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Do divorced fathers under orders of child support pay? We have found a large county in Michigan where most fathers pay most of the time.

Each Michigan county contains an unusual agency that oversees nearly all matters relating to divorce. Known as the Friend of the Court, the agency advises the circuit judges on child custody and the appropriate amount of support orders in all divorce cases in which there are children. Throughout the life of the decree, it receives all payments from the support-paying parent and remits them to the other parent, the guardian, or, in welfare cases, the Department of Social Services. And it functions as police and prosecutor over the entire enforcement process in both welfare and nonwelfare cases.

We have conducted a study drawing on the files of the Friend of the Court in two Michigan counties and plan a more abbreviated inquiry into several more. To date only the information from one of the counties, Genesee County, has been analyzed even preliminarily and the results reported here are subject to further verification. Genesee County has nearly a half-million residents. Flint, its principal city, is an automobile town. Thus, a high portion of the residents of the county as a whole and of the fathers under orders of support are blue-collar factory workers. Despite the prosperity that the automobile industry has generally brought the county, the county's unemployment rate has remained higher than that in the nation as a whole even in the most prosperous years.

Examining the agency case files of 411 randomly selected divorced men for whom support orders were alive during 1969 or 1970, we have found that the average weekly child-support order was $35 or about one-third of the father's take-home pay at the point of divorce. We have further found that over an average order-life of seven years ( up to the summer of 1973 when we examined the files), the average amount paid by fathers in all cases was approximately 77 percent of everything ordered. The median amount paid was 89 percent. That is to say, half of all fathers had paid 89 percent or more of everything ordered over the life of the decree. Only about 11 percent of the fathers had paid 30 percent or less of the total ordered amount.


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