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Reducing child support payments may give children more money

Massachusetts may benefit from an idea that other states are starting to use. The idea: If low-income parents have lower required child support payments, children might actually receive more financial benefit from child support. It may seem like an unconventional approach, but the logic behind the idea is simple.

The reasoning for this notion is that low-income parents in Massachusetts and across the nation struggle to make child support payments because they cannot afford them. When this happens, they often avoid making any payments instead of sending the amount of money that they can afford. This means that children do not receive any money from their non-custodial parents.

Even the penalties for not paying child support do not affect payment among low-income parents because their problem is one of ability, not motivation. Penalties include suspending parents’ drivers’ licenses and even spending time in jail. Beyond not being effective, they actually make it even more difficult for low-income parents to make payments.

Lowering the payments might assist these low-income parents to afford their child support payments. That not only helps the parents, but also helps the affected children, who need this additional financial support. Children will receive more money long term because their parents will be able to send the more affordable payments.

More states may decide to use this model as their child support programs come up for review, which occurs in four-year cycles. Although the children are the ultimate victims when parents cannot pay child support, low-income parents are not to blame for economic hardship. Many of them want to help their children and would offer financial support gladly if they were able. This change in the system might bridge the divide between low-income parents’ desire and their ability to make child support payments.

Source: Star-Tribune, “Wyoming committee recalculates low-income child support payments,” Kyle Roerink, Jan. 10, 2013

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