This study examines the changes over time in the personal incomes of nonresident fathers—whether divorced or nonmarital—in Wisconsin. Using data from the Wisconsin Court Record data base and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the authors examine the incomes of these fathers over the first seven years following a divorce or the initiation of a paternity suit. They also study separately the income patterns of initially poor nonresident fathers and fathers whose nonresident children receive welfare. The most important finding is that the incomes of nonmarital fathers, which typically are low in the beginning, increase dramatically over the years after paternity establishment—often to a level comparable with the incomes of divorced fathers. On the basis of their findings, the authors conclude that failing to establish child support obligations for nonresident fathers simply because their incomes are initially low does not appear justified.

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