How child support improves children's lives

Texas parents who are unmarried or divorced may not have a formal child support agreement in place. According to a forthcoming study, while parents and children are better served in the current child support system in terms of more families getting more assistance, overall, the number of families in the system are down. In 2004, 60 percent of custodial parents who were eligible for child support had a formal agreement in place. By 2014, that number had dropped to 49 percent.

This has many implications for a child's well-being. When both parents are paying toward a child's support, this increases income and the child's access to resources, and this access has been linked to better outcomes. Furthermore, not getting child support increases the stress on the custodial parent, and this is linked to worse outcomes for the child.

Children who are in more financially secure situations tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better cognitive skills. Another benefit of child support is that parents who pay it also tend to see their children more than parents who do not. This parent is often the father, so establishing regular child support payments may improve a child's relationship with their father.

A legal child support agreement means that the custodial parent has a number of legal channels for enforcing payment. However, the legal system recognizes that not all parents are able to provide equally for their children, and courts take income and other factors into account when ordering child support. If a parent loses their job or has another material change in circumstances that means they will struggle to pay the amount ordered, that parent can go through the court system to request a modification in the agreement. The parent should continue paying the same amount until the modification is approved.

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