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Human Services


Tracey Phillips


Child support is a means to financially support children, yet fewer than half of children eligible for child support receive full payment, with many receiving none. Child support nonpayment is a national concern that has led to negative repercussions for non-intact families, the community, and economic system. In some cases, noncustodial parents have an inability to pay. The purpose of this descriptive, phenomenological study was to understand custodial parental perceptions and experiences of noncustodial parent's inability to pay their child support. Social learning theory served as the conceptual framework for the study. In-depth interviews were conducted with a sample of 10 custodial parents ranging in age from 18 to 45 who had an active child support case enforced by a Domestic Relations Office in the northeastern United States but were not receiving payments due to the noncustodial parent's inability to pay. Audiotaped interviews were manually transcribed and coded for themes using a typology organization structure. Coding was based on key terms, word repetitions, and metaphors. Member checking and audit trails were used to establish the trustworthiness of the data. The findings revealed that many custodial parents did not trust that the noncustodial parent was being truthful in their claims of having a true inability to pay. Other custodial parents believed that the noncustodial parent could make more attempts to try to assist the custodial parent in the absence of financial support. The findings of this study may contribute to social change by advancing knowledge and policies within the child support system. Likewise, findings may assist caseworkers and clinicians in better understanding their client's experiences and challenges resulting in a better client service experience.

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