Study explores efficacy of child support forgiveness program

While people may not recognize it, nonpayment of child support is rapidly becoming a larger problem here in the United States. In fact, statistics show that as of 2009, the amount of unpaid child support has swelled to over $100 billion nationally. This nonpayment of child support can understandably have real consequences for a parent struggling to make ends meet and for state governments looking to cut enforcement costs during these tough economic times.

Interestingly, a group of researchers recently completed a study on the efficacy of a multi-year pilot program conducted in Racine County, Wisconsin, entitled Families Forward, that was expressly designed to improve child support collection.

Specifically, the program was geared toward noncustodial low-income parents, identified as the group least likely to pay back the full amount of child support debt.

Under the terms of the program, those Racine County noncustodial parents with over $2,000 in child support arrears were given the following payment option: For every $1 dollar paid toward back child support, the program forgave 50 cents of debt toward the child support and 50 cents of debt toward the state debt. (This forgiveness of back child support/family debt was conditioned upon the permission of both noncustodial and custodial parents.)

What were the results of the program?

Here, researchers found that over 120 noncustodial parents completed the program and that these participants contributed an average of $100 more per month than their counterparts who did not participate in the Families Forward program.

Similarly, program participants were also found to have made more child support payments and to have paid down their overall debt at a much higher rate.

“Implementation of the program was the most challenging part,” said Brett Burkhardt, one of the authors of the study, which is published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. “Still, we did see the intended result, which was to get parents paying more on their child support debt.”

Interestingly, Burkhardt indicated that several states, including Wisconsin and Texas, are currently considering the statewide implementation of a similar program.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about child support arrears or post-divorce issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Milwaukee Courier, “Child support forgiveness programs can be effective in reducing debt” Dec. 10, 2011