Though many organizations and advocacy groups cite statistics surrounding child custody and child support, many of these statistics are collected by the advocacy groups themselves. Those who seek out nationwide statistics for child support and child custody can sometimes encounter difficulty.

Recently, however, a nonpartisan government agency conducted a nationwide, fact-finding survey to measure issues related to child custody and support. The agency, the little-known Congressional Research Service, provides quality information to our nation’s lawmakers. Though it is a government agency, it does not usually release its findings to the general public – they are intended for congressional use. However, the child custody research was recently released to the public – and it makes for fascinating reading.

According to the study, the United States is home to 14.4 million separated parents of children under the age of 21. In 2011, the most recent year data was available, custodial parents collected a total of $23.6 billion in child support payments.

The report found that many of these parents may be living under stressed financial conditions. Fifty percent of separated parents have full-time jobs year-round. Twenty-nine percent said their family income was below the poverty line. Nearly 40 percent of families with separated parents received some sort of government assistance.

Sadly, the data also indicates that many single-parent homes do not receive the child support they are due. In 2011, less than 40 percent of custodial parents who were owed child support received it in full. This suggests that many noncustodial parents are either struggling to make their payments or simply refusing to.

Child custody issues can be complex, and they often result in long-term effects for both parent and child. When determining a child custody agreement, then, parents should be sure to look long-term and decide what living situation would be best for the child. Parents need to make a commitment to continue to fulfill their obligations each month. If circumstances change that prevent a parent from meeting these obligations, both the child custody and the child support arrangement can also be modified to better reflect the needs of the child.

Source: New York Daily News, “Who Exactly Gets Child Support? Beyond the Myths” James Warren, Jan. 06, 2014