U.S. Child Support Statistics

Find Out How Much Child Support the Average Single Parent Really Gets

Woman counting child support money
Photo © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Getty Images

Curious to know how much child support the average single parent receives? You're not alone, and the numbers could surprise you. While some political pundits suggest that single parents receive too much support, these real-life child support statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau tell a different story. 

The Latest Child Support Statistics in the U.S.

Every few years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases a report titled Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support.

The most recent version was released in January, 2016. It's based on data from the most recent Census Bureau figures and attempts to create an accurate snapshot of:

  • How many single parents have a child support order in place (either formal or informal)
  • How much money is owed, and
  • How much money is actually received.

For those who imagine that single moms and dads who receive child support are living 'the high life' and taking advantage of their ex-spouses, the actual numbers are shocking.

Child Support Agreements in the U.S.

According to the latest version of the government's Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support report, which was released in January, 2016:

  • There are currently 13.4 million custodial single parents living in the U.S.
  • About half of them (48.7%) have some type of legal or informal child support agreement in place.
  • 89.8% of those child support agreements are formal agreements, established in court or through a Title IV-D agency.
  • 10.2% are informal child support agreements established between the two parents.
  • Fewer than one-quarter (22.4%) of all custodial parents requested government assistance collecting child support.

The Amount of Child Support Owed Each Year

Wondering if the child support you owe or receive is typical? Here are the latest figures, based on the government's child support statistics:

  • $32.9 billion dollars in child support was owed during the year 2013.
  • The average amount of child support due was $5,774 per year.
  • That's less than $500 per month. 
  • Only 68.5% of that money — an average of $3,950 per year — was actually received.
  • In other words, on average, custodial single parents who receive child support get about $329 per month to help with food, shelter, clothing, medical costs, education, and incidentals.

Partial-Payments vs. Full Payments 

Another surprising statistic is how many single parents are receiving some money, but far less than what is actually owed. 

  • Among the 6.5 million custodial single parents who were awarded child support in 2013, only 45.6% received all of the child support money that was due (an increase over 43.4%  in 2011).
  • 28.5% of custodial parents received some of the money that was due.
  • 25.9% received none of the child support money due.
  • 61.7% of custodial parents received some form of non-cash child support in 2011.

Additional Child Support Statistics

Another common question about child support is how many women vs. men are awarded child support dollars each year. According to the latest figures:

  • 52.3% of custodial single mothers were awarded child support in 2013.
  • 31.4% of custodial single fathers were awarded child support during the same year.

References:
United States. Census Department. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2013. By Timothy Grall. U.S. Census, January 2016. 21 January, 2017 [https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/P60-255.pdf].