Trends in Child Support Debt Amounts

March 15, 2018
Graphic of a traffic sign of person "swimming in dollar signs"


In a previous blog, Who Owes the Child Support Debt?, we discussed how noncustodial parents, or debtors, who owe more than $100,000 in arrears account for only 3% of all debtors, but they owe 22% of the total debt. This post focuses on the percent of arrears by amount of arrears owed by debtors and trends over the last few years.

For context, in July 2013, the amount of arrears in the OCSE Federal Offset Debtor File totaled $111.9 billion. Then, in April 2017, the arrears totaled $114.6 billion, which represents a 2.4% increase. During that same period, the number of cases dropped from 7.8 million to 7.5 million, a decrease of 4.2%. Overall there are currently fewer cases (and debtors) while arrears steadily grow.

Percent of Arrears by Amount of Arrears Owed — 2013, 2016 & 2017

Bar Chart for Trends in Child Support Arrears BlogSource: Based on a sample of debtors in the OCSE Federal Offset Debtor File.

Large Arrears are a Growing Concern

The graph shows that 22% of the total certified debt is owed by noncustodial parents who owe $100,000 or more as of April 2017. In our analysis of repeated sampling over the last few years, several trends are identified.

  • The percent of debts $40,000 or less is trending down, indicating that these debts are likely being resolved.
  • The percent of debts between $40,000 and $100,000 is holding steady at 35% of total arrears.
  • The percent of debts of $100,000 or more exhibits steady increase, indicating that these debts are a growing concern.

We plan to do more analysis of the child support debt and report on our findings in subsequent blogs. We look forward to hearing your views at

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