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Poverty and incarceration often behind unpaid child support

A noncustodial parent in Florida with little or no income might easily fall behind on child support. The head of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement recently said in a media interview that the courts too often employ "magical thinking" when calculating child support payments. She noticed that a court will apply numbers from a hypothetical full-time minimum wage job to determine a payment amount even if a noncustodial parent has no income.

Additionally, a noncustodial parent held in a prison or jail will be labeled as voluntarily employed. Once again, no substantial income exists, but the court will create obligations for the incarcerated parent without any consideration for his or her ability to pay.

Data collected by the Office of Child Support Enforcement reveals how poverty and incarceration contribute to unpaid child support. When looking at 2013 data, the enforcement office estimated that 76 percent of the people behind on child support made less than $10,000 in a year. As of 2015, unpaid support totaled $113 billion.

Although courts are guided by the best interests of the child when calculating child support, a custodial parent in need of money to raise a child might not receive payments. If the noncustodial parent does actually have an ability to pay, then the custodial parent might choose to take additional legal actions to collect. Consulting a Venice, Florida, child support attorney about the matter could be advisable. For example, an attorney might succeed in tracking down a parent who has left the state. Communications with out-of-state agencies could be handled by the attorney, and then payments might resume. Likewise, if the noncustodial parent is hiding assets, an attorney might uncover pertinent financial information and prepare the legal paperwork to collect the amount in arrears.

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