U.S. Child Support Statistics

Curious to know how much child support the average single parent receives? You're not alone, and the numbers could surprise you. While some political pundits suggest that single parents receive too much support, these real-life child support statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau tell a different story. 

Child Support Statistics in the U.S.

Every few years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases a report titled Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support. It's based on data from the most recent Census Bureau figures and attempts to create an accurate snapshot of:

  • How many single parents have a child support order in place (either formal or informal)
  • How much money is actually received
  • How much money is owed

For those who imagine that single moms and dads who receive child support are living 'the high life' and taking advantage of their ex-spouses, the actual numbers are shocking.

Child Support Agreements in the U.S.

According to the Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support:2015 report re-released in January 2020 (original release January 2018), there were 13.6 million custodial single parents living in the U.S.

  • 12.1% are informal child support agreements established between the two parents
  • 87.9% of those child support agreements are formal agreements, established in court or through a Title IV-D agency
  • About half of them (50.2%) have some type of legal or informal child support agreement in place
  • Fewer than one-quarter (21.7%) of all custodial parents requested government assistance collecting child support

Typical Child Support Amounts Owed

Wondering if the child support you owe or receive is typical? Here are the latest figures from 2015, based on the government's child support statistics:

  • $33.7 billion dollars in child support was owed during the year 2015
  • The average amount of child support due was $5,760 per year. That's less than $500 per month.
  • Only 60% of that money—an average of $3,447 per year—was actually received

On average, custodial single parents who receive child support get about $287 per month to help with food, shelter, clothing, medical costs, education, and incidentals.

Partial-Payments vs. Full Payments 

Another surprising statistic is how many single parents are receiving some money, but far less than what is actually owed. 

  • Among the 6.8 million custodial single parents who were awarded child support in 2015, only 43.5% received all of the child support money that was due (similar to the 43.4% seen in 2011)
  • 25.8% of custodial parents received some of the money that was due
  • 30.7% received none of the child support money due
  • 61.3% of custodial parents received some form of non-cash child support in 2015

Additional Child Support Statistics

Another common question about child support is how many women vs. men are awarded child support dollars each year. According to the figures from 2015:

  • 39.6% of custodial single fathers were awarded child support during the same year
  • 52.7% of custodial single mothers were awarded child support
1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Census Bureau. Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2015.

By Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf is a PCI Certified Parent Coach and a strong advocate for single moms and dads.