In 2013, at least 42 States, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia enacted 140 bills on various topics affecting child support. Legislation dealt with ways to prevent the need for child support enforcement intervention, custody and visitation issues that lead to support orders, economic stability of both custodial and noncustodial parents, varying enforcement mechanisms, family violence prevention, engaging fathers in the lives of their children, health care coverage, and creating healthy family relationships, among other implementation or technical policy changes.
Increasing collection of child support remained a major trend in child support policy during the 2013 legislative session. Connecticut and Delaware each enacted a bill establishing a task force designed to evaluate and make findings on ways to increase the collection of child support. Nearly a dozen states enacted legislation on child support enforcement including policies on income withholding, new-hire, and lottery withholding laws. Oklahoma took a different approach to enforcement when it enacted legislation authorizing courts to order community service for people who owe child support, and are willfully unemployed. Meanwhile, Washington modified its Department of Fish and Wildlife license suspensions by creating a separate suspension period for failure to pay child support.
Custody and visitation remained a popular topic for legislation in 2013. An area that has seen a lot of activity over the last decade is deployed parent custody and visitation for military families. With the emergence of the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) in 2012, the 2013 legislative session offered a variety of bills dealing with this issue. Four states adopted the UDPCVA while other states addressed similar issues through bills of their own. Also, Illinois passed legislation authorizing the court to to award one or both parents the right of first refusal to provide child care for the minor child during the other parent’s normal parenting time.
Economic stability allows both parents to support themselves and their families, while also satisfying a child support obligation. During 2013, two states enacted bills to help both custodial and noncustodial parents deal with financial hardship. One state, Colorado, created a Transitional Jobs Program to help displaced workers who are unemployed or underemployed find jobs.
Other areas of important policy changes were father engagement, healthy family relationships and family violence collaboration. During the 2013 legislative session, Louisiana established the Fatherhood First Initiative to promote positive involvement and interaction of fathers with their children and to provide services to help fathers with issues like substance abuse and anger management. Washington enacted a bill allowing incarcerated parents to participate in court proceedings and offering the possibility of visitation while the parent is still incarcerated. Also, Montana passed legislation regarding mediation when issues of domestic violence are raised.
Child support guidelines are used to set every child support order and a few states made changes to these guidelines in 2013. New Hampshire prohibited courts from ordering college support for children over the age of majority, while still allowing parents to agree to college support in a divorce agreement. Meanwhile, Virginia modified its child support guidelines by allowing courts to consider whether the custodial parent is enrolled in educational or vocational programs when deciding whether to impute income.
Finally, nearly 28% of the bills that were enacted in 2013 dealt with implementation and administration of child support agencies or other related issues. Topics ranged from information sharing between agencies to paternity rights in gestational carrier agreements.
2013 Legislative Enactments Pages
To learn more about the legislation that was enacted in 2013, visit our 2013 Legislative Enactment Pages.
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 promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature 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., Sheri Steisel can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or email@example.com.
The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Health and Human Services Standing Committee.