This paper examines five-year compliance patterns among Wisconsin child support cases that came to court in 1986–88. We find only limited support for the common assumption that compliance with child support orders declines over time: the average percent paid is about .65 during each of the first five years. The most predominant trend is an increasing polarization into groups of nonpayers and full payers. Although we find considerable stability from year to year among nonpayers and full payers, there is considerable change over the course of five years. Compliance during the first year provides some indication of long-term compliance, but about half of fathers change their compliance rate over the period. We find important differences between divorced and nonmarital fathers, differences that are more pronounced than are apparent from a single year of data. Policy implications are discussed and further research is suggested.
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