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Why a formal child support agreement is important

Not all divorced Texas parents have a formal child support agreement in place. A study reports that by 2014, the number of eligible parents with child support agreements had dropped to 49 percent from 60 percent a decade earlier. Parents enrolled in the federal Child Support Enforcement Program are better served overall, but fewer of them are getting the benefits of the program.

The program was created almost 40 years ago to ensure that parents financially supported their children. However, many parents do not pay support because they are themselves poor. It is possible that in order to continue to be effective, the program may need to focus on assisting parents in finding steady employment.

Studies show that child support can be critical to a child's development. The stress created when the entire burden of raising and paying for the child falls on a single parent often leads to poorer outcomes. In households that receive child support, children have fewer problems with behavior and better cognitive outcomes. Since it is more commonly fathers who pay child support, children whose parents receive support also tend to have stronger relationships with their dads.

Child support is one of the major issues in divorce, and it is calculated using a formula. Even though the child might live primarily with one parent, both parents may have the ability to make decisions about issues such as health care and schooling. If one parent is supposed to pay support to the other parent and does not, the other parent is not permitted to cut off the parent's access or ignore their right to make other decisions for the child. The advantage of a formal agreement is that it puts a legal mechanism in place to compel the other parent to comply.

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