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Report: American parents owed $14 billion in child support

The holidays can be a time of cheer and spending time with loved ones. However, for many Minnesotan families, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety as they struggle to make ends meet. This week, many people will be heading out to start their holiday shopping, but this may be very difficult for the millions of parents who are owed child support.

Parents are ordered to make child support payments to a custodial parent so that they can participate, at least financially, to the wellbeing of their child. This money can play a crucial role in making sure a child is taken care of and is getting the things that he or she needs. But according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, fewer than 50 percent of parents who are owed child support are getting this money and about $14 billion in child support has gone unpaid this year. This can make the holidays an even more stressful time.

One of the challenges of getting child support that is identified in the report stems from the original child support agreement. Parents may have come up with a non-formal arrangement that is ultimately difficult to enforce. And without establishing a formal payment plan, parents may not know what they have received and what they are owed.

Another obstacle that parents face when it comes to collecting child support is system itself, which can be confusing and complex. Some parents, especially those who are less educated and younger, do not know what their options are and so they end up getting shortchanged in child support without knowing how to remedy the situation.

The report is very troubling, especially at this time of year when financial obligations often seem to pile up quickly. Millions of families are not getting the support they are owed and this can place a significant burden on a parent who relies on these payments. 

Parents in Minnesota should remember that there are legal options for collecting unpaid support. Wage garnishment, court orders and even jail time may be options for prompting a delinquent parent to meet their financial obligations. It could also be appropriate for parents to explore support modification solutions in order to establish a suitable payment schedule. In either case, speaking with an attorney can help parents collect the child support they are owed.

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

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