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Single dads also get stiffed when it comes to child support payments

On special family-related days, a lot of attention is given to the traditional unit: mom, dad, kids.

But the reality is that the Leave it to Beaver lifestyle is not the norm.

The United States, like the rest of the world, is decidedly nontraditional nowadays. And one of the more common family conditions is that a lot of kids live with only one parent.

In 2009, an estimated 13.7 million single parents had custody of 22 million children younger than age 21 while the other parent lived somewhere else, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report, based on Internal Revenue data, published last December.

Dads accounted that year for almost 18 percent of single parents with primary responsibility for their young kids.

And many of those custodial fathers -- that's the term used when children live the majority of the time at their fathers' residences -- received child support from their ex-wives to help take care of the kids.

In 2009, the dads caring for their kids received in $1.9 billion in child support payments from the childrens' moms.

That amount is this week's By the Numbers figure.

1 point 9 billion in unpaid child support to custodial dads

That amount also is just more than half of the money the fathers were supposed to have gotten from the their kids' moms. Single dads three years ago should have received $3.5 billion in child support from ex-wives.

Yep, more divorced women are now paying, or at least ordered to pay, child support payments.

And yep, women skip out on child support, too.

True, there are more deadbeat dads than deadbeat moms. But that's a factor of the numbers; more men pay child support than do women.

Percentage wise, however, women default on their child support obligations more than their male counterparts, or at least that's what happened in 2009.

The data shows that single moms got 61.5 percent of the child support amounts they were due three years ago, while men expecting their kids' moms to pay child support in 2009 got just 54.3 percent of what they were ordered to receive.

I know 2009 was not the best year as far as jobs and earnings for both men and women. But regardless of which parent is charged with the primary care of the kids, those custodial moms and dads deserve to get their full legal child support payments from the kids' other parents.

Taxes and unpaid child support: The federal tax system sometimes comes into play in child support cases.

No, child support payments generally are not taxable income to the custodial parent who gets the money. That applies only to alimony.

But when a parent doesn't make court-ordered child support payments, that nonpaying parent's federal tax refund can be docked to capture the overdue support amounts.

Such offsets via the U.S. Treasury Offset Program, or TOP, are a common reason why some dads' and moms' federal tax refunds are smaller than they expected.

Money collected by the Treasury from a nonpaying parent's tax refund is sent to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal liaison office with the states on child-support enforcement. HHS then disburses the funds to the states, which then sends it to the custodial parent due the child support.

If your ex-spouse isn't making his or her child support payments, contact your state or local child-support enforcement office to get the payment collection process, including possible offset against your ex's IRS refund, started.

You also can get additional information from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child-Support Enforcement at (202) 401-9373.

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