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Child support payments are a vital lifeline for many families in Washington. In fact, one recent report notes that, for many women, child support payments account for as much as 45 percent of their total income. This fact may, in part, lead to the high number of families that are led by women that are well below the poverty line in our state and across the nation.

The same report noted that non-custodial parents owe as much as $100 billion in back child support payments. This national number reflects the sum that was reported in 2009, the last year available. Of this amount, roughly $53 billion is owed to the government for repayment of government assistance provided due to failure to pay child support by the non-custodial parent.

In fact, it appears that when custodial parents fail to receive their monthly child support payments, they are often forced to seek assistance in the form of government programs. The federal government and states then work to recover some of the payments from the non-custodial parent that owes the child support. However, finding those that owe the money and enforcing the payment orders can be a challenge in many cases.

Once a non-custodial parent is found, a government agency can take steps to recover some of the amount owed. Using tools such as wage garnishment, tax refund acquisition and benefit reductions, government agencies in Washington and elsewhere have found that they can report that 60 percent of all child support payments ordered by courts are now made each year. This number may feel relatively low for some custodial parents seeking to make ends meet, but if the payments fail to arrive, there is help available to recover the payments that are due.