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Child support payments important for single-parent households

According to sources, participation in the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program has declined in the last few years. This program, created nearly four decades ago and strengthened in 1996, is intended to ensure that parents support their children. However, from 2004 to 2014, the percentage of parents with a formal child support agreement in place declined from 60 percent to 49 percent. This means that many parents in Arizona and throughout the country who are supposed to receive child support may not have a legal mechanism to push the other parent into compliance.

This has a number of implications for children. Single-parent households are more likely to be poor than households with two incomes. Child support can help ensure that children have more access to resources. Child support also takes some of the burden and stress off the custodial parent. Children whose parents are receiving regular child support payments may have stronger cognitive skills and fewer behavioral problems.

Another advantage of regular child support payments is that there is a correlation between parents paying child support and children having regular contact with that parent. The result is a stronger relationship between the parent and child.

When a court decides on the amount of child support that a parent should pay, it takes the parent's income into account as well as other considerations such as the child's medical insurance situation. One spouse may also be required to pay spousal maintenance to the other. In some cases, this may only be for a short time until that person has trained for a job. Modifications in these legal agreements should go through the courts as well. A parent cannot simply stop paying child support after losing a job. From a legal standpoint, that parent will still owe the same amount until a change is approved.

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