Saturday, December 6, 2008

When Welfare and Child Support Collide: Nobody Wins

A law-review article looking at child support under the nation's welfare system has exploded some of the myths of so-called deadbeat dads.

The collective national child-support debt owed by parents who don't have custody of the kids--usually fathers--is at least $105 billion.

And here are the surprises: Half of that is owed not to children, but to state and federal governments, which require welfare mothers to sign over their child support to the government.

Surprise number two: Two-thirds of the fathers who owe this money earn less than $10,000 per year.

Surprise number three: In most cases of debt, no more than 25 percent of the debtor's salary can be garnished. But for child support, there is a federal exception: Welfare agencies can garnish up to 65 percent of a debtor's salary, even if it's less than $10,000 per year.

And the kicker: The welfare/child support system is designed so that welfare can recover some of its costs by taking child support money away from children. But that's a failure. In 2006, governments collected $2 billion in assigned child support. And it cost them $5.6 billion in administrative costs to collect it.

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