Over time, public policy changes have strengthened the private child support system while reducing access to public support--welfare. Especially given the very limited availability of public support, nonresident fathers' economic contributions through child support can play an important role in helping children avoid poverty. In this paper we review evidence on nonresident fathers' ability to pay support, provide an overview of the way child support policies affect disadvantaged fathers, and propose new directions for child support policy. We argue that the current work-focused safety net, which aims to require and help enable disadvantaged mothers to work, creates a context in which government should similarly require and help enable all fathers, even those who are disadvantaged, to work and pay child support. However, reforms are needed to make this a realistic expectation, given many fathers' limited employment options and complex families. (Author abstract)
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