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Low-income parents owe majority of child support debt

Fathers with a lot of child support debt in Pennsylvania may not always fit the picture of a 'deadbeat dad." Many fathers who would like to pay child support simply can't afford to because they don't earn enough income. According to a study by the Urban Institute, the lowest earning parents pay the highest percentage of their income for child support.

One father in Maryland who has five children living with him owes $20,000 in back child support. The man owes child support to his ex-wife for two teenage children, one of which lives with him. When he had a full-time job as a truck driver, the father said that he barely had anything left to live on after child support and taxes were taken out of his checks.

Under current federal child support enforcement guidelines, states can garnish up to 65 percent of a parent's income before taxes for child support. If a parent has no income when a child support order is computed, many courts will calculate a child support order based on a full-time minimum wage job. A spokesperson from the Office of Child Support Enforcement said that when child support orders are too high, parents are not motivated to look for a job.

Many parents who are ordered to pay child support to their ex-spouses don't understand that the original child support order can be modified to reflect their current income. A lawyer may be able to help a parent to petition the court for an updated child support order that is based on the actual incomes and monthly expenses of both parents.

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