Unpaid child support in Texas reached nearly $11 billion this year and records show that of the estimated one million parents in the state who are required to pay child support, nearly half (460,000) are behind on payments by at least a month, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.
State and national authorities say a fluctuating economy and erratic jobless rates are taking a toll on parents who pay child support, though some simply defy orders to pay up. Delinquencies appeared to peak in 2009.
The Texas attorney general's office pursues parents who aren't paying child support. Spokesperson Janece Rolfe says collectors are seeing their caseloads increase and that more parents are applying to have their obligations reduced.
The government typically collects from unwilling parents by withholding wages, tax refunds, lottery winnings or suspending professional licenses. The enforcement resulted in $3.5 billion recovered from current and past due accounts as of August, an increase from $2 billion six years ago.
The vast majority of custodial parents are women, and in Texas 48 percent of single mothers live in poverty, according to recent census data.
One of the state's most wanted evaders is Tomas Roman, a 60-year-old bus driver and laborer who owes more than $179,000 to his two sons and is believed to have fled to Mexico.