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Parents who cannot pay child support need help, states NCSL

As a matter of policy, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that it is in a child's best interest to stay connected with both parents, even when these parents are divorced or separated. When parents are unable to make their child support payments, it can cause a rift in their relationships with their children. Because of this, the organization recommends the implementation of assistance programs to help low-income parents rectify their delinquent child support payments.

As the NCSL explains, it is crucial to differentiate between parents who refuse to pay child support and those who are genuinely unable to pay due to poor job prospects and lack of employment skills. The organization asserts that by establishing laws that address the issues presented by parents who cannot pay due to low income, state governments can help to bring down payment delinquency as well as strengthen the bonds between parents and children. Specifically, the NCSL advocates for the passage of state statutes that will: 

  • Provide non-custodial parents with the opportunity to gain employment skills
  • Connect non-custodial parents with job openings that offer higher wages
  • Create programs that will offer non-custodial parents the assistance they need to make their required child support payments  

These stances are echoed by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in its Child Support Handbook, which notes that numerous states have implemented assistance programs similar to those described by the NCSL. Additionally, the OCSE is a proponent for setting child support orders at a fair amount that is relative to the payee parent's income, as this helps to address issues of delinquency due to inability to pay.

If you're unable to make your payments because you lost your job, because you've had another child, or due to any significant change in your circumstances, you're not alone. You don't have to wait for new programs to be put into place, however. You already have the right to ask the court to change your child support order to reflect that change. Doing so won't wipe out what you owe in back child support, but it will stop those arrearages from growing.

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