s other parent living with the family. Child support income reflects payments that custodial parents received during the previous calendar year, as well as other types of support. Children who might be eligible for child support, but are living with neither biological parent, are not included.

For more information, see Grall, T. (2018). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2015 (Current Population Reports P60-262). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/P60-262.pdf.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Child Support Receipt. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/child-support-receipt.

Endnotes

1. Mason, M. A. (2004). Divorce and custody. In P. Fass (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society: AE (Vol. 1, pp. 276-279). New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA.
2. Grall, T. (2018). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/P60-262.pdf.