Who Is at Risk of Contempt of Court for Child Support Noncompliance?

Characteristics of Parents Enrolled in the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt Demonstration

By Danielle Cummings

The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration project integrates principles of procedural justice into enforcement practices in six child support agencies across the United States. Procedural justice is fairness in processes that resolve disputes and result in decisions. Research has shown that if people perceive a process to be fair, they will be more likely to comply with the outcome of that process, whether or not the outcome was favorable to them.

Child support agencies aim to secure payments from noncustodial parents to support the well-being of their children. The target population for the PJAC demonstration project is noncustodial parents at the point of being referred to the legal system for civil contempt of court because they have not met their child support obligations, yet have been determined to have the ability to pay. The PJAC demonstration project aims to address parents’ reasons for nonpayment, improve the consistency of their payments, and promote their positive engagement with the child support agency and the other parent.

This brief is the third in a series developed primarily for child support practitioners and administrators that shares lessons learned as the six participating child support agencies implement the PJAC model. It describes the characteristics of the noncustodial parents in the PJAC study sample and what case managers believe led them to the point of contempt. The brief uses data from the PJAC management information system and child support administrative records for noncustodial parents enrolled through July 31, 2019, and qualitative data from interviews conducted with child support and court staff members in the spring of 2019.

Cummings, Danielle. 2020. “Who Is at Risk of Contempt of Court for Child Support Noncompliance?.” New York: MDRC.