2012 Family-Centered Services Child Support Legislation
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Updated May 2013
Many state child support programs provide more than just collection and enforcement services support to parents. Programs have found that payments increase with more responsive services to parents and when parents are engaged in the process and involved in their children’s lives. States have used a number of innovative family-centered strategies to increase the reliability and consistency of child support payments. At least 15 states passed laws in 2012 that support this family-centered approach by addressing issues relating to health care coverage, visitation and involvement by noncustodial parents, incarceration and re-entry into the community, military family concerns and educating teens about support.
To view the full array of legislation, visit 2012 Child Support and Family Law Enacted Legislation Summaries.
Health Care Coverage
Parents are more consistent in securing health care coverage and seeking appropriate health care services for their children when child support programs assist in obtaining health insurance. Hawaii and Mississippi enacted laws that require notice about availability of health insurance for children.
Hawaii HB 2441 (Act 2012-35) states that if an employer receives a medical support order from the state agency, it must transfer the notice within 20 business days to the appropriate health plan for which the child is eligible or enroll the dependent child in the plan and withhold the required premium from the employee’s income. Requires the employer to notify the agency if the employee’s employment was terminated.
Mississippi HB 1157 (Chap. 552) clarifies the method of requesting a modification of a child support order. The law also clarifies that all child support orders shall include notice to the obligated parent's employer that medical support for the child has been ordered. It also adds payment of child care expenses by the obligee under specified circumstances to the list of criteria that would be considered an unjust or inappropriate application of the guidelines.
States are updating their child support programs by setting realistic child support orders, reducing child support debt and intervening with order modifications when noncustodial parents cannot make payments. Incarcerated, or newly released, obligors may not have money to pay child support. Maryland and West Virginia enacted legislation modifying child support orders for this population.
Maryland HB 651 (Chap. 670) establishes that child support payments are not past due and arrearages may not accrue during any period when the obligor is incarcerated and for a specified period after the obligor's release from confinement under specified circumstances. It authorizes the Child Support Enforcement Administration to adjust an incarcerated obligor's payment account in specified cases to reflect the suspension of the accrual of arrearages.
West Virginia HB 4521 (Act 24) permits that upon release from the custody of the Division of Corrections or the United States Bureau of Prisons, a person who is gainfully employed and is subject to a child support obligation(s) and from whose weekly disposable earnings an amount in excess of 40 percent is being withheld for the child support obligation or obligations may, within 18 months of his or her release, petition the court having jurisdiction over the case or cases to restructure the payments to an amount that allows the person to pay his or her necessary living expenses. In order to achieve consistency and fairness, one judge may assume jurisdiction over all the cases the person may have within that circuit of the court. In apportioning the available funds, the court shall give priority to the person’s current child support obligations if a minimum of $50 per month shall be paid in each case.
Healthy Family Relationships
States may focus on increasing the reliability of child support payments by addressing the underlying reasons parents are not paying their obligations, including parental conflict or disengagement. This focus was present in many newly enacted laws, specifically surrounding military parents.
Louisiana HCR 155 (Adopted) requests the legislative auditor to examine the allocation of funds provided to the Department of Children and Family Services relative to furthering access to visitation. Louisiana HCR 156 (Adopted) urges the State Law Institute to study certain procedures for implementing visitation orders in conjunction with support orders. Louisiana HR 146* (Adopted) creates a study committee to examine and report on how to strengthen the structure of the African American family in all areas of relationships.
Military Family Enactments
Eight states and the District of Columbia either amended or enacted laws specifically dealing with custody and visitation orders for deployed military parents. The bills all create expedited processes by which temporary custody and visitation orders can be created or modified in order to ensure the least disruption to the parent-child relationship when one parent is an active service member. Several states also created an opportunity for deployed parents to transfer their visitation rights to a third person for the duration of the deployment.
Connecticut HB 5395 (P.A. 12-90) concerns custody orders for deployed members of the armed forces. Prohibits a court from entering a final custody order, or modifying a final custody order involving a deployed parent, until 90 days after the end of deployment unless the deployed parent consents to such modification. The bill allows the court to modify a custody order when a parent is going to be deployed if the deployment will have a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise his or her parental rights, and if such modification is in the best interest of the child. The bill states that the non-deployed parent has the burden of showing that the custody order that was in place before deployment is no longer in the best interest of the child. Absent such a showing, the custody order will revert. The bill also establishes procedures for filing modification orders.
District of Columbia B 332 (Chap. 110) grants deploying military parents certain child custody and visitation rights during periods of actual or imminent deployment. The bill allows a deploying parent to file a temporary modification of a child custody or visitation order when a parent is on deployment, or has been issued deployment orders. It prohibits a court from issuing a permanent order modifying a custody or visitation agreement until 90 days after the end of deployment.
