April 2015 | Correnne Sanders, PhD;Letitia Logan Passarella,MPP; and Catherine E. Born, PhD.

Reasonable Child Support Orders: The Relationship between Income and Collections

This is a study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) has recognized the importance of creating support orders that balance a custodial parent’s need for support and a noncustodial parent’s ability to pay it.  The authors conducted a multivariate linear regression utilizing a sample of 3,680 new Maryland child support orders to estimate the effect of high support orders relative to an obligor’s income—order-to income ratio—on child support collections. The results show: 1) the average order-to-income ratio for Maryland obligors is about 20%; 2) Obligors paid an average of 56% of their current child support, and 3) Obligors with orders between 30% and 35% of their income had a collection rate that was 17 percentage points lower than obligors with orders under 10% of their income.  The study concludes: there is a point at which a child support order is too high and beyond an obligor’s ability to pay. These high orders are ineffective as they result in lower, not higher, collections, and lead to arrearage accumulation.


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