Dual Debtors: Child Support and Criminal Financial Legal Obligations

Using interviews and administrative data to link individuals owing both child support and criminal monetary sanctions in Minnesota, the authors highlight the experiences, perspectives, and behavioral strategies of people who carry both child support and criminal legal financial obligations. The authors conclude that child support arrears represent a significant hidden cost of criminal justice debt.

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Key Findings: 

  • Higher monthly obligations are associated with larger arrears balances; a dollar increase in monthly obligations is associated with a $2.97 predicted increase in arrears. 
  • Child support arrears rise by about 5 cents for every dollar of monetary sanctions imposed, or $5 for every $100 imposed. 
  • American Indian, Black, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic noncustodial parents (NCPs) are likely to have larger arrears balances than White NCPs; male NCPs are also likely to have much larger arrears than female NCPs.
Christopher J. Uggen, Robert Stewart, Veronica Horowitz, Kimberly Spencer-Suarez, Emmi Obara, and Frank Edwards
The University of Chicago Press Journals