When a noncustodial father writes a check for child support each month, most people would assume that all the money goes straight to the custodial parent – or, more specifically, to the basic needs of the child. That is, after all, what child support is for, to provide for the needs of the children.
However, the truth is that under certain circumstances, only a portion of that child support reaches its intended destination. Here in Illinois, if the child is benefitting from government welfare programs, then a large percentage of the child support payment will be intercepted by the government.
Many families with separated parents make use of government welfare programs. When they do, the government expects to be repaid for the service as much as possible. So, when the noncustodial parent makes a child support payment, the state of Illinois takes all but $50 out of the check.
This means noncustodial parents, many of whom must work very hard to make their child support payments, only see a fraction of their efforts going directly to support their children.
In the past, the entire check was appropriated. However, federal lawmakers eventually decided that some incentive should be left for noncustodial parents to make their payments. Now, a small amount of money was exempted and allowed to be sent straight to the family.
Critics say, however, that incentive isn’t enough and that it is too demoralizing for noncustodial parents to see such a small amount of their money go to their child. One advocate said that the issue wasn’t so much about the money as it was about creating an environment that will encourage noncustodial parents to stay involved in their child’s life. One way to do that could be to help noncustodial parents feel as though they are truly supporting their child financially.
Often, the amount they are being asked to pay can turn noncustodial parents away from paying child support. If the amount is so high that they simply cannot make the payments, many parents simply stop trying and allow the debts to accumulate. Under these circumstances, noncustodial parents should consider seeking a child support modification, a legal change to the child support agreement that will alter the amount they are asked to pay each month.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, “Welfare law formula ‘doesn’t support the family’” Dawn Turner Trice, Dec. 18, 2013