Quick Facts About Child Support in America

from US Census Bureau Statistics

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With divorce rates in the United States at historically high levels, more and more fathers are dealing with child support payments and orders. The following child support statistics are provided by the United States Census Bureau as of 2010.

General Statistical Information

  • About 14.4 million parents have custody of 23.4 million children under 21 while the other parent lived somewhere else
  • 28.1% percent of all children in America live with one parent while the other parent lives elsewhere
  • The percentage of Black children living in custodial parent families is just over 50%
  • The percentage of White children living in custodial parent families is 24%
  •  30.3% of all Hispanic children live in a custodial parent family
  • For all other ethnicities, the percentage of children living in custodial parent families is 17.2%
  • 81.7% of custodial parents are mothers, 18.3% are fathers
  • 31.8% of custodial mothers live below the poverty level, compared to only 16.2% of custodial fathers
  • 47% of custodial mothers had full-time, year-round employment and another 28.8% of custodial mothers worked part-time
  • 66% of custodial fathers had full-time, year-round employment, and another 19.7 percent worked part time
  • Child support due nationally totals $37.9 billion; 62.3% of that amount was paid on time, averaging $3,770 per year per parent who was due child support
  • 56.7% of custodial parents received non-cash support from the non-custodial parent; most often, items included birthday gifts, clothing, food, child care expenses, summer camp fees and medical expenses
  • 42.9% of all custodial parents received some sort of public assistance in 2010.  


  • 43.5% of custodial mothers were divorced or separated; 37.1% had never been married
  • 39.1% of custodial mothers are over 40 years of age, up from 25% in 1994
  • 24% of custodial mothers are under age 30, down from 30.9% in 1994
  • 47.8% of custodial parents are non-Hispanic White, 27.5% were Black and 21.4% were Hispanic
  • 45.3% of custodial mothers have two or more children living with them and 33.7% of custodial fathers have two or more children in their custody

Child Support Payments

  • Just under 50% of all custodial parents have a formal order or agreement specifying child support amounts and timing
  • 53.4% of mothers have such agreements, but only 28.8% of custodial fathers do
  • 89.2% of all parents who were due child support payments were mothers
  • Parents with joint custody and those with higher educational attainment were more likely to receive full payment of child support obligations than those with sole custody or without a bachelor's degree or higher
  • Only 62.3% of all child support due was actually received by the custodial parent during 2010
  • 43.4% of custodial parents due child support received all the child support they were due
  • 30.7% of these custodial parents received part but not all of the child support payments they were ordered to receive
  • 25.9% of custodial parents were due child support payments during the year and received none of those payments
  • The average child support payment due to a custodial parent during 2011 was $6,050 per year or just over $500 per month
  • The average child support payments constituted 16% of a custodial parent's income over a year's time
  • For those custodial parents who were below the poverty line, child support payments constituted 66.7% of their median income
  • 26.1% of custodial parents contacted child support enforcement offices in their states for help with enforcing child support orders or agreements.  This represents a decrease from the 42.2% who requested help in 1992.
  • Health insurance is one of the most common non-cash items covered in child support orders.  52% of all child support orders or agreements specified which parent had responsibility for health insurance coverage for children.  In about 40% of those agreements, the non-custodial parent had the responsibility for health insurance coverage.

Source:  Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2011