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Delinquent child support linked to less parenting time

A growing body of scientific research indicates that children in California and around the country are far better off when they are able to spend quality time with both of their parents. Co-parenting solutions are now favored by family law judges in most situations, and noncustodial parents are encouraged to play an active role in the day-to-day lives of their children. Raising a child is also a serious financial responsibility, and falling behind on child support payments can greatly impact the role of noncustodial parents according to a study published in February.

A scientist with the nonprofit group Child Trends and a Cornell University professor scrutinized the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and paid particular attention to the noncustodial fathers of 9-year-old children. They identified 1,017 fathers who fit their desired profile, and they found that 30 percent of them owed an average of $7,705 in past-due child support. They then discovered that these fathers worked five fewer weeks each year and spent three fewer days with their children each month than fathers who were not behind in their child support.

The two researchers then tried to find common links that could explain why these father spent less time with their children. Economic factors were investigated, and the researchers realized that earning fewer paychecks each year made it very difficult for these fathers to pay their child support arrears. The emotional side of raising children was also considered, and the researchers found that fathers who owed back child support often harbored lingering resentment toward the mothers involved. Higher rates of incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues were also observed.

The penalties for not making required child support payments can be severe, but noncustodial parents sometimes work under false names or take off-the-books jobs to frustrate collection efforts. When faced with situations like this, experienced family attorneys may retain skip tracing services to locate absent noncustodial parents or ask investigators to conduct field inquiries.

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