Comparing the Costs and Benefits of Two Approaches to Addressing Nonpayment of Child Support
In recent years, policymakers and researchers have questioned the fairness and effectiveness of pursuing civil contempt to secure child support payments, particularly for parents with low incomes. Civil contempt proceedings are costly, burdensome, and often counterproductive to the goals of the child support program. They can impede employment, increase child support debt, alienate noncustodial parents from their children, and decrease parents’ future cooperation. Developed by the Office of Child Support Services, the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration assessed a different approach to improving child support payments. PJAC services aimed to address noncustodial parents’ reasons for nonpayment, promote positive engagement with the child support program and the other parent, and improve the consistency and completeness of their payments. This MDRC report compares the benefits and costs of PJAC services with those of business-as-usual child support enforcement.