Child Support Statistics and Trends

Child support can be a very touchy subject between two parents, especially if you're going through a difficult divorce. While getting legal advice usually 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 (released in 2016). 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 depends on several variables, including your income and the laws of your state. If you fail to pay what you're owed, states can garnish your paychecks, void your professional licenses, and pursue other enforcement options. Below are statistics pertaining to average amounts due and received:

  • In 2013, 5.7 million custodial parents who were due child support under the terms of agreements or current awards were due an average of $4,370; an aggregate of $32.9 billion in payments due.
  • About 68.5 percent of the $32.9 billion in child support due in 2013 was reported as received, averaging $3,950 per year per custodial parent who was due support.
  • About three-quarters (74.1 percent) of custodial parents who were due child support in 2013 received either full or partial payments and less than half (45.6 percent) received full payments.

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 2014, about five of every six custodial parents were mothers (82.5 percent) and one of every six were fathers (17.5 percent), proportions that were not statistically different from those in 1994.
  • Custodial fathers were more likely than mothers to be divorced (45.2 percent) less likely to be never married (28.2 percent), while not statistically different proportions were currently married (15.0 percent), separated (10.8 percent), and widowed (0.7 percent).
  • The proportion of custodial mothers under 30 years of age decreased from 30.9 percent in 1994 to 23.9 percent by 2014

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.

  • For about half (52.2 percent) of the 6.5 million custodial parents who had some type of agreement or award for child support in 2013, noncustodial parents had visitation privileges with their children, but did not have shared legal or physical custody.
  • An additional 30.5 percent included some type of joint custody arrangement (physical and/ or legal), and 17.4 percent had neither noncustodial parental visitation nor 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.

  • Among custodial mothers, 34.9 percent received at least one form of public assistance in 2007. By 2013, this proportion had increased to 46.5 percent.
  • Custodial fathers were less likely than custodial mothers to participate in at least one public-assistance program in 2013 (24.1 percent).

Child Custody and Child Support Trends: More Information

  • For custodial parent families below poverty in 2013, about 15.8 percent were employed full-time, year-round and 44.9 percent were not employed.
  • Of the 6.5 million custodial parents who had child support awards or agreements in 2013, 54 percent of their agreements specified who was to provide health insurance for their children. In half (51.1 percent) of these 3.5 million agreements, the noncustodial parent provided the health insurance coverage.
  • In 2014, less than one-quarter (22.4 percent) of all custodial parents had ever contacted a child support enforcement office, state department of social services, or other welfare or TANF office for child support-related assistance. This was a decrease from 1994 (42.2 percent).
  • Child support income accounted for over two-thirds (70.3 percent) of the mean annual personal income for custodial parents below poverty who received full child support.
  • The poverty level for custodial-parent families declined between 1993 (33.3 percent) and 2001 (23.4 percent), but since has not changed significantly.

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 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.

Next Steps

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

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