NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Failing To Pay Child Support

April 15, 1999

Under a new federal program, parents who fail to make child support payments can get arrested at gun point and thrown in prison. Operating in seven states and the District of Columbia, the program uses a computer network to apprehend parents who cross state lines to avoid supporting their children.

More than 200 arrests have been made so far -- which could result in recovery of $3.8 million in overdue payments.

  • As of 1997, there were 19 million cases in which money was owed -- with money being paid in 4.2 million, or 22.1 percent, of the cases.
  • That was 800,000 fewer cases in which money was owed than in the previous year.
  • With that exception, the number of delinquent child support cases has been growing in recent years -- with the figure in 1993 standing at 17.1 million, for example.
  • Officials estimate that about 30 million children depend on child support, and about $60 billion is in arrears.

Under the new federal program, which allows agents from the Department of Health and Human Services to carry guns and issue arrest warrants, parents with child support debts of at least $5,000 can be imprisoned for up to two years if they cross state lines.

The program will be expanded to 10 more states this year -- for a total of 17 states plus D.C.

Source: Richard Wolfe, "'Deadbeat Parents' Face Federal Time," USA Today, April 15, 1999.


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