Child Support Payments

Child Support Payments

Updated June 2012

Child support payments are intended to pay for the normal and ordinary expenses of raising a child, such as housing, food, clothing, education and medical care. States use child support laws and guidelines to determine the amount of child support to be awarded. The court may consider the needs and age of the children, the financial ability of the non-custodial parent, the earning capacity of the custodial parent, and the other responsibilities of both parents.

A recent US Census Bureau analysis of data collected from May through August 2010 in the Survey of Income and Program Participation1 found that parents paid $24.4 billion in child support payments for children under 21.2 The $24.4 billion in child support payments were paid by 4.8 million parents.

According to the analysis:

  • Overall child support payments averaged $5,150 annually, or $430 per month.
  • About 85 percent of payers were male and 15 percent were female.
  • Male providers paid an average $5,450 annually, or $455 per month.
  • Female providers paid an average $3,500 annually, or $290 per month.
  • About three of every four child support providers had some type of an agreement or court order for support.

The numbers of children that each provider supported varied. 

  • About 60 percent of providers paid support for one child.
  • Thirty percent made payments to support two children.
  • Just 10 percent supported three or more children.


1.     The Survey of Income and Program Participation, a national survey designed to provide comprehensive details about the social and economic well-being of individuals and households.

2.     The remainder of the support payments ($17.3 billion) were paid to children over 21, parents, and other relatives or nonrelatives of the providers.

*PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.

About This NCSL Project

NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.   

The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. In D.C., Joy Johnson Wilson at 202-624-8689 or by e-mail at and Rachel Morgan at (202) 624-3569 or by e-mail at

The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.

For more information regarding NCSL's child support work, please visit our Child Support Homepage.


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