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South Dakota Has Fastest Growing Unpaid Child Support

If there is any such thing as “South Dakota values,” might they include not paying child support?

The amount of unpaid child support rose from $147.5 million in 2012 to $191.1 million in 2016, a nearly 32 percent increase. It was, according to an Argus Leader analysis of national data, the largest increase in the nation during that period compared to all other states and U.S. territories.

…Nationally, the amount of money owed in back child support grew by less than 2 percent from 2012 to 2016. South Dakota and Puerto Rico blew away the national average with increases near 32 percent [Jonathan Ellis, “Child Support: Overdue Payments Surge in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2018.01.20].

Rep. Tom Pischke (R-25/Dell Rapids) contends these distressing figures show that South Dakota’s child support requirements are too high:

“The amount of child support that is obligated for a non-custodial parent to pay quite honestly is overwhelming,” he said.

“I do understand that children have to be supported, but it has to be equitable to the non-custodial parent,” he added. “The money that non-custodials are forced to pay is too high in my opinion” [Ellis, 2018.01.20].

Funny—I keep thinking any truly “pro-life” Republican saying, “Children have to be supported,” would end that sentence right there rather than appending a but….


  1. mike from iowa 2018-01-22 09:18

    So it wasn’t about the women and children? You are worried about the real victims- the guys?

  2. jerry 2018-01-22 09:34

    Thune says that tax reform is already working in South Dakota, yep, I see it with this news.

  3. Nick Nemec 2018-01-22 09:41

    This bothers me. I remember a time 25 or so years ago when the South Dakota Office of Child Support Enforcement was recognized as one of the best in the nation. What has happened? Did enforcement fall off? Has there been a drastic increase in divorces and out of wedlock births that increased the amount of support due? Was funding for the office reduced thus reducing its efficiency?

    It used to be that if a mother was on AFDC and the State collected her child support for her the State kept a portion of the child support to offset the cost of the AFDC. So it was in the interests of all tax payers that the State enforced child support judgements. I do not know if current policy is similar.

  4. Jenny 2018-01-22 11:07

    What? But I thought South Dakotans are hardworking god-fearing abiding citizens that love their families?
    (who are the ‘pubs going to blame these stats on this time – all those blacks that are coming in…. or the rez?)

  5. Ryan 2018-01-22 11:16

    In South Dakota, we have a chart in our statutes that describe how much “support” for a child should come from the parent who has primary custody vs. the parent who does not have primary custody custody:

    As an example of real numbers, if a custodial parent makes $30K per year, bringing in a net monthly income of $2,125 (30K – 15% withholdings / 12 months) and the non-custodial parents makes 45K per year, bringing in a net monthly income of $3,187 (same calculation), their combined monthly net income is $5,312, which means their combined support for a single child should be about $1,012. Because the non-custodial parent makes 3/5ths of the income, he or she pays 3/5ths of that total figure to the custodial parent, which is about $602 per month (less than 20% of the person’s net monthly income).

    Honestly, I’m not sure how these numbers are determined. They seem arbitrary, but there may have been some actual due diligence that went into the calculations. I also wonder how so many people are in default on their payments. If a court uses this chart in setting the child support, there must be some basis for the income numbers used, so it would appear that the non-custodial parent has the means to make the payments. Maybe more people need to take advantage of wage garnishments if payments aren’t being made voluntarily. I would also be curious to see how our numbers stack up compared to other states in determining how much money is needed to “support” a child in comparison with cost of living in that particular area. Maybe our state set the bar high with the idea that these kids would be better supported, but then setting the bar that high may have had the ironic consequence of reducing payments due to some non-custodial parents thinking they were climbing a hill too steep and just gave up…?

    Ultimately, because I am a cynic, I think more people need to hold non-custodial parents accountable. This includes custodial parents, judges, and employers. I see it all the time – people owe back child support, they don’t even try to pay, and all that happens is the court tallies up the new number the person owes in back child support without actually doing anything about it. Wage garnishments and criminal contempt of court charges are useful tools and I think should be used much more often.

  6. Thomas 2018-01-22 11:16

    For 10 years, I have been a full time single father receiving child support from the mother of my 2 kids. Although she pays the support on time each month to the state, I have no idea when it will actually be available to us. She shows me documentation and dates for the transfer to SD DSS and when I call have called to inquire, SD DSS repeatedly tells me that “they have not received a payment to process yet.” Many times it has been from 2 up to 10 days before the money reaches us and I never receive a satisfactory answer on why the process is so slow. You might think that 10 days is not that big of deal. But, because I have my bills set up to automatically be withdrawn from my accounts and no money is in the bank, I get overdrafts and late fees. Two months ago, because of the delay from SD DSS, I incurred $150 dollars in overdraft and $87 in late penalties. Not a lot to some people but everything adds up. Because of state law and judicial oversight, I have no choice but to be locked into this until 2023. My questions: why does the state waste money hiring staff to administer and oversee payments that are on time every month? Does the state need this money to balance the general fund on a daily basis? wouldn’t resources be better spent if I (and others like me) were able to receive payments directly from the non custodial parent and then require fewer staff in the child support enforcement office or at least have the current staff not waste their time managing payments that require no oversight? Something doesn’t add up here?

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-22 12:06

    Thomas, $150+$87 is totally a big deal to me. If the state cost me that much money in one month by not processing a payment fast enough, I’d be torqued. Can you change your bill payment dates? I suppose absent better service from the state, you’ll just have to find a way to build up a cushion in your checking account that can absorb those automatic bill pays until DSS hits Send on your next payment. Ugh.

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