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Unpaid child support a major problem, but Maryland makes strides

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Most of our Maryland readers probably know that child support is a financial obligation that millions of parents throughout the country depend on to help with the every day expenses involved in raising a child. But most people probably also know that there are many parents with an obligation to pay child support who do not do so in a timely manner. A recent report detailed just how extensive the problem is in America.

According to the report, approximately $14 billion in child support was not paid in 2011 - the last year for which the United States Census Bureau had data. That $14 billion was about one-third of all the child support that was supposed to be paid in the U.S. that year.

Child support agreements, whether they are enforced by the court or agreed to by the parties outside of court, are designed to support the financial needs of the child or children involved. But most agreements are also tailored to the income of the paying parent - which means that a court won't make a parent pay more child support than is reasonable based on the paying parent's income. Nonetheless, it appears that millions of parents who are under court order to pay child support simply do not do so, and as a result they could face stiff penalties.

The recent report, while heavily detailed with the problems related to paying child support in America, also singled out some of the inventive programs that states are developing to address the issue - and the report pointed to Maryland in particular. The report notes that Maryland has a program that helps those parents who begin to pay the child support they owe by forgiving certain amount of debt they owe to the state. It is more of a "carrot" than a "stick" approach, and if it continues to be successful other states may take notice.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Billions of dollars in child support go unpaid yearly," Emily Alpert Reyes, Nov. 20, 2013

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