Illinois HB 1589 (P.A. 659) allows custody and visitation hearings to be expedited when one parent is deployed or has received deployment orders. It requires the court to allow the deployed parent to testify at such a hearing via telephone, audiovisual, or other electronic means if he or she is unable to be present due to deployment. The bill also allows a parent who is deployed, or who has orders to deploy, to designate a person to have substitute visitation rights. The child must know the designated third person; the designated person must be evaluated by the court; and the court must determine that such substitute visitation is in the best interest of the child. The bill also allows the court to provide for temporary modification of custody or visitation orders during the period of a parent’s deployment.
Indiana HB 1065 (P.L. 55) requires a court, upon motion by a parent who has received military temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization orders to: (1) hold an expedited hearing to determine or modify custody or parenting time; and (2) allow, with reasonable notice, a parent to present testimony and evidence by certain electronic means in a custody or parenting time proceeding; if the military duties of a parent have a material effect on the parent's ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing concerning custody or parenting time. The bill allows a court, upon motion by a parent who has received military deployment orders, to delegate the parent's parenting time, or a part of the parent's parenting time, during the time of the deployment, to a person who has a close and substantial relationship with the parent's child, if the court determines delegating the time is in the best interests of the child. It also provides that an order delegating parenting time automatically terminates after the parent returns from deployment. Additionally, it allows the court to terminate an order delegating parenting time if the court determines that the delegated parenting time is no longer in the best interests of the child.
New Hampshire HB 1419 (Chap. 2012-213) establishes the Military Parents’ Rights Act, creating certain rights for military parents regarding custody and visitation agreements. This act allows a court to enter a temporary modification order when a parent has received deployment orders. The act prohibits the court from entering a final modification order until 90 days after the end of a parent’s deployment, unless the deployed parent has agreed to the modification. The deploying parent may designate a third person to have substitute visitation rights, if the court finds that such designation is in the best interest of the child. The act also establishes procedural requirements for issuing modifications based on a parent’s deployment.
New Jersey SB 1051 concerns child custody and parenting time arrangements related to certain military service absences. The bill provides that the court, when making a determination concerning child custody or parenting time, shall not consider the absence or potential absence of a military service member by reason of deployment or service-related treatment as a factor in determining the best interest of a child for whom the service member is a parent or caretaker.
Pennsylvania SB 1167 (Act 2012-32) allows a service-member parent with orders to deploy to petition the court for an order to designate a third person to have temporary substitute visitation rights. The court may grant such an order if it finds that it is in the best interest of the child.
Rhode Island passed two bills related to deployed military parents. Both bills concern procedural elements related to custody and visitation orders for active service member parents. Rhode Island HB 7274 (P.L. 2012-231): Establishes procedures concerning custody and visitation orders for active service member parents with orders for temporary military duty, deployment, or mobilization. The bill allows the court to create a temporary custody or visitation order when one parent has been given orders for military duty, deployment or mobilization. The active service-member parent may delegate any or all of his or her parental rights to a third party during the term of duty, deployment or mobilization if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child. It allows the court to expedite the hearings for such temporary orders. The bill prohibits the court from entering a final order modifying a custody or visitation order until 90 days after the end of military duty, deployment or mobilization. Additionally, Rhode Island SB 2521 (P.L. 2012-218): Provides that if there is no existing court order establishing parental rights and it appears military deployment is imminent, then the court will expedite a hearing to establish such parental rights to ensure the deploying parent has access to the child.
South Dakota HB 1046 (Chap. 174) revises certain provisions regarding child custody during a military service-member's deployment, if the service-member is the physical custodian or guardian; provides that neither the execution of a power of attorney, nor the deployment itself, may be considered a factor in considering a substantial and material change of circumstances, nor a factor in a best interest of the child determination for purposes of permanent child custody modification proceedings.
For more information about military family custody and visitation, please visit Military Families and Child Support, Custody and Visitation Webinar.
Child Support Prevention
Child support education increases a student’s awareness of parental responsibilities, educates about teen pregnancy, and prevents the need for child support services.
Tennessee SB 3257 (Chap. 861) requires the Department of Human Services and juvenile court or district attorney general to undertake a pilot project public awareness campaign in counties implementing a responsible teen parent pilot project to include child support. Specifically, the pilot program shall inform teens that teen parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children that continues for 18 years following the birth of a child, exists regardless of a teen parent's gender or marital status, and will be enforced and the means with which the department may enforce the obligation.
*PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.
About This NCSL Project
NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support police, financing, laws, research and promicing practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legisalture that would like training or assistance related to this topic.
The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. In D.C., Joy Johnson Wilson at 202-624-8689 or by e-mail at email@example.com and Rachel Morgan at (202) 624-3569 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.