Child Support

The child support system serves nearly 16 million children who live apart from at least one of their parents.  MDRC designs and studies efforts to improve the system’s performance, and reforms designed to change the way the system responds to noncustodial parents (usually fathers) who cannot afford to pay what they owe.  

The Latest

Drawing on lessons from the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) project, this guide provides practical advice on how child support agencies can apply principles of procedural justice (the idea of fairness in processes) to build trust, better engage participants, and create a more fair and effective process.


The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) project integrated procedural justice (the idea of fairness in processes) into enforcement at six child support agencies. This report presents the first systematic analysis of the implementation of the PJAC model.

Key Documents
Issue Focus

Building a Body of Evidence

Over the past several years, MDRC has worked with the federal Administration for Children and Families to test low-cost behavioral interventions to improve child support services in a number of states. This issue focus describes what’s been learned so far — and what’s planned for the future.


Past and ongoing research offers direction for how to strengthen the most basic foundation for early childhood development: family relationships. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo makes the case for building on this accumulating evidence to create new and innovative approaches to support children’s earliest years and the unique role of fathers.


Final Lessons from Parents’ Fair Share

Fathers provide important financial and emotional support to their children. Yet low-income noncustodial fathers, with low wages and high rates of joblessness, often do not fulfill their parenting roles. The child support system has not traditionally helped these men to do so, since its focus has been on securing financial support from fathers who can afford to pay.