We've previously discussed various legal penalties that states have enacted to encourage parents who are behind on child support payments to make them. Criminal penalties like fines and even jail time are possible. Some states can withhold driver's and professional licenses. Some states even withhold recreational licenses. The other parent may also be able to take civil legal action.

Some Troubling Statistics on Back Child Support

According to a report last year by the U.S. Census Bureau, only about two-thirds of custodial mothers received the support they were owed. Custodial fathers received about three-fourths. However, it's unknown whether the parent who owed support in these cases was of the opposite gender or the same.

Of course, at the heart of the importance of child support payments is the well-being of the child because they help provide food, housing and clothing. A 1999 study also found a connection between child support and a child's academic success.

A study published just this month in the Journal of Marriage and Family found another issue for children whose non-custodial parent (specifically the father) isn't keeping up with child support obligations -- lack of involvement. The researchers looked at data for close to 5,000 urban families with children born between 1998 and 2000, tracking over 1,000 non-custodial fathers.

Study: Fathers Who Owe Child Support Have Some Things in Common

They found some commonalities among fathers who owed back child support (roughly 30 percent of them) that may help explain that lack of involvement. The fathers with back support due were likely to work fewer weeks of the year, have children with multiple partners, be less well educated and/or have been incarcerated.

Those fathers also spent an average of three fewer days with their children each month or be involved in their kids' schoolwork, reading and play time. In addition to owing child support (an average over $7,700), they were less likely to pay directly for clothing, food or even medication.

The Link to the Relationship with the Mother

Researchers speculated that the lower rates of paternal involvement for dads who owed child support could possibly be linked to a bad relationship with the mothers (to whom they owed money), their employment situation and their mental health.

If a parent is behind on child support, that can't be used as a reason for the other parent to deny access to the children, so it should not affect your involvement in your children's lives. However, if you're having difficulty making the ordered payments or believe they're unfairly high, you and your family law attorney should take it up with the other parent in court.