Doing What They Can? Low-Income Fathers Providing Informal Support to Their Nonresident Children

Maria Cancian, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Angela Guarin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Leslie Hodges , University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daniel R. Meyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Some charge that the child support system is not working. Many parents behind in their court-ordered child support payments seem unlikely to catch up, given their economic circumstances. Yet, some of them provide support outside the formal system. To understand what noncustodial parents (NCPs) are providing, and whether they could do more, requires information about both formal and informal support. The current study uses data from a federally funded intervention for NCPs behind in child support payments to learn more about them, the informal support they provide, and the main factors associated with such provisions. Our preliminary findings indicate that even though NCPs are quite disadvantaged, they make significant informal contributions to their children. However, previous incarceration, depression, and housing instability are all generally associated with providing less informal support. We discuss the implications of informal contributions for child support policy, child well-being, and our understanding of complex families.

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 Presented in Session 181. Fathers and Families